Bloodbath - _Nightmares Made Flesh_
(Century Media, 2004)
by: Matthias Noll (8.5 out of 10)
A few things have changed in the Bloodbath camp since _Resurrection Through Carnage_: vocalist Mikael Akerfeldt left and was replaced by Peter Tagtgren; Dan Swano moved from drums to the second guitar; and new drummer Martin Axerot (Witchery, etc.) has joined the band. One thing becomes immediately clear when listening to _Nightmares Made Flesh_: the Bloodbath sound has once again changed considerably, whether or not as a result of the new line-up.

Surprisingly this change isn't mainly due to the vocals, which remain very similar to Akerfeldt's performance on _Resurrection Through Carnage_. Tagtgren astonishes me with a brutal, powerful and pure death metal performance, hardly ever using his raspier style, which I had feared so much would be present on this album. What does not make an appearance on _Nightmares Made Flesh_ is the "Sunlight Studio" guitar sound which Bloodbath managed to recreate so successfully on _RTC_. This time the guitars are downtuned and immensely powerful, but the godly caustic and ripping tone Bloodbath borrowed from the defining albums of the Swedish death metal wave has disappeared.

The songs on _NMF_ are also less linear, slightly less catchy and don't flow as well as the ten songs on _RTC_. Of course this isn't a Cryptopsy or Deeds of Flesh album, but some of the breaks and tempo changes turn out to be surprisingly drastic and non-intuitive for a band that so far has delivered their death metal in a deliberately simple and non-technical way. One reason for this might be that the band is taking advantage of the participation of a "real" drummer, who even contributes occasional blast beats this time around. However, the main feeling I get from _NMF_ is that Bloodbath are trying to lessen the extent of their "tribute" and "just for fun" approach and are instead aiming to establish a more clearly defined identity as a unit that relies heavily on certain influences but delivers them as an integral part of their own distinctive sound and style. The fact that I find myself thinking that the new songs sound like Bloodbath far more often than Entombed, Dismember or others clearly indicates that the band has strived for and accomplished more than just re-animating the glory days of the early '90s or paying tribute to _Left Hand Path_ and other masterpieces. But from a very subjective, almost selfish point of view, I nevertheless bemoan the band's decision to say farewell to that -ultimate- guitar sound which made _RTC_ considerably more ripping than _NMF_, even if I feel that the overall quality of the songs on the previous album was only slightly better.

In a review that sounds almost entirely negative so far, a couple of things have to be made absolutely clear in the end: _NMF_ is a killer record which must appeal to everyone who is into traditional European death metal. It is by far superior to all recent output by Hypocrisy, Dismember and other surviving or re-animated "big" names -- like for example Grave and Unleashed. Comparable retro acts like Chaosbreed would sell their souls to be able to write a crusher like "Outnumbering the Day", and I strongly doubt I will hear more than two or three death metal albums that are actually superior to _NMF_ this year.

(article published 31/8/2004)

11/9/2008 P Azevedo 8.5 Bloodbath - The Fathomless Mastery
7/13/2008 P Azevedo 9 Bloodbath - The Wacken Carnage
6/17/2008 P Azevedo 8.5 Bloodbath - Unblessing the Purity
4/30/2003 P Azevedo 9 Bloodbath - Resurrection Through Carnage
8/12/2000 M Noll 8 Bloodbath - Breeding Death
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