Wombbath – Agma Review

Wombbath is a band that seems ruthlessly intent on making up for lost time. Lying dormant for 20 years after an initial run in the early 90s, the project was revived in 2014 by longtime guitarist Håken Stuvemark and the omnipresent Jonny Pettersson (Heads for the DeadGods Forsaken, Massacre, etc.). Two albums saw the light of day in the band’s first four years back together, but then things went into hyperdrive following the additions of drummer Jon Rudin and guitarist Thomas von Wachenfeldt12 in 2018. These guys must be constantly writing music, because they released two albums in 2020 in the form of Choirs of the Fallen and Tales of Madness, and are now releasing Agma at the tail-end of 2021—a record that may as well be a double LP when you consider the standard runtime for Swedish death metal albums. Now, I’m generally a fan of the less-is-more approach when it comes to band output, but in my estimation, Wombbath stock rose sharply between its two 2020 albums. Let’s see if that trend can continue.

While their roots are in old-school Swedish death metal, the gents in Wombbath have been slowly morphing their sound into something that transcends that label. Sure, the HM-2 is still heard all over the place, but the band has really leaned into the dynamic direction that their songwriting has developed over the course of the last two albums. Agma is drenched in ominous atmosphere, and several curveballs—like the increased used of Wachenfeldt’s violin skills—are thrown in to keep us guessing. Have a listen to embedded track “At the Giant’s Feet” for a great example of the current Wombbath sound. Big thick riffs are accented by tight, sinister leads before the band drops down to a creeping plod for the chorus—a chorus that features some oddly effective Devin Townsend-esque high-pitched semi-cleans. As the second track on the album, I didn’t see this one coming, and I was delightfully surprised.

Basically everything about Wombbath has improved in the year since the release of Tales of Madness. The Swedeath songs Swedeath harder, as evidenced by “The Seventh Seal” and its blackened tremolos, the stomping caveman riffing of “A World of Destruction,” and the churning grooves of “The Dead and Dying.” The dark atmospheric passages have been given an even more prominent place as shown on “The Age of Death,” closer “On a Path of Repulsion,” and the stellar “In Decay They Shall All Fester.” But tracks like “Divine Pain,” the blistering “Blindly They Follow,” and the absolutely crushing “Scorned Existence” prove that Wombbath have traveled a fair distance from the Swedeath camp in which their journey began, becoming an all-emcompassing death metal machine.

I’ll admit that I audibly groaned when I saw that Agma was over 70 minutes long. As much as I enjoyed the sound of the new tracks on last year’s Tales of Madness, I was skeptical that Wombbath would be able to create enough compelling songs to justify such a long album. Do I think the record would ultimately be stronger if pared down to the sub-45-minute level? Of course. But I was amazed to find the songs on Agma to be universally strong. I was also delighted to hear the improvements in Pettersson’s vocal delivery. I once considered his growls to be pretty run-of-the-mill and one of Wombbath’s weaknesses, but this time around he sounds inspired, his growls feeling genuinely monstrous. There are a lot of quality tracks to comb through here, but “At the Giant’s Feet,” “Inquisition Reborn,” “A World of Destruction,” “In Decay They Shall All Fester,” and “Scorned Existence” should please just about any death metal fan.

Agma honestly doesn’t have any right to be this good. A 70+ minute record from a band traditionally associated with HM-2 Swedeath? Are you kidding me? On this, their third album in the last two years, Wombbath have demonstrated that they won’t be confined to strict genre descriptions, and the new songwriting elements have only strengthened the band’s sound. Sure, a shorter runtime would improve Agma’s appeal, and yes, the band would receive more year-end consideration if they didn’t release their records in late December, but all things considered, Agma is a strong death metal entry with which to cap off 2021. So light a candle, grab yourself a glass of wine, and relax into the Womb tub—the water is just fine!

Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Transcending Obscurity Records
Websites: wombbathdeath.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/wombbath
Releases Worldwide: December 31st, 2021

Show 2 footnotes

  1. My daily cold shower quota has increased threefold as I try to contain my anticipation for a new Wachenfeldt record in 2022.
  2. Cue the hamster.
« »