Review Summary: The Swedish death metal supergroup gleefully pay homage to the genre in their murkiest and most consistent release yet.
Bloodbath has waited a lengthy six years to release a new full-length album, struggling to remain active after the second exit of vocalist Mikael Akerfeldt, originally from Opeth. Only this year did the remaining band members finally announce the identity of their new vocalist, having previously titillated fans of who it could be, even referring to him as a “legend.” The reveal of Nick Holmes from pioneering gothic metal band Paradise Lost filling the role sparked rumors among fans that Holmes hadn’t utilized death growls in years, and had possibly lost the ability to perform them. The first single and possibly the strongest track on the album, “Famine of God’s Word,” puts to rest any circulating doubts that Bloodbath couldn’t survive as a group. It maintained the band’s signature catchiness while still delivering on the furious riffs and signature osdm (old school death metal) muddy production that fans have come to expect.
After six years of little activity and increasing hype for what Bloodbath would do next, Grand Morbid Funeral
thankfully lives up to expectations for a catchy and over-the-top death metal release hearkening back to the genre’s golden days. “Let The Stillborn Come to Me” is a midtempo rocker that sounds like it could come straight from 2004’s Nightmares Made Flesh
. The album’s second single, “Church of Vastitas” is a decent, slow burning track that somewhat feels like a missed opportunity due to its repetitiveness and lack of especially interesting ideas within. Thankfully it’s one of the shorter songs and is sandwiched between two of the stronger tracks, “Anne” and “Famine of God’s Word,” both containing relentlessly apocalyptic guitar riffs and atmospheric leads throughout. The rhythm section rarely makes itself known, but provides a solid backdrop as usual.
Perhaps the most surprising element of Grand Morbid Funeral
is a subtle, yet noticeable change in style. Bloodbath always relied on paying homage to old school death metal for comfortably familiar sounding guitar riffing and song structures, and has now relied on these influences even more. While never wholly original, the group always had a way of injecting their own creativity and identity into each release. The only real exception on Grand Morbid Funeral
, “Necropsy,” is the most progressive the album gets. It starts the way you’d expect, until technical guitar riffing takes over while the drums blast away before leading into a slower, more atmospheric outro. Exceptions like this in each release have always made for a more interesting listen, but indulging in the genre’s expansions into more cerebral territory was never their mission. Avoiding a reliance on technicality or innovation, Bloodbath have focused more on staying true to the genre’s identity, creating the most gleefully rotten and filthy music they could while maintaining catchiness and showcasing as much tongue-in-cheek horror imagery as possible. Lyrical themes would, and still do, revolve around demonic possession, zombie plagues, and yes, even mutated sewer monsters.
Grand Morbid Funeral
subtly shifts their image to emphasize the gothic and supernatural. Bloodbath is a band of nostalgia, and now including Paradise Lost in the ensemble of influences ends up working nicely and serves as a welcome change overall. Each member’s original bands are woven into the fabric of Bloodbath’s wide array of influences and characteristics, and Holme’s Paradise Lost fits in comfortably alongside the more exaggerated and over-the-top horror imagery. Bloodbath pull off being bleak and foreboding well enough, but letting loose and having fun has always been what they do best. “Unite In Pain” is a wonderful example of these strengths, beginning with one of the catchiest and most rollicking intros they’ve ever written. Devilish guitar leads follow, and Holmes gives the best vocal performance of the album. At this point any differences noted by his presence have been forgotten, as his guttural vocals buried in the mix have been contributing to the atmosphere just as they should, rounding off the band’s influences for another nostalgic and endlessly enjoyable trip down memory lane of one of the most over-the-top and extreme genres of metal, never letting up on the fun or intensity.