Gravebreaker is supposed to be a throwback tribute to the classic heavy metal of the past, but at this point, the entire idea of 'traditional' heavy metal has become an entity all to its own, not related anymore to what metal's roots really are. Like we see in the world of retro rock, bands today often lack the devil-may-care flare that made the original wave so unique. When you copy something unique, it's nearly impossible to break the rules the same way they once did.
But let's talk about the music. Gravebreaker certainly has the rough and raw production of an early 80s metal album. The guitars buzz with the tone of amps that were never designed to play heavy music, being pushed too far and sounding brittle. There is some old-school charm in the nostalgia of that, but really, a better sounding amp would have done the same thing while not trying to give me a headache. The songs themselves are he bare-bones metal that you would expect, with a few simple riffs carrying each song, as the vocals don't raise the game. Like many of these bands, the vocals are going to be a deal-breaker for many people. Yes, metal bands from the past had terrible vocalists. That's not a reason for new bands to continue that trend.
We even get two self-titled tracks. There is the one sharing it's name with the album, which tries to capture the black spirit of Mercyful Fate, and does an ok job of it, as well as a track sharing a name with the band themselves. That's a trope I've always hated. Whether it's narcissism or laziness, it's not an appealing trait.
I don't want to slam a band that clearly loves old-school metal and wanted to try their hand at it, but at the same time, I don't want to sit here and lie to you that this is great music. Frankly, it's a bland rehashing of old styles without any of the flair or charisma that could get around the fact that the songs just aren't that good. Vocally, there aren't any strong hooks here, and the riffs all fall into that category of chugging where they don't have hooks of their own in the notes. There just isn't anything memorable about this music at all. It's fine enough, especially if you remember 1983, but it will never make you want to listen to this instead of any of the records from back then. It's tame, it's safe, and it's kind of boring.
And that's something you never would have said back then.