Cemetary’s gothic shade of death

CEMETARY: An Evil Shade Of Grey

Release year: 1992
Label: Black Mark Productions

In the early 90’s, Sweden was a veritable treasure trove of death metal. Not only were there an abundance of groups coming from Sweden, there was also a broad spectrum of styles and plenty of artists willing to go against norms and think outside the box of what death metal conventions existed then. Of course, very soon convention became cliché and the degree of originality waned.

Cemetary were one of these oddballs, who took the adolescent Swedish death metal formula and did something new with it. Already their second album, Godless Beauty (1993), saw them abandon much of their death metal roots in favour of a gothic metal sound, a path they would continue upon until splitting up for good in 2005.

An Evil Shade Of Grey, their debut from 1992, however, is death metal. But can it be called pure? It certainly has plenty of elements to set them apart from countrymen such as Entombed, Dismember or Grave, but in a time when conventions still weren’t as strict, does that make them “un-pure”?

Recorded at fabled Sunlight Studios, home of the trademark crisp, at worst even brittle Swedish sound, the guitars certainly have a familiar dry tone about them. There is a strong Swedish aura to Cemetary, also beyond the recognizable guitar sound. But at the same time it doesn’t sound Swedish. Sort of like Darkthrone’s debut A Soulside Journey – which the Norwegians recorded in Sunlight Studios – has a Swedish ring to it, but still doesn’t. Uh, just listen to both albums and you’ll probably see what I’m trying to say.

Cemetary spice up their death metal with frequent melodic passages of gloomy synthwork, acoustic guitars, and softer albeit still dark electric guitar. Especially in hindsight it is easy to see these as portents of the path Cemetary would take in years to come.

Like a lot of young bands in these relatively early days of death metal, Cemetary seem to bustle with ambition. Sometimes the songs feel crammed full of different bits, shifting from funereal dirges to mid-tempo galloping to faster bits within tens of seconds, sometimes with little thought for transitions. Some of the songs feel a bit like patchwork because of this. Additionally, the bright synthesizers don’t always fit seamlessly in with the dark, dry guitar tone, which doesn’t help things sound more coherent.

It’s a shame Cemetary would abandon death metal so soon, because they clearly had tons of potential, some of which is not realized on An Evil Shade Of Grey. Had they matured their songwriting and arrangements a bit, but stuck to this style, I think they could have in time recorded a genuine colossus of dark, gothic death metal. As it is, because of its patchwork nature, An Evil Shade Of Grey is good but not quite the masterpiece some make it out to be. I cannot help but think some people raise this on a higher pedestal it deserves out of contempt for Cemetary’s later albums.

Still, flaws and all, An Evil Shade Of Grey is undoubtedly and undeniably an interesting piece of Swedish death metal history. Like Gorement and, why the heck not, Katatonia, on their debut Cemetary take their place on the left field of early Swedish extreme metal, showing that swedeath was far more than the “big three” of Dismember, Entombed and Grave.

And returning to the question I asked earlier, I shall answer it myself. Yes, unconventional though it be, this is pure death metal.

3.5/5

Fuck, there’s even an official music video! Sweet!

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