There are certain names in metal that you are unable to avoid, mostly because these are the names of the big dogs in the scene – the hellhounds to the ever-spawning terriers. Bloodbath is one of them – if you are even tangentially involved with metal, chances are, you know the name.
But for the uninitiated: Bloodbath is a Swedish death metal (Swedeath) band that epitomizes the sound: it’s big, crunchy, downtuned guitars; it’s blazing solos that shred as well as shimmer; it’s an overall nastiness to the sound itself, a palpable sense of violence and malice in the very bones of it… it’s also loud, in-your-face, forceful, heavy as a really heavy thing and crushing like the type of iron grip you hear about in Robin Hood adaptations. This is ensured by an onslaught of heavy death riffs, pounding drums and guttural vocals.
If you weren’t cued in by now, I’ll spell it out: if you are looking for subtlety or a softer touch, then The Arrow of Satan is Drawn is not the album that you want to be listening to. This is death metal we’re talking about and a strain with a decidedly pronounced old school vibe. Don’t get me wrong, there are certain subtle touches to the riffs that prevent monotony from rearing its ugly head; an example would be Levitator‘s opening riff that has speedy attacks that embellish the otherwise what is a low-mid tempo song. Then there are the overt black metal touches that run the gamut of blast beats and tremolo riffs that, seeded amongst the death, break it apart nicely. In fact, let’s just say that there is more to it than just death.
Unless you’re talking about the closer, Chainsaw Lullaby, which is as Swedeath (read “basic”) as it gets.
Another aspect of The Arrow of Satan is Drawn is that the album is less interested in plodding, mid-tempo songs and lean heavily towards slightly higher speeds. Despite mid-tempo numbers like March of the Crucifiers, the album has more fast-paced tracks like Wayward Samaritan or the runaway train-like Deader. And it’s not static paces either: take Only the Dead Survive, for instance. It starts out with a rhythmic, pounding, almost marching intro, runs with it, cranks it up but then slows down, down until it launches headlong into a sepulcher-like atmosphere and ends on a rather apocalyptic note. While we’re on the subject, Bloodbath does flex their atmospheric muscles too, from time to time. Moments such as the positively dank ending of Bloodicide or the aforementioned Only the Dead Survive bring more of an immersive experience. I just wish that these moments were the rule, not the exception.
However, while the sound is indeed crushing and heavy, it is a bit too biased to favor the guitars, and on that, the downtuned, distorted side. This means that the bass is drowned out and the solos often take a backseat to chords. But the worst offender here is the drums. The kicks are lifeless, the snares are struggling to be heard and the tom attacks, while helped by how directionally tuned they are (you can feel the beats traveling from right to left) lie buried behind the wall of guitars. Another downside of this type of production becomes apparent very early on as well: The Arrow of Satan is Drawn is tiring to listen to. With so much emphasis on guitars, so much compression and the unrelenting nature of the songs, it wears you out quickly. As heavy as it all is, the sound leans rather heavily (hah) onto the production when the riffs alone could have more than sufficed. This album is LOUD and that is not a good fit especially when the material is so good.
Thing is, this wouldn’t be excusable even for an upstart band, and for an outfit like Bloodbath, it’s less excusable. They should not need this type of production to help them along, their songwriting and instrumental work should suffice.
But if you are willing to overlook those things, then what you’ll have on your hands is a top-notch, vicious death metal album and something to satisfy your cravings for the heavy stuff. Recommended for Bloodbath fans, fans of related bands and of course, death metalheads.
Jonas Renkse – bass, backing vocals
Anders “Blakkheim” Nyström – guitars, backing vocals
Martin Axenrot – drums
Nick Holmes – vocals
Joakim Karlsson – guitars
03. Wayward Samaritan
06. March of the Crucifiers
07. Morbid Antichrist
08. Warhead Ritual
09. Only the Dead Survive
10. Chainsaw Lullaby