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Bloodbath Nightmares Made Flesh

By Brian Davis, Contributor
Monday, April 11, 2005 @ 11:57 PM

(Century Media)

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Raw, relentless, unhinged, and downright dominating, Bloodbath dig deep into the darkened recesses of Death Metal’s black past to emulate all the blackened motives and serrated thought perspectives that spawned the stillborn birth of Extreme music. In the basic sense, Bloodbath is an incarnated tribute to the “Old School” of Swedish Death Metal set forth by its more imminent modern purveyors. In the visceral sense, Bloodbath is a whirlpool of brutality that pulls at the fraying borders of subconscious sanity, dragging you face first through gutters of debasement, morbid intentions and carnal desires of the most twisted design.

Born of musical mastermind Dan Swano’s affinity for the old ways and dark days of the music that sired his talent and desire to create, Bloodbath’s purpose was not to scout new territory but to re-pave and reinforce the sinister shadow roads lain in the wake of the Old Ones such as Grave, Entombed and Unleashed. With the crushing depth of the demonic voice of Opeth’s Mikael Akerfeldt and the abrasive, infectious, towering sounds of rhythmic, pounding drums, ear-bleeding low end thrums and bone-crunching hacksaw guitar riffs, Bloodbath achieved its purpose and surpassed the target by miles. The reception, acceptance and eventual deification of the Breeding Death EP and Resurrection Through Carnage albums established Bloodbath as something far more tangible and immortal than an all-star tribute band, marking a definitive niche in the Extreme Metal market and setting a foundation of reliability and expectation reserved for its more elite crops.

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Exit Mikael Akerfeldt and enter what is potentially the only set of lungs that could deliver on the same level displayed on Bloodbath’s previous albums: Peter Tatgren of Hypocrisy. In Tatgren they found the same inherent affinity for Extreme Metal’s roots (Hypocrisy themselves being a prominent component of Sweden’s infamous first wave) and overwhelming vocal dominance as well as that vital distinction in sound and delivery. Nightmares Made Flesh is overshadowed slightly by the ghost of inevitability and, as one might fear when involving someone as busy and driven as he is, Peter Tatgren’s tenure as vocalist both begins and ends with this album. But, seeing as how Bloodbath are a studio band and are preparing to play their first and most likely only show, Tatgren’s short stay stands to have just as much impact as a blunt-force compound skull fracture. The seeds were planted, the nightmares nurtured to blossom and their horrors reaped, and they are invoked in a staggering revelation of horrific clarity, oppressive brutality and malicious, violent aggression.

Straying little, if at all, from the beaten path, except perhaps in terms of production clarity, the music resumes the same bulldozing pace and suffocating heaviness of yore with ample neck-thrashing tempos, gritty hooks and double bass stampedes. As with any incarnation of this style, old or new, the focus is on the hook-that rusted, infected, gut shredding riff or passage that ruthlessly works its way into your head and sets itself to rending your sanity. The writhing serpents impaled at the end of those hooks are maddened screams of tortured insanity and harsh, hell-invoked growls that breathe pungent life into the darkened landscapes where nightmares become flesh, reeling you in like a venomous nether-worldly siren toward the terror-strewn shores.

Inevitably, some songs stand out more than others in their depth of depravity and debased dominance, and while Nightmares Made Flesh is a universally tight collection of bad dreams with sharp teeth, certain tunes take bigger bites. “Cancer of the Soul” starts the disc with uninhibited domination of the classic grinding riffs and matching guttural growls of old, with an especially devastating chorus carrying a tempo that might serve as a morbid metronome for a coroner to time his saw strokes by; a prime example of the masterful balance Tatgren achieves between soul-tortured high end screams and monolithic death growls. “Soul Evisceration” is driven by one of those rolling brick tsunami bass lines that Grave are so well known for, churning leisurely as if to ensure that a complete beat down is administered, and chugging through the background of a great solo to a stuttering stop that cues an un-fucking-believable resonantly evil, lung-busting 13-second scream that could bring the gates of Hell crashing down. If ever the vivid imagery and soul-deep impact of a nightmare could be embodied by one sound, certainly this scream is it.

“Outnumbering the Day” is another dominating grinder with classic-styled solos, frantic blast beats and more distortion-drenched groove and grind, with a display of some of Tatgren’s best rhythmically paced, possessed low-end ravings to date. The proverbial nail in this coffin of depraved devastation is the twisted dream of the rotted mind in a man whose sole obsession and purpose in life is to be “Eaten.” Perhaps what is most unsettlingly appealing about this particular offering of insanity is its basis on (or at least eerie similarity to) the truth, giving a graphic, morbid thought perspective into what potentially drove German native Bernd-Jurgen Brandes to submit himself willfully to be devoured by Armin Meiwes. The fact that the two dined on Brandes’ flambéed disembodied penis before Brandes himself was killed and ingested is mercifully missing in this graphic recollection, but the depraved, obsessive morbidity and psychotic mental desolation that are surely one’s only company on such a twisted, fatal endeavor are very much on display. Corrosive, deviant vocals combine with deep threads of gritty guitar and rhythms to create a soundtrack to one of life’s most distinct anomalies of horror, never shaking its feel of deep, foreboding revulsion but leaving you singing along and grooving just the same.

Nightmares Made Flesh is an album of unfathomable power and purpose, showing true ownership of style, aggression, and delivery. Whatever it may lack in direct originality, it more than compensates for in its interpretation and translation of the classic template that spawned an entire world of devastation, sickness and raw aggression. Bloodbath’s dogged dedication to immorality through brutality opens the door to that world, eviscerated thoroughly and laid bare for all to see. It is a dreamscape of evil and unconscionable sins; a terrain of horror personified and embodied primal fear; a realm of Nightmares Made Flesh.

* * * * ½

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