Released: 2014, Peaceville Records
Reviewer: Peter Atkinson
Despite something of a revolving door at the microphone, sporadic death metal supergroup Bloodbath seem to have no problem maintaining the “super” in their “group.” When Opeth frontman Mikael Åkerfeldt left in 2004, Hypocrisy's Peter Tägtgren came onboard. When he departed, Åkerfeldt returned. And after Åkerfeldt left again in 2012, Bloodbath scored a real - and somewhat surprising - coup when they signed on Paradise Lost's Nick Holmes to growl and snarl on the band's new fourth album, and first in six years.
“Old Nick” Holmes hasn't really been doing a lot of snarling or growling with Paradise Lost for quite some time, as that band shed much of its death metal inclinations 20-some years ago and morphed into a more dramatic gothic metal unit. But he's in his old raspy, guttural glory here - announcing his presence with a throat-slashed “Aaaaaggggghhhhhhh!” to lead off “Let The Stillborn Come to Me” and kicking the song into high gear with a righteous death grunt - and makes a perfect match for the band's old-school Swedish death metal histrionics.
Indeed, Grand Morbid Funeral is one big buzzsaw of an album, sounding straight out of Sunlight Studios circa 1991-94 when Entombed, Dismember, Grave, At The Gates, etc. were doing their gnarliest, grittiest work. It's perhaps a bit too throwbacky for its own good - from a purely aesthetic standpoint - but Funeral's sheer mercilessness renders that a largely moot complaint.
As it whipsaws back and forth between the rampaging, full-bore death metal of the aforementioned “Stillborn” and the crushingly hooky “Famine of God's Word” and the heaving death/doom of “Anne” and “Church of Vastitas,” Funeral delivers a constant barrage of thick, abrasive guitar from Katatonia's Anders “Blakkhiem” Nyström and Per "Sodomizer" Eriksson that will peel faces and crack ribs. “Wall of sound” only begins to describe their work here, as the massive riffs come in waves, and just keep coming, driven by Opeth drummer Martin “Axe” Axenrot's tenacious pace.
Holmes corrosive vocals make it all that more vicious. “Mental Abortion” and “Unite In Pain” are especially fearsome - and the title track wraps up the album with potent blend of majesty and menace as he rants like Charles Manson at the end. Anyone who doubted Holmes still had this sort of savagery in him are proven wrong with undeniable authority on every track here, as his performance is nothing short of bestial.
Though the material here has a tendency to sound a bit similar, given the single-mindedness of its delivery and the consistently feral tone, Grand Morbid Funeral is still an exhilaratingly roughshod outing. Holmes proves to be the perfect wild-card here. Let's hope he can stick around for the next album, when and if there is one.