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Breaking in a Brave New Hell - 99%

Crank_It_Up_To_666, January 19th, 2009

Few names in the dark, disease-ridden musical hell of death metal cult, have managed to stir up quite the degree of wide-eyed reverence as Bloodbath have, and for damn bloody good reasons too. For all the fluctuating degrees of priority placed upon the group by the band members themselves, their reconciliation of the glory of the old school and the vitality of its newer progressive elements has firmly set their reputation in stone, and in the name of all that is unholy, what beauteous majesty ‘twas when Bloodbath graced this mortal world with ‘Nightmares Made Flesh’!

While many hold the merciless extremity of ‘Resurrection Through Carnage’ or even the pummelling heaviness of ‘The Fathomless Mastery’ as the most noteworthy points of the Bloodbath saga, ‘Nightmares Made Flesh’ is the true triumph of their small but poignant legacy. Especially notable for being possibly the only time the legendary metal maestro Peter Tagtgren will ever lay his growl over these gore-splattered riffs, the album is not merely a landmark in the band’s career but an underrated milestone in extreme metal’s history.

Tagtgren is by a country mile a superior vocalist to the already exceptional Mike Akerfeldt (despite his more noted involvement with the band). While the latter’s vocal approach is grittier, harsher, and rougher around the edges, the former possesses a deep, bellowing authority in his growls and a purely demented danger in his screams, lending each and every song a commanding power that compliments their anthemic edge sublimely. The remainder of the band are on just as stellar a form as their frontman, their technical precision and excellence never faltering or slowing, and remaining utterly compelling throughout.

While Bloodbath have always been noted, past, present and hopefully in the future, for a certain hook-filled flair for songwriting, on ‘Nightmares...’ the talent comes to the fore with some of the most impossibly catchy yet simultaneously brutal material ever unleashed in ANY genre of extreme metal. The pulverizing likes of ‘Cancer of the Soul’, ‘Stillborn Saviour’ and ‘Bastard Son of God’ send the record on a mad descent to hell on the back of driving, spiralling riffs that will come to be embedded on the brains of all who hear them, whilst the grooving backbone of the masterful, blood-soaked album centrepiece ‘Eaten’ is stronger than reinforced steel, not to mention catchier than all the horrific plagues described in excruciating detail on the extraordinary thrasher ‘Draped In Disease.’ This is anthemic, fist-pumping songwriting of the absolute highest order, as much at ease with sending necks snapping and limbs flailing in the pits as it is with inciting fists to pump along to every single howling rendition of ‘Brave New Hell.’

It is not merely in crushing brutality that the album’s qualities lie – the skill the band have in the creation of sinister atmospherics, considering that they use more conventional methods than most, is another aspect that renders ‘Nightmares...’ as such a feat. Every coruscating tremolo riff, every subtly plucked and lingering acoustic line, and every slowly rising drum fill is an exercise in establishing a grim mood and a fearful tension, and they become doubly impressive when one considers that most artists substitute this additional effort for a meagre attempt at synthesised ambience. Rare is the day artists are able to live up to the connotations of the titles of their pieces, but ‘Nightmares Made Flesh’ is one album that truly does take on vivid life through that particular talent and drive.

An extraordinary achievement in extreme metal song craft, supported no end by Bloodbath’s unerring and unwavering dedication to the ancient death metal cult, ‘Nightmares Made Flesh’ is the triumph of a band and of a genre, and easily ranks as one of the most excellent extreme albums any metal fan may ever hear in their tenure as a fan of such music.