BURDEN OF GRIEF, Haunting Requiems  (2000, Point Music)

The skull:
Dirty, wretched, aged skull hangs eerily in the fog, leering and sneering. It’s the eyes that deliver the creeps: where the pupils would have been there are instead threads of blue electric energy. “Electric eye…in the sky…feel my stare…always there.” What could have been a dull and dumb cover is actually rendered well enough to convey the dread it’s supposed to. Gaze upon its countenance and shudder. Well done.

The music:
For those who lament that “melodic death metal” now means “anemic weak metalcore” versus what the originators of the form intended (early In Flames, early Dark Tranquillity, Eucharist, etc.), Burden Of Grief are here to fly the flag. More Sacramentum than Soilwork, these Germans sound Swedish as hell. The vocals throughout Haunting Requiems recall the scathing tones of early Mikael Stanne (Dark Tranquillity) and the music goes there too, along with a healthy shot of every-era At The Gates. This is like the missing link between early At The Gates and the refinement they underwent on Terminal Spirit Disease — all shimmering, haunting, minor key riffs and melodies, screaming vocals, and a triumphant, Maiden-esque sort of vibe, arranged more consisely than early At The Gates yet not quite as stripped down and ferocious as AtG would become. There’s even a cover of Iron Maiden’s “Prowler” here. The comparisons to better and better-known bands tells you Burden Of Grief are second-tier (“Smashed to Pieces” is so close to early Dark Tranquillity that it can be called a rip-off), but it’s certainly some of the better second-tier melodic death metal you’ll come across. Worth checking out if your hunger for the sound of real melodic death metal takes you out of Sweden and out of the ’90s.
— Friar Wagner