REVIEW: BLOODBATH - SURVIVAL OF THE SICKEST
Bloodbath are a band that manage to retain an air of respectability despite nowadays indulging in more than a soupcon of silliness. Though far from a parody act, they hardly pretend not to take life – or, more specifically, death – too seriously (for proof, check out their new promo videos). The band’s credibility owes much to being a ‘supergroup’ (if such a thing exists in death metal) comprised of scene grandees from Paradise Lost, Katatonia, and Opeth, all weighty ‘serious’ names known for cerebral, melancholic, emotionally intense rock metal. Bloodbath is, then, perhaps a conduit for some serious-minded artists to less loose and bathe in splattered, unreconstructed OSDM that was a soundtrack to their youth. The intelligently obtuse lyrics, weeping melodies, and smart-casual black attire of the band members’ day jobs are replaced here with braindead, gore-encrusted torture-basement death metal of yore, ridiculous obscenity and a mandatory squiggly and illegible death metal band logo.
To be clear, this is death: unambiguous, unpretentious, brutish and foul. If you have any knowledge of the constituent personnel of Bloodbath, you will know they have careers of making highly atmospheric music and so it is here, albeit something profoundly sicker. Survival of the Sickest nails an OSDM aesthetic reminiscent of Grave, early Entombed, Dismember and even some latter-day Cannibal Corpse and a few others. The mission is to seemingly combine the raw brutality of formative era DM with a vibe of dread evocative of cheap slasher horror movies. Putrefying Corpse has this in abundance although the guest appearance of Napalm Death vocalist Barney Greenway gives it a bit of a feral grindcore blast. Dead Parade is a creepy, tortured crawl that could accompany some kind of basement ritual while To Die (featuring journeyman DM vocalist Marc Grewe) is a mid-paced heandbanger while closer No God Before Me is a winding, despairing funeral-scape.
On the whole, however, Bloodbath enjoy balls to the wall OSDM with the likes of the punchy ignition of Zombie Inferno and the excoriating high-speed Malignant Maggot Therapy or the grimly triumphal Carved. Nick Holmes is better known for his introspective Paradise Lost lyrics that ponder existence and religion; instead here he is found burping out refrains like Your image leaks from the larvae / Scraped from the floor and put in the bin or Glued to the slab, revocation of limbs, carved, carved, you’re carved. You get the gist – this isn’t Art Garfunkel.
Survival of the Sickest is more than competent musically with some brutally executed stuff. It was not going to be naff. It is tight and played with riffs that are authentic and you can sense the affection felt for first generation Swedish DM to which this record overtly eulogizes. In fact, you can smell vomited up innards and 25 years’ old Dismember t-shirts. The band have absolutely nailed the creepy yet joyous atmosphere of old DM records with over-the-top and dunderheaded splatter-house themes of butchery matched with buzzsaw riffs. When musicians enjoy themselves it tends to transmute into record form. It’s a strong album. When they rampage they really pound, though the second half of the record develops a very slight limp with a few unremarkable, standard-issue death metal tracks fleshing it out. It is good and disgustipating fun without being the diseased apogee of death metal.
Here is a thought though. This form of music has made a comeback in recent years. There is no shortage of acts peddling OSDM of this type and some of it is really, really good. For sure few things are as liberating and invigorating like going back to basics, to one’s youthful fire. Who hasn’t looked online at ordering a classic band t-shirt they used to wear when they were fifteen? If you think there is a ‘but’ coming, there is. No matter how good quality some of this music is, how long can you keep producing – at such a volume - a style, themes and artwork that developed over 30 years ago? There has to be a saturation point. Bloodbath create music that is full-on, rampaging and nostalgic - though not ground breaking. They won’t have any problem getting attention, despite this type of record being made thousands of times already and, undoubtedly, many thousands of times to come. For now, though, nobody seems to be caring. After all death metal isn’t about caring; it’s not even about death it’s about enjoying life.
Check out Bloodbath's bandcamp here: