Survival Of The Sickest (Napalm Records) sees the return of Bloodbath, European death metal’s number one super-group, a band created in homage to the old school masters of the grisly art in 1998, by Jonas Renkse and Anders Nystrom of Katatonia, Mikael Akerfeldt of Opeth and Dan Swano (Edge Of Sanity).
The biggest change in personnel for the band since then saw Old Nick (aka Nick Holmes from English gothic doom merchants Paradise Lost) come in on vocals for their previous two albums (Grand Morbid Funeral and The Arrow Of Satan Is Drawn).
Record number six (and the third with Nick) clearly takes inspiration from the native Swedish scene of Bloodbath’s roots, and bands such as Entombed and At The Gates, alongside the notorious Florida scene of the late eighties / early nineties, home to the likes of Deicide, Obituary and Morbid Angel. And, well, if you’re a fan of those bands and are familiar with Bloodbath’s work, then you know exactly what you’re going to get here.
This record is like taking a trip back in time and is a slice of pure unadulterated old school death metal, leaning heavily on the Florida sound and virtually forgoing the flirtation with the blackened death sound they favoured on their last record.
Many of the song titles and their lyrics are straight out of the Cannibal Corpse and Autopsy book of the dead, with some gems including ‘Putrefying Corpse’, ‘Malignant Maggot Therapy’ and ‘Tales Of Melting Flesh’. The album opens with ‘Zombie Inferno’ and after a compressed sinister sounding intro, dives straight into a meaty riff with a flashy classic Slayer-style guitar solo. The track is fast and furious and Nick Holmes’s vocals sound great when they drop. He’s clearly having fun snarling his way through a deep guttural style, tapping into the influences of his youth and the early days of his career.
Each track on the album faithfully sticks to the desired formula, albeit mixing the tempo up here and there as shown by the groove heavy ‘Dead Parade’ and death / doom closer ‘No God Before Me’, and there is plenty to get into with some ingenious riffs and extraordinary leads throughout.
Close your eyes, cast your mind back and this could easily sit in amongst the classic albums that defined the scene some thirty years ago. And while it’s fair to say that there is nothing too ground breaking in creating such a throwback record, it’s also fair to say that if you love death metal, then you will love Survival Of The Sickest!
7 / 10