It's been six years since death metal superpower BLOODBATH has made its rambunctious presence known on album. In that time, both OPETH and KATATONIA have become international stars of metal by exploring well outside the box of their death and black metal roots. There's no question Martin "Axe" Axenrot, Anders "Blakkheim" Nyström, Per "Sodomizer" Eriksson and Jonas Renske are metal as fuck, particularly when coming together outside of their respective home bases in BLOODBATH. This time, OPETH's Mikael Åkerfeldt, who opted for all clean singing on "Pale Communion", bows out of growling duties in BLOODBATH as PARADISE LOST vocalist Nick Holmes takes his place. That's about all that's changed since BLOODBATH released "The Fathomless Mastery" in 2008. Fans will be pleased to know the new album "Grand Morbid Funeral" brings the same old-school, brutalized death metal BLOODBATH has been hailed for.
The icky-titled "Let the Stillborn Come to Me" is out to remind listeners this is BLOODBATH, not OPETH or KATATONIA. Roaring mostly at a fierce tempo, random switch-ups to mosh modes and a dirge slog in the middle of the track break up the mayhem just enough to show off the excellence of BLOODBATH's esteemed stable. "Total Death Consumed" afterwards is consummate chaos as the clobbering tempos are nearly as sick as the shredding guitars. When BLOODBATH does a breakdown, expect awesomeness instead of blasé prototypes, and they take every grueling measure to make "Total Death Consumed" exert its way back to a blistering thrash path. The guitars flog and flail, no matter what speed the song takes. There's such unapologetic fury dumped into BLOODBATH's broil there's no questioning the roots of the players hold strong no matter where they journey musically outside of this severe hub.
The slower chug opening "Anne" surrenders to reckless speed as the drumming gets so fast it teeters on the edge of capsizing, while the guitars are giddily untamed. BLOODBATH repeats the scheme as the guitar solo climbs and pauses with the rest of the band before all stations go even faster. This is death metal at its finest, no matter what school you cite. By contrast, the beleaguering "Church of Vastitas" trades speed for a tonal monstrosity, churning out riffs at minimum velocity but with maximum heaviness.
One only needs to wait for "Famine of God's Word" thereafter for another speed fix and it's to the listener's judgment which is more impressive, the fast, digging riffs, the howling scales or the sinewy slams from Martin Axenrot. The buzzsaw punk riffs on "Mental Abortion" seem almost tireless until the song transitions to an anguishing death crawl which serves up a railing guitar solo and worms itself to a blasting finale.
If this wasn't BLOODBATH, it wouldn't seem like "Grand Morbid Funeral" could get any heavier, but sure enough, it does on "Beyond Cremation", where every bar, fast and slow, is gored, much less played. The guitar swarms overtop the shredding are pleasingly hellish and even the slowdowns contain more crunch than a proto metal band could ever hope to possess.
There's no point describing the rest of the album since the script is the same, save for a reversion course on the title track. The endpoint to be made about "Grand Morbid Funeral" and BLOODBATH is that for those who might have written off OPETH and KATATONIA, here is where you'll find solace. There's zero compromise on "Grand Morbid Funeral". It's akin to CELTIC FROST and POSSESSED in the old days with a Swedish death metal touch. This equates into nasty speed, bashing slowdowns and exceptional guitar work that normally requires certification from peers but comes automatic with the players' reputations. What gets blown into "My Torturer" is so off-the-chart it defies emulation.