Personally I’m not keen on the word ‘supergroup’ as it conjures up images of washed-up musicians being put together by a music mogul for some sort of lowest common denominator talent (and I use the word loosely) show. Cynical? Perhaps, but you only have to look at the state of the music industry to see where that particular avenue is heading, as if McBusted was put together by the band members for genuine artistic merit rather than being offered a ton of cash by somebody in marketing.
But I digress, as that is another discussion for another day. For these purposes, the term supergroup has a little more weight to it as Bloodbath are a death metal project originally put together by Opeth‘s Mikael Åkerfeldt and Katatonia‘s Jonas Renkse and Anders “Blakkheim” Nyström back in the late 1990s for the band members to fuel their old school death metal cravings as both of their main bands evolved into the proggier beasts we know today. Three albums and a couple of line-up changes later and we have “Grand Morbid Funeral” – Åkerfeldt has returned back to Opeth full-time so stepping into his considerable shoes is Paradise Lost frontman Nick Holmes, who has seen fit to give his inner death grunts another shot at the limelight after several years of clean vocals with his main band.
And what a joy it is to hear, as opening track ‘Let the Stillborn Come to Me’ rages from the speakers in a howl of barely controlled fury. In a distilled brew of Entombed‘s death n’ roll bludgeon and Morbid Angel heaviness Bloodbath remind you how exciting pure death metal can be as each snap of the snare drum and flurry of blizzard-like guitar riffs beat you around the head like Leatherface‘s meat tenderiser. And Mr. Holmes? The man does good as the voice that brought you “Gothic” all those years ago returns a little drier and grittier than you remember, but “Grand Morbid Funeral” isn’t as majestic or groundbreaking as “Gothic” – this is brutal death metal as it should be.
The album as a whole is a total kick to the face as each track threatens to pulverise you with some remarkable playing, belying the almost punk-ish nature of the production but never going so technical that it loses track of what Bloodbath are all about. Standout tracks ‘Mental Abortion’ and ‘Beyond Cremation’ throw in a groove element that gives each song a hook amongst the blast-beating, reminiscent of Six Feet Under but heavier and more dense. Surefire live favourites that’ll trigger some serious pit action.
Death metal as a musical genre can be one of the most infuriating, as it can be terribly generic and one-note but when it’s done well it can be the most glorious and exciting thing to wrap your ears around. Naturally, if you have no love of death metal whatsoever then “Grand Morbid Funeral” won’t appeal to you at all and you can go about your business, but if the sounds of sludgy guitars, hyper-fast drums and a demonic death growl all working together in sweet harmony to create actual songs has ever appeared on your radar then “Grand Morbid Funeral” could be one of the best things you’ll hear this year. Also bear in mind that with the release of this and Vallenfyre‘s excellent “Splinters” (featuring Paradise Lost guitarist Greg Mackintosh), next year’s scheduled Paradise Lost album is looking pretty damn special. In the meantime, crank this one up loud.