Wombbath – Tales of Madness Review

Heeeere’s Jonny! Again! I’m not sure how many albums Jonny Pettersson has released in 2020, but this is the third I’ve covered, and the second by his Wombbath project. The band released the sprawling, mostly compelling, Choirs of the Fallen back in March and have since signed with Transcending Obscurity Records. Not wanting to wait to see where this new partnership might take them, Jonny and co. are releasing Tales of Madness, a collection of several rerecorded demo tracks from the band’s pre-Jonny past — from which guitarist Håkan Stuvemark is the only remaining member — and a pair of completely new songs. I have to admit, I wasn’t totally enthused about covering an album consisting of renovated versions of tracks that have existed since I was in elementary school, but if the Maesters of the Citadel of the Encyclopedia Metallum have seen fit to mark it as an official full-length, then it deserves to be evaluated with an open mind.

Well, it wasn’t long after I opened my mind to these Tales of Madness that I realized that same mind was being blown. In just nine months, Wombbath have returned with a release that has addressed a couple of key issues I had with Choirs of the Fallen, arriving with a thicker sound and a more compact runtime, clocking in at a trim 35 minutes. “The Fleshly Existence of Man” was wisely chosen to be the album’s single. One of the newly-written tracks, it fully utilizes the gifts of Thomas von Wachenfeldt. Not only does he get to flex his vocal muscles, he also provides an eery violin passage, and twice the track drops into short, brutal sequences that would be right at home on Wachenfeldt’s The Interpreter. Overall, it’s a great single, and it makes me immensely hopeful for the future of the Wombbath sound.

And it’s not just the new stuff that sounds great. The one-two punch of “Brutal Mights” and “Unholy Madness” is just pure Swedish buzzsaw metal bliss. And just to show how far back Wombbath’s origins can be traced in the annals of Swedeath history, both tracks were present on Wombbath’s 1992 demo that emerged just six months after Dismember’s Like an Everflowing Stream. These early songs capture the magic of that era, and while I don’t know what the originals sounded like, these rerecorded versions simply slay. Longer epic “Lavatory Suicide Remains” shows that the band’s creepy, melodic side — used extensively on Choirs of the Fallen — is not a new development. With a name like that, the track is meant to disturb, and disturb me it certainly does, each listen taking me back to what is probably the most horrifying scene I’ve ever encountered in my ten years as a firefighter.

I’ve briefly mentioned the thickened production on Tales of Madness, but it bears repeating. Choirs of the Fallen, I felt, was lacking in the bottom end department, an issue that didn’t truly allow some of the slower, groovier moments on that record to land with the impact that they might have otherwise. This record has a beautifully full sound, and I find it a pleasure to listen to each riff, drum blast, and growl. The promo material credits Pettersson, Stuvemark, and Wachenfeldt all with vocals, and while I can’t always tell you who is doing what on the tracks, the resulting diversity takes what I considered to be a slight weakness for Wombbath and pivots it into a strength. You really can’t go wrong with any of the album’s eight tracks, but check out “Tales From the Dark Side,” “Brutal Mights,” “Unholy Madness,” “Lavatory Suicide,” and “The Fleshly Existence of Man” for the highlights.

Well, this is my last review of the year, and I certainly wasn’t expecting this collection of rerecorded oldies and new tracks to be so damn cohesive and so damn enjoyable. It’s a Christmas miracle! Wombbath have greatly upgraded their sound on Tales of Madness, and I’m excited to see what they do with their next full set of original tunes. I’d like to wish you all the best possible holiday season, given the circumstances, and I’ll leave you with this famous Christmas blessing: “God bathe us, every womb!”

Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Transcending Obscurity Records
Websites: wombbathdeath.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/wombbath
Releases Worldwide: December 18th, 2020

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