Bloodbath_Grand-Morbid-FuneralThe death metal super group of all death metal super groups is finally back from the grave after six long years moldering in the soil. Bloodbath needs little introduction, as the preeminent standard bearer of all things retro Swedish death this collective composed of members of Opeth, Katatonia and Witchery once included the likes of Dan Swanö and Mikael Akerfeldt, but both have fled to other pursuits, leaving the band’s new era in the hands of Nick Holmes (Paradise Lost) who now handles vocals. This may come as unwelcome news to those that wrote off the man and his band during their period of electronica club music, and perhaps some forgot just how powerful Mr. Holmes sounded on those early Paradise Lost albums like Gothic. Past history aside, you can rest assured, this is the same Bloodbath that ripped up the scene with classics like Nightmares Made Flesh, and Grand Morbid Funeral sounds like these well seasoned chaps are out to maintain the good name of their project by any means necessary. Is this anything new? No, of course not, but it’s well done nostalgo-death from dudes who know how that should sound, and that will likely be sufficient for most death heads.

Naturally the sound here is as close as possible to the Entombed and Dismember school of rot, with some nods to what the classic Florida bands were doing in the early 90s as well. Lead track “Let The Stillborn Come to Me” is a big bomb of Swede death with enormously heavy, caustic riffs and it immediately calls to mind the sound and style on Entombed‘s Clandestine. Nick sounds unbelievable and his death roars and screams are better here than they were way back in the early 90s. He sounds quite a bit like David Vincent (Morbid Angel), which he never did back in the day, and he sounds very convincing.

From there they deliver ten more tunes of morbidity, some better than others, but all solid and suitably blood drenched. “Total Exhumed Death” is a ripper with pulverizing riffs and a slight hardcore sensibility. It also has some interesting riff idea (like the ones around 2:25) and a sub-basement vocal delivery from Mr. Holmes. “Anne” introduces some Morbid Angel style riffs, “Famine of God’s Word” incorporates some nifty discordant leads amid driving deaththrash, and “Mental Abortion” steals the loathsome vocals and hyper riffing from Autopsy (which isn’t a big shock since Chris Reifert and Eric Cutler do guest work on the album). Elsewhere, “Beyond Cremation” harnesses a savage D-beaty gallop and infuses it with eerie riffs, thereby insuring it could have fit right in on Left Hand Path. Lastly, “My Torturer” delivers some nerve jangling riffs and gripping guitar-work throughout.

While none of the songs are lame, some are less inspired and more prone to Swedish Death Overfamiliarity Syndrome. The slower, doom dirge of “Church of Vastitas” is certainly heavy, but it drags and loses focus, and “Unite in Pain” is fast and furious, but a bit generic at the same time. Though the album is a punchy 46 minutes and the songs are all short and sharp, they probably could have dropped one or two and been the better for it.

Ester Segarra

Obviously the big news is the addition of Nick Holmes, and to his credit he really delivers an impressive performance. He sounds as heavy and inhuman as anyone in the heavy inhuman business and you can’t help being shocked by how well he fits the crushing tuneage. As on the past albums, Anders Nystrom and relative newcomer Per Eriksson unleash a fearsome fulsade of old timey riffs, most of which are quite tasty. As a band, Bloodbath is tight as hell and they have a solid ear for what fans of this genre expect, likely because they are fans as well.

The sound on Grand Morbid Funeral is a bit of a mixed bag of orcs. While the guitars sound righteously heavy, mean and buzzing, the production itself is somewhat brickwalled and falls prey to the dreaded wall of sound effect. It doesn’t ruin the listening experience, but it does make it a bit annoying at times.

My issue with Bloodbath is a simple one. When you get right down to it, despite the star power, they’re just another band churning out nostalgic paeans to the halcyon days when Sunlight Studios and Morrisound Studios ruled the death metal landscape. Back when they released their debut, they were an early adapter of the throwback style, but in 2014 they’re just one of too many acts shaking the same retro tree though all the best apples have long fallen to the ground to fester. If this came out in 2000, I would have drooled on it enough to get myself committed to the nervous hospital. Now, it’s another well done retro release with bigger names involved.

Issues aside, Bloodbath once again delivers pretty much everything a fan of the style could want with enough veteran savvy and panache to make it stick. It’s more than worth your time just to hear Holmes relive and surpass his death glory days. I suppose there’s always room for one more quality retro death platter, but the mausoleum is getting pretty fucking crowded these days!

Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 5  |  Format Reviewed: 272 kbps AAC
Label: Peaceville Records
Websites:  |
Release Dates: EU: 2014.11.17  |  NA: 11.18.2014

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  • Excentric_1307

    I’ve been waiting a long time for this one. The tracks I’ve heard have all sounded pretty solid, and hopefully the vinyl will have better mastering.

    • That was from an interview with serial killer Ted Bundy.

  • André Snyde Lopes

    All those Morbid Angel comparisons made me wish Morbid Angel hadn’t turned to shit. :(

  • Doomdeathrosh

    I wasn’t wrong in pre-ordering this! Although Mr.Druhm it does seem like you’ve reduced their points for something thats not their fault! Nice review though!

  • I think you’re right that this is a 3.5, but I can’t agree that the issue is because the scene is overrun—these guys were out really early and they’ve always been the best.

