Bloodbath / Aborted / Ancient Ascendent

Death metal masters amplify the faith

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A few years ago, it was looking as though death metal was splitting into two distinct camps – younger inductees following the new breed of bands such as Job For A Cowboy, and who felt the more old school scene unwelcoming, and fans of the classic acts who felt the legacy wasn’t being upheld.

Tonight, however, feels like a unifying occasion – a packed, non-partisan Ballroom celebrating a form that spans decades and styles, with all its vitality intact. ANCIENT ASCENDENT’s [7] melodic, groove-laden take manages to fuse a more populist, Amon Amarth-esque edge with serrated riffs and slavering vocals that still carry a musty aura dredged from somewhere before recorded time. ABORTED [8] might be celebrating two decades of gore-drenched DM, but they still sound immediate and enthralling, a technical but still full-blooded assault charismatically commandeered by Sven de Caluwé as new tracks such as Termination Redux write like hatching Xenomorphs, and The Saw And The Carnage Done cuts through all ages of death metal as moshpits open up like charnel flying off the blades.

BLOODBATH [9] have always been proof that you can take the man out of death metal, but you can’t take death metal out of the man, and for all the distance the members have travelled in Katatonia and Opeth they’re still tuned in to its most resonant pitch. The replacement of former frontman Mikael Åkerfeldt with Paradise Lost’s Nick Holmes has taken them even deeper into DM’s musty roots. Holmes’ imperious if still blood-flecked rasp may be less upfront than his predecessor but its drawn new songs like the opening Let The Stillborn Come To Me into elemental, supremely catchy depths where atmosphere latches onto the groove like wraiths wrapped around the wheels of 12-ton juggernaut.

But rather than offering a nostalgia trip, Bloodbath feel revelatory, not just a rediscovery of something forever resonant, but a celebration too – no posturing just all-out, gristly, all-embracing fun. Keeping his customary self-deprecation to a minimum, Nick is in upbeat mood, the normally retiring Jonas Renkse pummels his bass like it’s on fire and older tracks such as the churning So You Die turn the HM-2 pedal into a smouldering altar. As a closing Cry My Name ripples throughout a rapt crowd it keeps a beacon burning for anyone who takes heavy metal to their heart.

Jonathan Selzer

Having freelanced regularly for the Melody Maker and Kerrang!, and edited the extreme metal monthly, Terrorizer, for seven years, Jonathan is now the overseer of all the album and live reviews in Metal Hammer. Bemoans his obsolete superpower of being invisible to Routemaster bus conductors, finds men without sideburns slightly circumspect, and thinks songs that aren’t about Satan, swords or witches are a bit silly.