Sicktus : It is almost 15 years since Bloodbath shook the death metal world on its foundation with the truly awesome EP 'Breeding Death' (2000). Three tracks and a playing time of not even 14 minutes, yet I dare say that this single one release had quite an impact on the then already slumbering revival of oldschool death metal and at the very least gave this revival a big shove in the right direction.
And then... Then came The Great Speculation: will there be another release, maybe even a full-length? And if so, will Bloodbath be performing live?
'Resurrection Through Carnage' (2002) answered that first question with a resounding "YES!" and in 2005, the band utterly crushed a huge Wacken crowd. Still one of the top 'gigs with a huge impact', if you ask me. Several albums, EP's and live releases followed, as did a couple of line-up changes. And then, right when the idea that Bloodbath was a real band and not a supersideproject started to sink in, there was the news of growler Mikael Åkerfeldt leaving the band in 2012 and the band released a statement that "...we want to confirm that our decision to make another album with a new singer is already being prepared since a while. We will let you know in due time who the new singer is...". And The Great Speculation was back on - only now twice as fierce. The weirdest rumours on who who take over Åkerfeldt's spot at the mike were flying 'round and when the band ultimately came out with the news that none other than Paradise Lost's Nick Holmes was the new singer, the (online) death metal community went absolute bonkers. The News Of The World approach was rising high and the opinion-fest went wild, even before a single track had been released.
Basically, there were four groups to be discerned: people who dig the new vocalist and thought it a brilliant move, people who hated it before they even heard a single note, people who decided to wait to form their opinion until after actually hearing the album, and people who pretty much had decided that they were going to hate it, no matter what and whose main concern seemed to be whether Holmes "...will still be able to pull it off live?". 'Cause, you know, Paradise Lost had had a couple of not so convincing shows lately, and that is a valid argument, right? That last group intrigues me. Are we judging studio performances (albums) by how a vocalist might perform on stage, in the future, on gigs that have yet to happen, based on an off day in the past - with a different band altogether? I mean... Isn't that... weird? Things people get their panties in a twist over these days, huh?
Anyway... More than enough rambling on other peoples ramblings. Let's get to 'Grand Morbid Funeral'. The first teaser track that was put online ('Unite In Pain') was ok, but nothing too shocking, if you ask me. Luckily, pretty soon after the promo arrived and 'Grand Morbid Funeral' could be taken fo a spin as a whole. And you know what: that is not bad an album at all. The record sound raw, the emphasis is very much on heavy and dark. Bloodbath easily switch between sluggishly dragging, towards doom/death leaning tracks (check out 'Church Of Vastitas') to solid stampedes of Swedish descent. It is a ten ton hammer of a riff-fest, with a couple of instantly catchy songs, a gruesome guitar sound that cuts through flesh and bone, a driving foundation of tight chopping drums and a grooving bass, with a lead thrown in here and there... I especially dig the guitar work on the album, a highly enjoyable mix of rough HM2 riffing and catchiness. The dry midrange, raspy and well articulate growls by Holmes fit the full and bonesawing 90's sound Bloodbath has on this album, if you ask me. For those who want to nitpick: yes, the vocals sound a bit forced every now and then, but hey, if you want to find something to nag about, you'll end up finding something to nag about. This is not The Voice UK, this is oldschool death metal and it is ok that it has some raw edges.
Funny thing though, the first track that got released - 'Unite In Pain' - is the track on which the vocals and vocal lines are the least convincing. So, if you really want to shoot yourself in the foot and bail on this album, all over some online bollocks on whether the vocals are great or atrocious, go ahead and pull that trigger. You'll be missing out on a damn decent OSDM album. Oh, and some fun facts: Chris Reifert and Eric Cutler of Autopsy-fame have done some guestwork. And who - after all the build-up - is curious to how Bloodbath sounds live: they have been confirmed for the 2015 edition of the Neurotic Deathfest.