I think we’ve all heard plenty of retro Swedish death in the past few years. While I’m not sick of it yet, I’ll concede there’s a glut in the market at the moment. Just as I began to fear the clammy hand of genre staleness reaching out for me, along comes Bombs of Hades. They’re a super low-tech, uber-primitive, caveman crew wielding a punky, deathcrust cudgel to dent your brainpan. Formed in 2002 by members of The Crown, God Macabre and Tribulation, they churned out the Chambers of Abominations album in 2010 and now we get the loathsome sequel, The Serpent’s Redemption. This is a rowdy, alcohol-fueled blitz through the bowels of D-beat deathrash designed to pay homage to Entombed, Autopsy, and Death Breath, but with way more punk influence to the writing and exuberant, seat-of-the-pants playing. For those few that get the reference, Bombs of Hades does for death metal what Inferno did for thrash in the 90s with their classic Utter Hell. They take the beloved elements of the genre, punk it up, set knobs to twelve and let it rip in a flurry of debauched, drunken devotion. This is unapologetically soupy, crude death loaded with hails and horns. If you ever loved the genre, this stuff will bring a smile or two to your face even if your current retro capacity is at zero.
The ass whoopery begins with “Crawl Away and Bleed Forever” and never lets up. It’s all D-beat, buzzy Swedish retro death that could pass for early Nihilist/Entombed demos or the works of Death Breath, but even more simplistic, punky and ugly. The riffs are distorted, the vocals are phlegmy and rancid and the whole sound reeks of the grave (and Grave for that matter). They keep things going in the same gear through such chestnuts of misanthropy as “Darkness, My Soul” (which brings thundering drums and flayed riffs) and “Burn” which introduces a bit of endearing mutant swagger and troglodyte swing with a lovely chorus of “burn, burn all your gold, sell, sell your soul” that sticks in the maw like a hot tar and peanut butter sandwich.
Just when you think it’s all simple, death punk, the title track comes out with dramatic riff/drum interplay and creepy, discordant sythns and all of a sudden we’re cooking with mustard gas! This one is a big, rumbling dinosaur of disaster and grinds along at slow to mid-tempo with a real evil, malicious feel that’s anything but fun and games. Bombs of Hades struck blackened gold with this one and the ponderous, relentless riffing really resonates with me.
Other moments of erstwhile annihilation include the War & Pain era Voivod insanity of “Forgotten in Graves” and the Dark Angel meets Autopsy clusterfuck of “Incubus Descending,” which at certain moments, even channels the repellant noise from Slaughter‘s timeless Strappado opus.
Things aren’t all jelly beans and unicorns though, and the ten-minute-plus marathon of death, dirge and ambient sea-shore noises during “Scorched Earth” doesn’t really work all that well. It’s dragged out, fairly devoid of interesting moments and yeah, its ten minutes long! Happily, that’s the only track to go completely off course, but quality-wise, it’s a front-loaded platter.
As I’ve tried to make clear, this is a messy album delivered in much the same way as the early Sodom recordings (i.e. shit hitting the metronome). Tenuously anchoring the whole contraption are the death croaks and barks of Jonas Stalhammer, who made The Crown‘s Doomsday King work so well. Here, his delivery is less of a deep roar and more an evil cackle, more in line with Chris Reifert (Autopsy). He serves up a ghastly, vile performance and goes from cartoony to creepy and back as the songs fly past. The riffs by Jonas and “Wolfie” Soderback are simple, ugly and often repetitive, but they get the job done and serve up some occasional big hooks. The drumming by Magnus Forsberg is wild, undisciplined and gleefully savage. Together, they beat the hell out of their instruments in what has to be one of least technical performance in recent memory.
The production is as raw as the music and possible more so. The guitars have the basic Swedish death buzz but the mix is such a mess, everything bleeds together into a hostile wall of sound (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing). It fits the spirit of the material, that’s for shit sure.
Much like Death Breath, this is a fun, old school shit show of death metal, with occasional (and likely accidental) moments of high level songcraft (the huge title track). I can’t in good conscience give it a higher score because it’s a bit of a throw away release. Most will eat it up for a few days and then the simple, numskull charm will fade and they’ll move on. If they come up with more of the high level material, I’m in for the long haul. In the meantime, I’m never going to complain about an album that’s fun to hear, even if only for a few spins. Bombs away, you sick bastards!