Bloodbath’s Grand Morbid Funeral: Brand New Singer, Same Killer Ride
Since their formation more than fifteen years ago, Bloodbath’s entire raison d’être was both exciting and admirable. Within Katatonia, Anders Nyström and Jonas Renkse sculpted their metal leanings into burly hymns of gothy sadness; Mikael Åkerfeldt and Dan Swanö were busy progging their own heavy visions into twisted, musically intricate masterpieces. As Bloodbath, the Swedes chiseled away all that pretension and emotive nonsense and threw their energies into bloodthirsty death metal. We should all appreciate the accomplishments of ambitious musicians pushing aggressive music to its artistic limits, but knowing that these guys also enjoy gritty Neanderthal-browed blasphemies is gratifying, too.
I’m tempted to mention my staunch devotion to the band’s 2004 sophomore full-length, Nightmares Made Flesh, but that’s not entirely accurate. My caved-in-head over gangrenous-heels infatuation belongs entirely to mid-album track “Eaten,” with its anthemic groove and its genius lyrical plea to find ecstasy between a zombie horde’s rotted molars. Not that the rest of the album is unworthy – I love all that shit – but “Eaten” might be one of the most inspired death metal morsels ever written.
Nightmares endeared me to that decade-old version of the band, including the throaty gurgle of Hypocrisy’s Peter Tägtgren. I have a far less enthusiastic attachment to Paradise Lost’s Nick Holmes, whose dry caw never excited me much, so my initial reaction to his inclusion on new album Grand Morbid Funeral was very meh. That hesitation turns out to be completely unfounded – Holmes’ voice is just the worm-gut-strewn ax-to-the-skull this music needs. And the music offers exactly the ride you should demand from a Bloodbath outing. The churning, chaotic low end supports all the head-chopping speed that powers the album. GMF deftly dances between discernable thrash inflections and death metal’s thicker, diseased-heartblood consistency. The moments that veer toward unabashed thrash tend to lose my interest – I much prefer death metal that sounds like it’s played by deranged gorillas pumped too full of meth and cocaine to bother establishing a beat – but folks who like their metal to resemble actual songs should be pleased with Bloodbath’s work here.
Now’s about the time I’d like to namecheck individual songs and list off their endearing attributes, but that exercise feels a bit futile. The album holds together extremely well, with the gristly sounds of every song propping up all the others. “Mental Abortion” is a quick favorite, “Anne” chugs into place fantastically, “Unite in Pain” reminds that the guitar can be used for something other than blunt force trauma, and the title track rounds out the album with its heavy-lidded crush and interesting space-filling details. The whole grave-raiding package will put fists through walls and bodies in the pit. If you’ve spent most of 2014 waiting around to get leveled by a death metal record with a little legacy heft, you might want to get out there and snatch up the new Bloodbath before 2015 rides up on your ass and splits it like an overripe pumpkin.