Old school death metal continues its dominance well into the 2nd decade of the 21st century, as scores of younger bands emerge to venerate both the Swedish and US scenes that dawned in the 90s. Cryptborn is yet another Finnish entrant into the field, and while you'd think they might aesthetically mirror the traits of local heroes like Demilich, Demigod and Convulse, they actually bear a lot in common with the primordial power behind Entombed's legendary debut Left Hand Path. Only one should take the overbearing breadth of that familiar guitar tone and imagine it cranked to overdrive, thick as body parts in a zombie-infested shopping mall during peak hours of business.
A lot of slow, potent grooves dominate the song-scape, with pretty standard d-beat drumming used to drive the burden of the guitars. Vocalist 'Christbutcher' has an expansive, ominous tone to him which brings to mind the peak years of Martin van Drunen, only more butchered and abrasively guttural. That said, it did take me a few tracks before finding something I liked here, as the intro "A Feast for the Grave" and the ensuing "Gift of Rotten Flesh" have an unfortunate dearth of memorable riffing. Once the juicy, pummeling grooves of the title track emerge, you are transported back to the crunching, effective simplicity of Clandestine, and the burgeoning rhythms of "A Nebulous Parting" and "Never Perfect When You Die" also deliver a neck banging bombardment of soil-shifting riffs that feel adequately carnal and comprehensible. The leads used on the album are basic and not compelling, but they do rekindle their intended nostalgia.
And that's really the name of the game here. Cryptborn bring nothing new to the formula, but their obvious reverence for the style they emulate is delivered with genuine abuse. That doesn't make In the Grasp of the Starving Dead an item one should go out of his way to acquire, but those devoted to the influences are unlikely to find themselves underwhelmed or disappointed by what transpires here. The EP is short (under a half-hour), brutal, tonally appropriate, and as dark as the cemetery scenery which inspired it. I dug about half the tracks, and the other half seemed competent but forgettable, gruesome graveyard shovel-ware. However, the release is expertly produced for the style, throwing the guitars right up front, and those who missed its original cassette incarnation will be able to grab the CD through Dark Descent this fall.
Verdict: Indifference [6.25/10]