Survival Of The Sickest
Review by Alex Grindor on August 27, 2022.
Bloodbath is a band that requires no introduction at all. Featuring some of the most renowned names in Swedish death metal, they have quite the crushing catalog. I have been a fan of the band ever since I listened to Nightmares Made Flesh many years ago and was surprised but expectant when none other than Nick Holmes would helm the band as their new frontman, a decision that was met with both excitement and disdain in equal measure from many fans. I mean, how do you replace Mikael Akerfeldt with Nick Holmes? Is this gonna work? And then, Grand Morbid Funeral was released and many of those in doubt breathed a sigh of relief. That's not what I can say regarding its follow-up The Arrow Of Satan Is Drawn. While it incorporated elements from black metal, the album felt pretty bland compared to its predecessor. It's not that it was unlistenable, but it wasn't as memorable as their previous output.
So, after four years, Bloodbath announces Survival Of The Sickest. Is this the appropriate comeback after the weak The Arrow of Satan Is Drawn? Yes it fucking is!
With an in-crescendo intro, the album opens with its promotional single: 'Zombie Inferno'. It is this track that introduces us to their new sound, so to speak. A sound that owes more to USDM than Swedish death metal, obviously paying homage to Death, Morbid Angel, Deicide and many others (I mean, the chorus of this song should sound familiar, right?). I was, however, worried that this would suffer from the same issue that affected its predecessor; a strong opening track followed by dull, meek songs. Thankfully, this isn't the case. The band is revitalized (thanks to newly-inducted axeman Tomas ‘Plytet’ Åkvik) and every subsequent track is a headbanging feast of crushing riffs and demolishing drums, with a lot of variety to enjoy. This album, as well as every album since Holmes joined, features guest vocals from renowned names in the field, but they are featured over multiple tracks, correcting the mistake made in 'Bloodicide' from their previous album. They are wonderful additions that give some more variety to the tracks and to the album as a whole.
Music-wise, everything is in its perfect place. Åkvik & Nyström display their skill in catchy, frenzied riffs and savage solos. Renkse's bass adds that needed weight to the whole sound and Axenrot's drums are as pulverizing as ever. Be it in blast-beats or doom-paced rhythms, the man is one of the best. However, there is a point that I'd like to tackle here and now; Nick Holmes. This may be his finest death metal performance. Of course, he is no Peter Tagtgren or Mikael Akerfeldt but Old Nick has shown an outstanding progression in his vocals. This was one of the high points on The Arrow of Satan Is Drawn and it is vastly improved here. More so, he has also brought a sprinkle of his clean vocals into Bloodbath ('Church Of Vastitas' from Grand... being one of the first times). And they are back in the oozing, crawling closer that is 'No God Before Me', fading out into oblivion as the song ends.
Production-wise, the sound is a bit more polished. Like, take the sound from Grand Morbid Funeral and add some gravel to it. It is a joy to listen to. It is a great blend of the sound of USDM and the HM-2 that Swedish death metal is known for. Like a pristine chainsaw carving some fresh flesh and bone. Bloodbath has crafted an amazing record that pays homage to the US school of death metal, while retaining their originality and swedish old-school sound. There are some moments where it may feel a bit repetitive, but those moments are few and far. This album is the follow-up that The Arrow Of Satan Is Drawn should have been and we can only hope that they continue down this path. While my favorite album is and will always be Nightmares Made Flesh (followed by Unblessing The Purity), Survival Of The Sickest has become my second favorite album by this band. In my opinion, they haven't sounded this good since Unblessing...
To spoil it further would be a crime, so stay tuned on September 9th.
Rating: 9.1 out of 10191