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At this point, anyone with an ear remotely close to the current metal scene knows who Gruesome is and what they do. That said, in case you missed it: Matt Harvey and his merry band of metal journeymen (and journeywoman) really love the first four Death albums, and they put together a band for the express purpose of writing and playing songs that sound a lot like said albums. Last year's Savage Land album is Leprosy with slightly better musicianship and cleaner production; their new EP Dimensions Of Horror is effectively an extension of that.

Which begs the question: is Gruesome even necessary? Why, in a scene littered with OSDM-worshipping acts of every stripe (and talent level) would anyone waste time with a band that knowingly brings nothing new to the table? Nostalgia is certainly a factor; plenty of old-school heshers pine for the glory days of death metal's beginnings, and seeing genre vets rehashing the past has an intrinsic value. This also applies to younger fans that were too young - or at this point, not even born - to be there for the first go-round. Of course, there's the appeal of the tunes themselves. Dimensions Of Horror's promotional material includes the line "...old-school death metal is always relevant, always savage, and always irresistible." The aforementioned glut of bands inspired by Tampa circa 1989 proves this well enough, from acts like Gruesome and County Medical Examiners all the way through critically-acclaimed newcomers Horrendous and Morbus Chron (RIP).

So, what about the songs? They're tight, quick and superbly performed. Gruesome's members have roughly a hundred years of collective death metal experience on a professional level, so talent will never be called into question. While there are plenty of hooks right out of the gate on opener "Forces Of Death," along with Harvey's unmistakable leathery growls, the song comes and goes without quite sticking. Before you know it, the title track is fading out and the EP is done. There are some shining moments - "Amputation" bludgeons with a thrashy Autopsy feel, and the solo on "Hellbound" is perfection - but there is nothing with the hooks or repeatability factor of a "Pull The Plug," "Zombie Ritual" or even "Slowly We Rot." Granted, those are lofty aspirations and maybe holding a tribute act - a polished and talented tribute act, but a tribute act still the same - to those standards is unfair. And while the Death To All tour is the closest thing we'll ever have to Death on stage, Gruesome can still serve an OSDM purpose in the live arena. Hell, if Chuck were still here, he might even agree.

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Dimensions of Horror is out now via Relapse Records. Follow Gruesome on Facebook.

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