As a fan of Metal including an emphasis on certain musicians as influencers and trailblazers, I’ve always liked the idea of supergroups. Maybe it is some way my brief fifth-grade obsession with baseball cards and later comics buried itself into my subconscious as Metal dominated more and more of my life in the following years. There is no extreme Metal supergroup more celebrated across fans of all the nooks and crannies of the spectrum from Doom to Death to Black and more than Bloodbath. To list the total number of bands represented by current and former members of Bloodbath would be ridiculous overkill.
For those unfamiliar with the band, the current line-up features members of Katatonia, Paradise Lost, Craft, and Opeth. These guys have formed a band to focus the collective visceral side of their creativity. It is hard to believe it has been four years since Grand Morbid Funeral. The Arrow of Satan is Drawn has arrived now at the most auspicious and necessary time as Death Metal has not been this big since two decades ago. Thankfully, the band have focused their intent and refined their riffing and vibe, even more, resulting in a grandiose tour de force.
“Fleischmann” opens the record up with a curb kick to the skull. Immediately, one is assured that this is indeed Bloodbath. With a beginning that went in an Entombed direction, the verse section sounded like a darkened Bolt Thrower. Before long, the band has inundated the listener with the best of Old School Death Metal. This is not limited by a strict box, though. The band has its own personality that speaks throughout the music, ultimately advancing the genre.
The following track, “Bloodicide,” brings the groove. It will be the one causing other drivers to notice you beating the steering wheel and headbanging at a traffic light. What was ultimately taken from this song was the firm realization that Bloodbath have a true talent for blending brutality with hooks. It could be anything from the way parts resolve themselves melodically to true, straight-up catchy riffs. A broad smile is hard to avoid letting slip through your most brutal Metal face.
“Deader,” the fifth track is another sure to grab the listener. It has a primal fury derived from a groove riff that is reminiscent of classic Grave. The faster parts echo more traditional American Death Metal. The very last riff, though, steals the show blending that classic bombastic Death Metal sound with some Black Metal-styled tremolo picking. The end result is a song that ends on a bang.
The seventh track, “Morbid Antichrist,” contains the nastiest bass slide to be heard in years. From the different approaches to each riff to carefully-placed pinch harmonics and monster grooves, the band excels utilizing the right ingredients to effectively make musical comfort food for Metal fans. The ninth track, “Only the Dead Survive,” is also of note as it further propagates the precedent set (and also has another cool bass slide).
Instrumentally, this band is true to its roots in Old School Swedish and Floridian Death Metal. It is a given that the guitar tone is drenched in the classic HM-2 sound that colored so many classic records from At the Gates to Dismember including all those previously mentioned as well. What is unique to this version of that sound is it has a very distinct attack. The engineer was able to get a tone that slams, delivering more impact from the classic sound. Every nuance of the picking attack is captured as the player’s tone is not drowning in studio magic tricks but bleeding from raw execution. The rhythm section is certainly on point as they complete the assembly of instrumental parts with an ample foundation.
I’ve seen some banter here and there on the web of folks with differing opinions on the vocals. Nick Holmes has over three decades of experience and has managed to summon the guttural vocals to perfectly compliment the music. Imagine the harsh vocals throughout the discography of Paradise Lost yet with more angst. Lyrics are intelligible, delivered with enough tenacity to summon the perfect amount of brutality.
This is essential listening material for any fan of extreme Metal. While many albums this year seemed to sidetrack into different areas of exploration, Bloodbath is pure, the Motorhead or AC/DC of Death Metal. One knows exactly what to expect from this band and for the benefit of all the fans, they have not diverted from the course but have rather enhanced their sound with even more aggression and volatility.