Review Summary: What do you get when you put 4 prog/death geniuses together? Well, you get half of what you’d expect, in a good way.
Sweden’s pure death metal scene seems as though it is always being overshadowed by Sweden’s melodeath and melodic black metal scenes, and reasonably so. While the 80s in Sweden saw the rise of bands such as Entombed, Unleashed, Dismember, Grave, and Desultory, game-changing bands such as In Flames, Soilwork, Dissection, and Dark Tranquillity came later and by their sheer greatness unfortunately overshadowed the just as amazing work of their predecessors. Among these bands were Edge of Sanity, Opeth, and Katatonia, all of whom were rooted in extreme metal, but progressed in vastly different ways into then uncharted territory and sowed the seed for today’s internationally blooming progressive extreme metal scene alongside American heroes such as Death and Cynic. What made these three bands so special is that they were all led by some sort of mastermind, and this allowed for each band to develop their own very distinctive style. Edge of Sanity leader Dan Swanö’s equal love for death metal, goth rock, and prog showed in his band’s constant use of buzzsaw riffs alongside melodic leads and his own baritone clean vocals and growls, while Opeth frontman Mikael Åkerfeldt’s masterful and complex songwriting showcased an almost indescribable combination of influences ranging everywhere from Rush to Morbid Angel, with Åkerfeldt’s inimitably monstrous growls and jarringly sweet clean vocals complementing the dynamicism of Opeth’s music. Katatonia was influenced just as much by Swanö and Åkerfeldt as it was its own vocalist Jonas Renkse’s love for all things gothic and guitarist Anders “Blakkheim” Nyström’s affinity for melancholic, riff based songs, and this led Katatonia to become a band whose metal influence was limited to creating a depressive atmosphere alongside Renkse’s hypnotic vocals and Nyström’s impeccable guitar work.
Clearly, these three bands were not very far apart in their musical ideology despite the vast differences in their sound, and they often contributed greatly to each other’s work out of a shared friendship and love for similar forms of music. Eventually however, there came a time when the desire arose from each party to take a step back and return to the roots of their sound instead of continuing to step further into the unknown, and because none of them were willing to halt the progress made by their main bands, the event called for the formation of a supergroup.
After establishing a lineup of Mikael Åkerfeldt on vocals, Anders Nyström on guitar, Jonas Renkse on bass, and Dan Swanö on drums, Bloodbath came out swinging with the three song EP Breeding Death. Harkening back to the glory days of pre-Wolvering Blues Entombed and Where No Life Dwells-era Unleashed, the EP showed a promising future for the band. Of course worry was still present before the band released their first full length album, as the standard of supergroups generally failing to produce anything of note was a major concern. This left many wondering whether or not a full Bloodbath album would truly live up to the talent behind it.
It did... for the most part.
Resurrection Through Carnage was released in 2002 and while it isn’t an album without its faults, it was an album that revitalized the seemingly lost Swedeath scene and made it clear that Sweden’s prog metal gods hadn’t lost any of their brutality through time. Resurrection Through Carnage is in fact a rather regressive and very simple album that prioritizes flat out heaviness over any notion of technicality or prog influence. Every staple of old school Swedeath is exaggerated to almost hilarious levels here, and while some may find the overwhelmingly buzzsawed guitars and stereotyped to *** lyrics and song structures to be a turn off, to me these things just come off as over-the-top in a very tongue-in-cheek and fun way that gives the album a sort of Cannibal Corpse-esque charm. Of all of the band’s members, this album is definitely closest in sound to a Dan Swanö project, like a sort of Nothing But Death Remains-era Edge of Sanity with Mikael Åkerfeldt on vocals.
While we’re on the subject of Mikael Åkerfeldt, I have to admit that finding the words to describe how utterly hellish and gut-wrenching his growls are is a near impossible task. Åkerfeldt’s vocal performance here is flawless as usual, and how he manages to howl out each lyric with the perfect blend of ferocity and intelligibility will always be a mystery to me. The only other big mystery from this album which I have yet to solve is how Anders Nyström isn’t constantly revered as one of the greatest metal guitarists of all time. At the time this album came out, it was a known fact that Nyström was a master of doom metal and moody power chord riffs, but he proved here that he could handle death metal just as well as anything else. He of course never goes into anything super technical, but his performance on songs such as “Death Delirium” and “Cry My Name” is fantastic. The riffs are, as I mentioned earlier, very similar to something you’d hear from Edge of Sanity, and Nystrom’s performance here is just as good as if not better than what Dread or Sami Nerberg could have done.
Sadly to say, Dan Swanö himself is bar none the weakest link when it comes to actual musicianship on this record. Swanö has always seemed much more comfortable as a vocalist or guitarist, and while I can appreciate him taking a step out of his comfort zone here, his drum performance is far too bare bones and oversimplified to be worth much to the album. He certainly has no problems staying in time or playing what is appropriate for the song structure, but there’s absolutely nothing special or memorable about his individual performance, which is a shame considering that such an important name in the genre really went to waste on this album. As for Jonas Renkse’s bass performance, you can’t judge what you can’t hear, and try as I will, I can’t hear the bass for *** on this album. I’ll just give Jonas the benefit of the doubt and say that he does his job well enough here.
Overall, Resurrection Through Carnage’s biggest flaw lies within the fact that its lack of technicality results in a few moments that are a bit too technically lacking for comfort. I understand that not every death metal album has to be Necrophagist worship and that simplicity was the goal here, but I do strongly feel as though there is a limit on how simple death metal can be before it becomes unacceptable, and there are a few moments here where this album pushes that limit. The intro to “Mass Strangulation” is one of the worst offenders, with its slow, plodding, kick-snare-kick-snare drum pattern and outright boring guitar work making it hard for me to listen to. Thankfully, nothing on this album is so fundamentally broken or terrible that it distracts from the experience, but there are plenty of moments on here where I facepalmed at how absurdly simple it could be.
Resurrection Through Carnage was fitting for its title in that it was very much a resurrection of Swedeath, and it served equally as a starting point for Bloodbath to progress from. Due to its members, Bloodbath has since become a more immersive, less buzzaw-y, more technical band with a unique sound that combines old school Swedeath with heavier modern melodeath. Bloodbath’s members, despite several lineup changes, have always been very oriented toward progress, and while each member’s “main band” displays a different progression from heavy to soft, Bloodbath’s progression has been much more subtle in going from crude and derivitive to sinister and more serious. Despite this, I still feel as though Resurrection Through Carnage holds the title as Bloodbath’s best and most consistent full-length, and if it wasn’t for the Unblessing the Purity EP, I would consider it their best overall. It may not be as seriously thought out or filled with riffs as Bloodbath’s later work, but its simplicity, even if annoying at times, gives it a sort of novelty value and charm that everything the band has done since just does not have. It’s not a flashy album, it’s not a deeply thought-out album, and it’s certainly not a very complex or remotely technical album because it doesn’t have to be any of those things. It’s fun, heavy, has great vocals and riffs, and is easily accesible for any death metal fan, and when it comes to making a solid death metal record, that is all you need.
4/5. If you love good death metal, give this a listen, but don’t expect to have your mind blown. We have Opeth for that. Just sit back, enjoy what you hear, and when the urge to kick whatever you’re sitting on out from under you and windmill kicks in, just let it happen.