Wombbath – Choirs of the Fallen Review

Formed back in 1990, Wombbath released one full-length entry in 1993, right before Entombed Blue the Swedish death metal scene to bits. Not long after the release of Internal Caustic Torments, Wombbath went on indefinite hiatus for two decades, only to be resurrected by one Jonny Pettersson. For those not in the know, Pettersson is to Swedeath what Rogga Johansson is to… well, Swedeath. Playing a role in over a dozen active bands to include Heads for the Dead, Gods Forsaken, and Just Before Dawn, Pettersson is a necromancer advancing upon the outskirts of civilization with a horde of stinking, rotting death metal bands, ready to add yours to his ever-growing army. The Jonny era of Wombbath has seen the release of two records, including 2018’s The Great Desolation, a profane buzzsaw rumbler. Well, grab your rubber ducky, your vaccination record, and some bath salts, because it’s time to test the murky, clot-filled waters of Wombbath circa 2020.

First of all, this version of Wombbath looks significantly different. Longtime members Pettersson and Håken Stuvemark are joined by a new drummer, bassist, and most notably, new guitarist Thomas von Wachenfeldt. It’s no secret that I’m an unabashed Wachenfeldt fanboy, so I was more than a little excited to hear what his influence would have on Wombbath. I didn’t have to wait long, as opener “Fallen” blasts out of the gate with a grunt from Pettersson while the band blasts forward with a brutal Swedeath rumble. After a punishing couple of minutes, the music slows to allow Wachenfeldt’s patented ethereal yet utterly sinister solo style to infuse the track with eerie contrast. It’s a match made in Hell, and the choirs of the fallen sing its glory. “Crawling From the Pits,” “A Sweet Taste of Death,” “Void,” and the title track are all drenched in that same ominous atmosphere, and it goes a long way to distinguish Wombbath from the legions of bands playing the style these days.

But don’t let all this talk of “ethereal” and “atmosphere” scare you. This is Swedish buzzsaw metal, goddamn it, so buzzsaw we shall! “From the Beggar’s Hand” has an absolutely filthy groove, beginning in mid-paced territory before pushing the pedal to the floor towards the end. “A Vulgar Declaration” is another ripper, its main riff pile-driving you with a punk-on-steroids bounce, and “Wings of Horror” mixes Swedeath with Florideath and some more sinister atmosphere courtesy of a terrifying sample. The intro to “Choirs of the Damned” is absolutely crushing, kicking off one of the album’s finer songs before it rolls forward with thick tremolos weaving up and down while Pettersson spews his hatred.

But that last sentence leads me to a few criticisms for Choirs of the Fallen. They are mostly personal preference issues, but I wish the sound was thicker and I wish Pettersson’s voice was slightly more dynamic. The production highlights the killer chainsaw HM-2 tone but feels a bit light on the bottom end, and some of these tracks—especially the more atmospheric ones—would benefit from a beefier rumble in my opinion. And while Pettersson is a passionate vocalist, his delivery can feel monotonous at times, and when played beside Ralf Hauber’s performance in Heads for the Dead, there’s really no comparison. Wachenfeldt is also an accomplished vocalist, so perhaps he should be given more of a role in that department for Wombbath in the future.1 The album clocks in at 49 minutes, a bit long for an album of this style, but the songwriting mitigates this issue quite well. Standouts include “Fallen,” “A Sweet Taste of Death,” “From the Beggar’s Hand,” “A Vulgar Declaration,” and the title track.

Despite finding a number of things I might change about Choirs of the Fallen, I can still heartily recommend it to fans of Swedeath and death metal in general. This set of rumbling tunes is dripping with menacing atmosphere and should set Wombbath apart from much of the HM-2 crowd. Now quit splashing around and get to scrubbing! And don’t forget to get that afterbirth between your toes.

Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 8 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Soulseller Records
Websites: wombbathswe.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/wombbath
Releases Worldwide: March 6th, 2020

Show 1 footnote

  1. Perhaps it’s wishful thinking, but I’m fairly certain that I’m hearing Wachenfeldt’s voice occasionally on here. If so, I wish I heard it more often.
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