Bloodbath - Grand Morbid Funeral
Peaceville Records
Death Metal
11 songs (46:31)
Release year: 2014
Bloodbath, Peaceville Records
Reviewed by Goat

Plenty of eyebrows were raised when it was announced that Swedish death metal supergroup Bloodbath (comprising much of Katatonia with Opeth/Witchery drummer Martin Axenrot) had chosen Paradise Lost frontman Nick Holmes as replacement for Mikael Åkerfeldt. After all, Paradise Lost's death metal elements have been buried (if even present at all) for a fair few years now – does Holmes even still have what it takes? Add to this that Bloodbath's previous album, 2008's The Fathomless Mastery, was below-par and received with a bit of a shrug from fans, and you certainly don't have a recipe for instant success. Thankfully, Grand Morbid Funeral is something of a revelation, moving away from the pure Swedish death of past efforts towards a more atmospheric, doom-infused sound that's still very old-school, still as well-written as past efforts, and still hugely enjoyable.

Part of this is down to Holmes, here dubbed 'Old Nick' – his dry growl may not be the deep rumble that Bloodbath fans will be used to, but as a quick listen to early Paradise Lost will confirm, the man has skills, and his clearly enunciated growls and yowls fit the music well here. As the music video for first single Church of Vastitas shows, his repackaging as an undead priest fits the filthy, rotten-sounding music, and although not all of the album is as atmospheric as that, it's still surprisingly powerful in gothic effect (I'd even put that track up against recent My Dying Bride in terms of atmospheric power). Holmes isn't just a hired growler, but puts a remarkable performance in, spitting out lyrics with venom and sounding truly evil. It's easy to forget these days that the genre is death metal, so desensitised are we to it, but Grand Morbid Funeral is a reminder of the power of dark music.

Opener Let the Stillborn Come to Me is fast and effective, a wonderfully heavy guitar tone driving all before it, ably backed by Axenrot's excellent drumming. It's almost catchy at moments even without the killer soloing, which is certainly something that the hordes of old-school-death metal bands around of late can't reproduce as well – and the eerie laughs and screams here and there add a whole other level of delicious horror. This terrific songwriting is really what elevates Grand Morbid Funeral, making it one of the best death metal albums of the year before you take Holmes into account. Even random mid-album cuts like Anne and Famine of God's Word are kickass songs that more than stand up to past Bloodbath classics, and the quality is upheld throughout the album, with Mental Abortion's initial near-d-beats leading to some very harrowing old-school gloom and the likes of Beyond Cremation downright brutal.

If there are any criticisms, it's that Bloodbath don't go all-out and throw a real ten-minute dirge in as I'd have liked to hear from them, fully exploring the doom-death of Church of Vastitas. Still, the closing title track is pretty close, with members of Autopsy turning up as guests and a slower, even more grim atmosphere taking hold at first with ominous backing choirs, before turning truly demented with a speedy galloping pace and a torrent of spewed-out vocals from Chris Reifert. It's an excellent ending to an excellent album, one that returns you to the days when 'Bloodbath album' meant elite-quality death metal – perhaps a slightly different sort of death metal to Nightmares Made Flesh, true, but just as good (if not even better) in my eyes. And, if the rumours about this being the final Bloodbath album are true, a great way to end the band by returning to the grave dirt from where the genre was first born.

Killing Songs :
Let the Stillborn Come to Me, Anne, Church of Vastitas, Mental Abortion, My Torturer, Grand Morbid Funeral
Goat quoted 88 / 100
Other albums by Bloodbath that we have reviewed:
Bloodbath - The Fathomless Mastery reviewed by James and quoted 74 / 100
Bloodbath - Unblessing the Purity (EP) reviewed by Dylan and quoted no quote
Bloodbath - Nightmares Made Flesh reviewed by Aaron and quoted 95 / 100
Bloodbath - Resurrection Through Carnage reviewed by Crims and quoted 92 / 100
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