Nightmares Made Flesh

So the mighty Swedish super-group (as much as the band is loathe to avoid that term, it’s rather fitting) return to follow up their widely lauded and critically acclaimed full length debut Resurrection Through Carnage. There have been some big changes in the band since their last recorded outing. The mighty Dan Swanö has shifted from drums to second guitarist, and is replaced by Martin ‘Axe’ Axerot (never before has there been a manlier name) of Witchery fame. Mikael Åkerfeldt of a band some of you may have heard of, Opeth, has been replaced by Peter Tägtgren of Hypocrisy/Pain on killer-death-vox-from-hell-to-consume-your-wretched-bloody-soul. Anders Nyström and Jonas Renske both of Katatonia handle the remaining guitar and bass duties respectively; a band of capable and talented musicians no doubt. But before you get all excited in anticipation of another modern but classic early Swedish death metal onslaught, the band has changed in more ways than just the line-up.This is a very different beast from Resurrection Through Carnage. Whereas Resurrection… was more a tribute album to a specific era and sound (early 90s Swedish death metal), Nightmares… is much more present-day and takes a departure as an original entity in itself. It appears as if Bloodbath have decided to appease the three critics that said their sound borrowed too heavily from the aforementioned style. The most immediately recognizable end-product of this sound shift is in the production. Here we have a much crisper, chunky production akin to modern death metal, gone is the buzz saw guitar tone of Resurrection…. The production is technically excellent but fans of the last album’s unique sound might be a little disappointed. Second, the music itself is more straight-forward death metal, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing but it reduces the original allure of Bloodbath. With two guitarists this time around there is also more going on in the guitar department. Nightmares… in no way approaches tech-death but the riffs are a smidgen more involved and there are more leads; the addition of Swanö as second guitarist has had a big impact on the sound, especially in the leads which have a very noticeable Swanö-ish sound to them. The drumming this time around is also slightly faster and with more double-bass but isn’t too different from that featured on Resurrection. Now a lot of people have been shitting bricks over the change of vocalist. And as much as I’m a huge fan of Åkerfeldt’s amazing voice, Tägtgren goes above and beyond delivering an impressive vocal performance here. I don’t really like Hypocrisy so I wasn’t expecting anything spectacular in the vocals department, and as most people have, I originally perceived the loss of Åkerfeldt as a deficit to the band but Tägtgren has seen to it there was an ass-floor interaction upon my first listen. I honestly don’t know what his detractors are taking. His voice is an excellent match for this album.

So, the line-up has changed, the sound has changed, where does that leave the band? In a quasi-limbo I would say. Bloodbath is going to cop some criticism that no other band is privy to and it’s completely unfair, but it’s a result of their original novelty and notoriety. Because they’ve adopted a more standard approach to death metal there really isn’t anything that special or unique about them anymore, apart from the status of the members as minor metal demigods and hence they’re unlikely to be judged as just another death metal band, they’re going to be judged for what they are not, which is something that not a lot of other death metal releases won’t have to face this year. Because this, to me, sounds like another Swedish-tinged, slightly catering to the old-school death metal release. As far as the music goes, the song-writing is quality and the songs are very distinct from each other which is an impressive feat for a death metal band. The song-writing does slightly fluctuate throughout the albums 45 minute running time as it does on nearly all albums, but there isn’t really anything totally amazingly spectacular that grabs me and forces me to listen compulsively. “Cancer of the Soul”, the first track, may very well be my favorite of the album, with its simple but effective formula of killer riffs + satanic groove = win. “Soul Evisceration” has an excellent melodic solo mid-section. The chorus of “Outnumbering the Day” really harkens back to the Resurrection… sound but the other parts of the song are in the newer style which provides an interesting contrast. “Feeding the Day” is another killer track, and probably the standout for Tägtgren. Put simply he sounds like Satan himself might sing on this track. “Eaten” is hilarious, a sort of sludge-groove-gore track about being eaten strangely enough: “carve me up, slice me apart, suck my guts and lick my heart. Chop me up I like to be hurt, drink my marrow and blood for dessert”. Definitely not one for the kiddie’s bed-time story, but I can really see this track becoming a massive fan favorite for the heathen unwashed masses.

When all is said and done, this is a departure for Bloodbath, but not necessarily a bad one. From what I’ve seen, people have been reacting well to this which is both warranted and deserved. I could very well see a lot of metal-heads shunning this release because it’s different, which to the average metalhead seems to equate to ‘selling out’ (for the untold millions awaiting those who wish to make a buck with death metal) but that doesn’t seem to be the case. Check it out all you death heads if you have not done so already and you just may find it right up your alley. Meanwhile, I’m going to go sing “Eaten” to my girlfriend. She loves poetry.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Damien Boorman
September 27th, 2004


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