Time to draw ourselves a Slaughtbbath, folks. What bathing in slaughtb feels like is known to those who heard 2013’s Hail to Fire, the predecessor of Alchemical Warfare and Slaughtbbath’s debut. I took a Slaughtbbath many times via Hail to Fire, which is the least important qualification I possess to review that record’s successor. My most important qualification? Look at my pen name, and then look at the title of this record; Slaughtbbath and I share an enjoyment of gratuitous Slayer puns. I almost wish I had thought of this pun and made it my pen name here five years ago. But we can’t dwell in the past, even if we can’t help ourselves — didn’t Death say something to that effect?
If you call your plumber because your bath is filled with slaughtb, you’d best hope your plumber likes extreme metal. At first blush, Slaughtbbath sounds like war metal or bestial black metal, but further listens reveal something different than your average Revenge, Conqueror, and Blasphemy clone. While those bands took black metal and grindcore and threw them into an industrial blender while feral cats fought over who would get the concoction, Slaughtbbath take black metal (think early Immortal and more extreme stuff like Sammath) and mix it with that other genre punk would influence: thrash metal. This is the extreme end of thrash, to be sure — think early Sepultura, Sodom, Kreator, and the most intense Slayer moments instead of Megadeth, Testament, or Metallica. Then make those moments a bit more punk — and by this, I mean simplify them but crank the intensity a wee bit more — and that’s roughly what Slaughtbbath sounds like. The drumming often draws your attention to what the riffs are doing — Negro will frequently hit a china or crash cymbal instead of the usual hi-hat or ride during a blast when the note being trem-picked changes, not just at the beginning of a measure or during a fill. What ends up happening here is that the faster tracks — which approach war metal — retain the surface level sound of a maelstrom but offer an easy way “in” for listeners less familiar with the style.
Those familiar with the Slaughtbbath style will be right at home when “Ritual Bloodbath” opens the record with something that could’ve easily made the Hail to Fire cut. “Resuscitated by Immortal Scorn” follows suit, another sub-three-minute blast-fest with simplistic riffing played with vigor. Mid-album track “Rejoined into Chaos” focuses on creating a different type of atmosphere than the chaotic normal, with a lead melody that sounds like a more sinister version of Dissection’s “Black Dragon” from the underrated Reinkaos. The segue into the requisite blasting part is seamless and honestly quite impressive, feeling more like a development than a change. Slaughtbbath gradually eases off the throttle, culminating in a coda which is focused on a repetitive extended lead which has something in common with Transylvanian Hunger and the first two Dissection records. It fits well within Alchemical Warfare from a sequencing perspective, allowing Slaughtbbath to put the hammer down for the three following tracks with conviction — the listener isn’t numb to the speed thanks to the short reprieve.
While I appreciate Slaughtbbath’s focus on fast material, sometimes the riffs fall into boilerplate territory. “Celestial Overthrow” starts on a convincing punk/thrash beat — these are used sparingly and to good effect when they show up — but moves through a series of riffs afterward that anyone who likes this type of music has heard hundreds of times by now. A deadly half-time riff does rear its head eventually but is short-lived. “Cavern of Misanthropy” tries to change things up with a spooky intro that sounds like it was influenced by Mercyful Fate, but it’s never followed up in a meaningful way and in turn sounds superfluous. The title track sounds more disjointed than chaotic, putting too much stock into its admittedly catchy refrain. This is weird, as the transitions throughout Alchemical Warfare are by and large good — this stands out in a less than ideal way.
Alchemical Warfare is a satisfying successor to Hail to Fire. It’s one of the more accessible releases in this niche, and even though the riffing doesn’t often surpass mere goodness the sheer energy which permeates the record makes them work in context. Like Holocausto, Slaughtbbath thrives on speed and the visceral energy that accompanies certain types of fast music. A convincing show of musical force with enough good songs to back it up, Alchemical Warfare is a success.