Bloodbath - _The Fathomless Mastery_
(Peaceville, 2008)
by: Pedro Azevedo (8.5 out of 10)
Eight years after their debut EP, Bloodbath have become an established act more than a mere side-project for its members. It may never have been its purpose to overshadow the likes of Opeth or even Katatonia, but it seems undeniable that what most likely started out as a fun project has become a more serious beast. They don't sound like they're having quite as much fun doing their retro Swedish death metal as they did on _Resurrection Through Carnage_ and _Nightmares Made Flesh_, but that doesn't necessarily make _The Fathomless Mastery_ any worse than its predecessors.

The now Swanö-less Bloodbath have Akerfeldt back instead of Peter Tagtgren on vocals. The band is presently half Opeth (Akerfeldt and Axenrot), half Katatonia (Nyström and Renkse), with new guitarist Per Eriksson completing the line-up. Driven by faster drumming and a bit less melody as indicated by the recently released _Unblessing the Purity_ EP, plus some occasional guitar solos, _The Fathomless Mastery_ drinks from a somewhat different well of inspiration than its full-length predecessors at times, occasionally trading Sweden for the USA (e.g. Morbid Angel on "Mock the Cross"). While the songs may be faster, more percussive and overall more aggressive, the buzzsaw riffs remain central to Bloodbath's music, so while the differences will be very noticeable for Bloodbath fans, it should not be enough to expose them to a whole different audience.

At its best, their new style can work extremely well (e.g. "Treasonous"), but I still miss the profusion of more melodic, memorable and typically Swedish riffs found on their previous records. While more powerful, the album isn't quite as catchy as _RTC_ and _NMF_ -- nor does it seem to have been written with that goal in mind, instead adding more intensity and brutality. Only time will tell whether _The Fathomless Mastery_ will help Bloodbath avoid stagnation (a passage midway through "Iesous" really seems like a different band altogether) or eventually be viewed as a less successful attempt to diversify their output. In the mean time, I doubt many death metal fans will find this album unsatisfying in any way, other than that they might have had different expectations.


(article published 9/11/2008)

7/13/2008 P Azevedo 9 Bloodbath - The Wacken Carnage
6/17/2008 P Azevedo 8.5 Bloodbath - Unblessing the Purity
8/31/2004 M Noll 8.5 Bloodbath - Nightmares Made Flesh
4/30/2003 P Azevedo 9 Bloodbath - Resurrection Through Carnage
8/12/2000 M Noll 8 Bloodbath - Breeding Death
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