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by Matt Hensch

Anyone who knows the slightest bit of information about metal should be familiar with At The Gates. They were a very unique band of their time (being the fathers of melodic death metal), but if it weren't for a band named Grotesque, At The Gates would probably just have been just another band.

Tomas Lindberg (At The Gates singer) was apart of the short-lived Grotesque in the late 1980's until the band decided to part ways in 1990. Grotesque was first established in 1988 when Lindberg met with guitarist Kristian Wahlin and bassist David Hultén. The line-up was soon joined by drummer Tomas Eriksson and a collection of songs were written and recorded. The band wrote and recorded a handful of songs that eventually turned up on several underground demos.

Hultén left the band in 1989, but Grotesque continued to write, rock, and be evil. The band's only official release came in 1990 with the IncantationEP. This was, however, the first and last Grotesque release because the band parted ways soon after its release.

This departure wasn't the end. Most of Grotesque's material was soon rounded up on the 1996 compilation In The Embrace Of Evil. The IncantationEP along with some demo songs were included on the retrospective of Grotesque. And that's were we are today. Whip out your corpse-paint; throw up your horns and prepare to get beaten; this is In The Embrace Of Evil.- Matt Hensch

When someone thinks about Tomas Lindberg, they usually picture the tremendous singer's performances in At The Gates and The Crown. Though Lindberg has been involved with multiple memorable acts, one of his first groups remains an unearthed gem that many folks have either ignored or forgotten about. Before At The Gates became metal champions, Lindberg was apart of a band that has been repressed and omitted in the metal world as we know it: the mighty Grotesque.

For those unfamiliar, Grotesque was a pitch-black death metal squad that only lasted a few years before splitting up. Though the band's era was brief, Grotesque recorded an EP and a handful of demos that were monstrous hits in Swedish underground. The faction disbanded shortly thereafter, but the narrow time the band existed was a damn good period of hearty death metal. With the group clearly done and gone, a compilation titled In The Embrace Of Evil gathered all of Grotesque's blasphemous material and added to one unholy disc that shows the onslaught and potential this awesome act was capable of.

Grotesque played a magnetic type of death metal with present traits of black metal and thrash during their few years of activity. There are hyper-speed riffs from start to finish with some acoustic parts occasionally tossed in for haunting effects and added seasoning. A few of the tunes have a fantastic transition of explosive, speedy riffs that switch to a mid-paced rocker which continues to repeat like a swinging pendulum. The solo effort walks hand-in-hand with the riffs in terms of excellence and the euphoric impression it leaves upon the listener. The percussion sounds rather comparable to other death metal bands, but the outstanding alteration between blastbeats and fast patterns make the drumming sound surprisingly delightful and original.

In The Embrace Of Evil also captures Grotesque's various experimentations that lack death metal elements, but not perfection. I typically find intro tracks to be a waste of time, but Grotesque was able to make some the most masterful admission songs I've ever heard. The compilation opens with the haunting "Thirteen Bells Of Doom" that has faded goat bleats and dark church bells whilst "Seven Gates" uses a whispered prayer that's surrounded with mysterious acoustic licks and samples of falling rain. Though almost all of the stuff here is death metal, a few of the songs sound more thrash influenced than anything else. "Nocturnal Blasphemies" and "Fallen In Decay" are heavily driven by thrash riffs rather than the standard death metal design used throughout this disc.

Tomas Lindberg's vocal style during his extraordinary phase in Grotesque sounds nothing like any of his other singing performances. Lindberg is mainly known for his association with the "feather-weight" growling approach he used during his stay in At The Gates, but here, Tomas sounds like Satan himself. Tomas's deep, tortured growls parallel the ruthless death metal assault on every level with memorable utilization and flawless precision. Lindberg will also occasionally mix up his vocal performances by adding shrieks or morbid laughs to his already stellar growling. Call me crazy, but this anthology is some of the best stuff Lindberg has ever done.

It's a real shame that Grotesque was shunned from reality only after a few years of existence. A lot of the stuff here is just demo material, but the song writing and playing is better than what some bands could produce in a career. Try to hunt this one down!

How To Get: The best way to find this is to purchase a copy of At The Gates's Gardens Of Grief. In The Embrace Of Evil was placed on the same disc as At The Gates's debut when the CD was re-released. It can be bought at several online stores, like the antiMUSIC store. Also check Century Media Records' store

Fun Facts: All the members of Grotesque were given nicknames. Here's some examples:
Tomas Lindberg- Goatspell
Kristian Wahlin- Necrolord
Tomas Eriksson- Offensor

Grotesque was known for apparently having incredible, sometimes destructive, live shows.

Grotesque reunited in early 2007 only to break up a few months later.

(A lot of information- from bio and facts- came from: http://www.blacksun.se/grotesque_setup.html)

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