    My big issue is actually that the sound of this record isn’t the kind of smash in the face with sick, fat riffs that the earlier material was. Partially, too, I think Holmes is perfect for the sound right now, but that it’s a sound that I just don’t like as well as when Åkerfeldt and Tägtgren were doing vocals. Not so powerful and razor-sharp as I’d like.

    • The scene overrun naturally lessens the impact of what they are doing at this point since everyone is doing it, but they’re still one of the best in the game.

    • AndySynn

      I actually think Nick sounds a fair bit like Peter in places actually (which is a good thing, in my mind).

      • Dr. A.N. Grier

        Agreed. I preferred Peter’s vocals for Bloodbath. It may have just been the album he was on but I think it worked well.

  • tomasjacobi

    The brickwalled sound bothers me more with this release than it does on other recent albums. Since they’re going for an old school sound it makes even less sense than it normally does to do the loudness thing. First they go to lengths to get that Swedish sound, then they smash everything to bits with compressors :-(

  • well.. I sense the compression.. But, to me.. It’s one of those albums that it’s so fine musically that you can enjoy it.. I was waiting for it, because the vibe that Holmes did for the record is superb in the style. Nothing new, but you can’t go wrong with swedish Death Metal..

  • siegbran

    I’ve written about this earlier but might as well voice it here – the thing with Bloodbath is, I’m fine with it being a somewhat non-serious retrodeath sideproject with their old buddies, but I’m still frustrated with it. It’s nice and all that it is an outlet for Jonas Renske and Anders Blackheim to channel their love for actual METAL, I can fully understand that. But now we’re left with an alt-rock Katatonia that has clearly run out of ideas and has been treading the same stale Cure-infested waters for years, and a hobby band that seems content with reshuffling riffs from old Swedeath records into new albums every two years. It just seems like a colossal waste of guys this talented.

    There’s no lack of possibilities of doing something novel with the loose ends of their own discography – make a new Diabolical Masquerade prog album, do a new doom record taking Dance of December Souls or the October Tide records as a starting point, have another go at the “hypnotic grunge” sound of Discouraged Ones, experiment a bit with faster riffs maybe…I mean, Blackheim is one of my favourite guitarists, but he hasn’t done anything challenging in almost ten years, that just makes me mad.

    • Here’s Johnny

      Say what? Katatonia are awesome, anything but stale.

      Re: Bloodbath there is only so much you can do with these old school type records but they must still love it or they wouldn’t do it.

  • Alexandre Barata

    Not bad, not great, pretty much generic. There were way better DM releases this year. If Abysmal Dawn is 2.5 this can’t be a 3.5, IMO:)

    • Abysmal Dawn got a 3.5.

      • Alexandre Barata

        Ups my bad then :) Still like Abysmal Dawn’s more than Bloodbath’s, more punchy

        • I look to one for punchy tech death and the other for nostalgic retreading of the early 90s. I think they both delivered this year, though I didn’t review Abysmal Dawn.

          • Alexandre Barata

            True, and I know that when you look to something retro you can’t expect something much fresher than Bloodbath, but I don’t know, somethings amiss, some aura, some ambient. It’s a pretty solid release, just not something that I feel a pull to listen spontaneously :)

  • Refined-Iron Cranium

    Oh yes. 90s style death metal vocals. We need this so much now. Loving what I’ve heard so far.

  • replica

    The brickwalling issues are a bit endearing. It’s like being at a bad house party and the album is turned up so loud the speakers are beginning to fail. I can almost taste the PBR.

  • Angel R. Suarez

    It’s, you know, good. 3.5 about does it. Can’t hold a candle to the new Horrendous album. Shit, that thing is my AOTY so far. I can’t get enough of it.

  • Luke_22

    Digging this a great deal. Although they stick closely to the Swedeath formula, every album has its own vibe. If anything this sounds rawer, more sinister and stripped back. And there’s plenty of strong hooks as well.

  • Christian Monroe

    I’ve had this since Monday and it impresses me more and more each time I listen. I think this is miles better than The Fathomless Mastery, way more memorable and varied. Yes, the brickwalling is annoying but the music rises above it. Really impressive stuff. Love Holmes’ vocals. I agree with the mention of the new Horrendous too, amazing album, but they’re doing something quite different.

    • Here’s Johnny

      What are they doing different? Sounds quite similar to me.

  • Wilhelm

    I haven’t listened to the entire thing yet. The biggest problem I have I have is that Nick Holmes vocal’s seem mixed weirdly, like his voice exists on top and not part of the music. He also needs some f’n reverb, delay, maybe a little chorus to make them sound more evil. The music is surprisingly compressed, which like others say, kind of ruins the sonic atmosphere, and is something that I believe is the main problem with extreme metal anno 2014. I thought if one band was going to buck this trend it would be Bloodbath, but I guess I was wrong.

  • Just got this today…..but haven’t listened yet. Don’t much know what to think after reading all of these opinions. Meaning….is it gonna scratch me where I expect? Guess I’ll find out in the morn…..

  • Let me get this straight: Mackintosh starts a separate band to explore his love of Swedish DM. Meanwhile, Holmes joins Swedish DM band. Did somebody miss a text or do they just hate working together?

  • Just_Some_Guy

    very fair review