I make no bones about the fact I’m a huge fan of BLOODBATH, Sweden’s own Death Metal supergroup. From their initial sublime effort, the EP “Breeding Death”, through this year’s earlier releases of another EP and live album, I’ve always been in the tank for this throw-back venture of members of KATATONIA, OPETH and Dan Swano (insert every other band in Metal here). Playing a brand of death that has generally hearkened back to the early days of European DM in the vein of GRAVE or DISMEMBER, these cats have always come out swinging and making no bones about their desire to do nothing but crush the listener with sheer brawn and speed. Along with some line-up changes, the band’s new venture into the realm of extreme Metal has some welcomed variations to it that only add to the group’s ever-growing appeal.
After initially consisting of Jonas Renske and Anders Nyström (both oif KATATONIA), Mikael Åkerfeldt (OPETH) and Dan Swanö (EDGE OF SANITY…and many others), the band changed for their sophomore full length effort “Nightmares Made Flesh”, with the other ever-present Swede Peter Tagtgren replacing Åkerfeldt on vocals, while Swanö moved from behind the kit to guitars and Martin “Axe” Axenrot (WITCHERY, OPETH) took over on the skins. These personnel changes seemed to make little difference musically, as NMF was another Death Metal Tour de Force and placed the band easily in the ranks of the best out there right now.
But here we are with a third album, Swanö gone, Tagtgren gone to be replaced by none other than Åkerfeldt again, and some mighty high expectations to be fulfilled. So, how does “The Fathomless Mastery” hold up under such changes and anticipation? Damn well, with a few little nuances being added to the band’s oeuvre into the bargain. Opening with the razor sharp and unmistakably brutal “At The Behest Of Their Death”, BLOODBATH gallop out where they left off in previous efforts; catchy but crushing riffs and with Axenrot, sensational and complex rhythms. What becomes a bit more pronounced as the album moves forward is the inclusion of subtle but noticeable Black Metal riffing that creeps up throughout the album. Nyström and new guitarist Per “Sodomizer” Eriksson blend mashing Death chords along with speedily dispatched Black Metal ripping seamlessly without any sense of incongruence. Thought the BM riffs aren’t quite the hasty tremolo picking exactly one expects from that style, they do border to it enough to warrant mentioning in that vein of playing.
Incorporating slashing type riffs that are accompanied by deep pulled accents and pinched harmonics so popular in the contemporary DM scene, tracks like “Mock The Cross” have a more modern feel to them than tracks on previous albums, especially “Resurrection Through Carnage”, with its far simpler, deeper reliance chugged out riffs and bombastic percussion. This new face of BLOODBATH is a more multifaceted version with the afore-mentioned differences, along with a few moody passages included at the end or beginning of tracks. Still, there can be no doubt that the band remains solidly a brutal yet ever so catchy Death Metal band who play balls out and come to crush. “The Fathomless Mastery” may disappoint a few who were looking for replication, but I find it to be a solid, excellently spread out endeavour that keeps the band still in the ranks of the Death Metal elite, with its swarming, pummelling riffs and dextrous drumming all incorporated into a Death framework that is as appealing as it is brutal.
(Online November 24, 2008)