Hardcore death metal fans will be rubbing their hairy-knuckled hands in glee to discover the magnificent Bloodbath have been back in their infernal workshop, fiendishly toiling away at their latest release. What’s more, Old Nick and co have been joined by a trio of equally devilish guest stars; the legendary Jeff Walker of Carcass, Memoriam’s Karl Willetts and Cancer’s John Walker. Another depraved ode to old school Swedish death, 'The Arrow of Satan...' pierces straight to the heart with a painfully depicted, exquisite dissection of the toxic climate that is our festering modern world, as humanity heads for an inevitable, dystopic damnation of its own making.
Every track on the album pushes this poisoned, rusty arrow-tip deeper, spreading its rancid infection further through the veins. Determined listeners will be rewarded by the sadistic subtleties of each song and, as Blakkheim describes it, how the chronology captures ‘Humanity’s unfaltering march towards downfall’, cursed as we are by our own actions. Stirring opener 'Fleischman' will satisfy genre purists with its jagged interludes of invigorating, classic death, while 'Bloodicide', unleashed as a catchy single, drags the listener in a new direction, lurching between claustrophobic hysteria and moments of breathless exhilaration. Evoking the tempest-tossed waves of a neurotic episode, the frenzied underlying drum-work and screeching, tormented guitar chords press like asylum walls closing in, the raspy, desperate vocals and bestial roars the gasping struggle against this musical straightjacket’s tightening embrace.
'Levitator' and 'Deader' have their own unique, doom-laden majesty, the leaden chords pulling across the nerves like ridged, cancerous barbs, before ramping up the slow torture with more biting riffs. 'March of the Crucifiers' and 'Warhead Ritual' pick up the pace with battle-march worthy medleys, while the deadening, repetitive beat of 'Only the Dead Survive' invokes a vision of the Grim Reaper striding across the resulting atomically obliterated landscape and scything blighted souls. 'Chainsaw Lullaby' is a final, raging cry in the darkness, its shuddering pandemonium of guttural growls, savage guitar riffs and violent, destructive lyrics embodying humankind losing its battle with its own demons and tearing everything apart.
Although existence may be crumbling around them, this anarchic chaos is a fertile breeding ground for the inventive, maniacal genius of Bloodbath. Like Lucifer himself rising from hell’s sulphurous black lake and forging a new kind of unholy creative fire out of absolute crushing despair, Bloodbath have taken on our sullied fallen state, made darkness visible and crafted a morbid masterpiece of bloodied, brilliant beauty.
'The Arrow of Satan Is Drawn' is out 26th October on Peaceville