GRUESOME – DEATH-Lovers Continue Their Twisted Homage With New Album
May 25, 2018, a year ago
Gruesome aren’t your standard death metal band. That’s because they exist for one reason only: as an homage to the mighty Death, plain and simple. Their latest album, Twisted Prayers, is—to sharpen this focus to an incredibly detailed point—a tip of the hat to Death’s Spiritual Healing record, and, much to guitarist/vocalist Matt Harvey’s surprise, is Gruesome’s finest moment yet.
“I was kinda surprised,” says Harvey, who also plays in Exhumed and many other extreme California-based bands. “I listen back to it and I'm like, ‘Man, this is our best album. I wasn't expecting that.’ (laughs) I thought [2016’s] Dimensions Of Horror was our best album, because it's the most raw, but this one is actually pretty fucking good.”
Harvey says that the unique nature of the band makes listening to their output a different experience for him. He says that “it’s almost like it’s not my own stuff, in a way.”
“It’s kind of, in more ways, easier for me to enjoy than my other bands because there's this level of detachment, but in another way it's also kind of easier to pick apart because it's not a Death album,” he says. “We're trying the best we can to make it a Death album you haven't heard before, and we're getting closer and closer to that goal.”
But with Gruesome’s entire MO being to pay respect to Death, Harvey admits that there is less self-expression involved. Still, that doesn’t prevent Twisted Prayers from being one of the year’s best death metal albums, the songs all being a spot-on raised-horn salute to the sub-genre heroes.
“I'd say it's more craft and less art, you know what I mean? There's a very sort of academic, systematic aspect to what we're doing, but at the same time it's also about the fun and the nostalgia and the vibe,” he says. “The template is something that has to be adhered to, and that is a very conscious, contrived decision. It's not like I sit down and think, ‘What am I feeling today? What's going on with me? What did I hear that I want to take off from?’ It's very deliberate. But I like limitations like that, because it gives you structure. I feel like without any limitations, I'd just be completely all over the map making music that I would find unlistenable, or at least making albums of songs that had nothing to do with each other stylistically, which would bum me out. So I like working in a box.”
The album is just the latest love letter from Harvey to a band that has been a big influence on him since he was young.
“You know, with Death, they were such a gateway band for me, as a kid,” he says. “I went from listening to Twisted Sister and Dio to the pivot was Metallica, then it was Slayer and Celtic Frost and Venom, then the pivot was Death to Napalm Death and Terrorizer and Carnage and Impetigo and whatever else. I think for so many people, not just of my generation, but especially my generation, that was one of the first death metal bands you’d hear, one of the first bands you could buy at the mall that was this fucking heavy.”
Another key part of all this is the insane Ed Repka cover art. Repka is the man who provided cover art for, among many other classic bands, Death.
“I'm really happy that he's been able to continue what he did with Death, which was taking these brighter colour schemes and being able to make a very cool album cover out of it,” says Harvey. “Leprosy is pink, Spiritual Healing is sort of a powder blue, and our album is like an Easter egg yellow (laughs) but that's sort of the beauty of those pieces of artwork he did. They’re still very much in that late '80s, everything's sort of unnecessarily bright kind of vibe, but it's still morbid and twisted and really fucking cool.”
Twisted Prayers checks off all the Death boxes—including production that fits perfectly thanks to Twisted Prayers producer Jarrett Pritchard going so far as to call Spiritual Healing producer Scott Burns to find out what mics Death used on Spiritual Healing—and the end result is a record that, well, sounds like a Death record.
“Well, that's exactly what we're going for,” says Harvey. “That's the best compliment we could get, that if you close your eyes and don't really think about what's going on, ‘Oh, hey, it's a Death album. Maybe Chuck had a cold when he was recording the vocals or something (laughs) but other than that, it's basically a Death album.’”