Bloodbath – The Arrow of Satan Is Drawn (Peaceville Records)

Wednesday, 31st October 2018
Rating: 9/10

Bloodbath is a band that fortunately requires no particular introduction. My own introduction to them came in the spring of 2005 (my senior year of high school) with a Century Media sampler that, for one reason or another, I had a solid 15 copies of. “Eaten” was somewhere in the middle of that CD and while not a revelation, it was goddamn fun.

A decade and a half later that’s still the case, Bloodbath has created what is probably the most fun metal album of 2018.

The Arrow of Satan Is Drawn, like every Bloodbath release in over a decade, sees the injection of new life through addition of second guitarist Joakim Karlsson (of Craft fame), bringing new songwriting talents with him. Vocalist Nick Holmes, now several years removed from the controversy that shadowed his addition for Grand Morbid Funeral and coming across much more comfortably, is the grand patriarch of filth with his clearer, raspier vocal delivery.

Tongues planted firmly in rotted cheeks, early single “Bloodicide”, aside for its übermetal title, is also perfectly representative of the experience you will find: the familiar buzzsaw riffery that swings between the razor-like and the pummeling. The second half of the song features a melodic lead and overlay that can only be described as freakin’ blood lasers, and it is AWESOME. The swells in this blood ocean are plenty.

”Wayward Samaritan” and its back-half surging set of breakdowns may very well go down as my favorite song of the year (along with “Freebooter” from High On Fire’s latest). To pull from the songs at length and extol their virtues would do them all a great disfavor. They all pull from the same set of ingredients and they each use them in ways that, while not new, come across effortlessly.

In some of the interviews leading up to this release members of the band have talked at length about the kind of spiritual change that came to the band when Nick Holmes joined, bringing with him an entire character concept and a greater desire to embrace the live scene. And that character concept and its effects on the other members of the band shines through intensely: there is a freewheeling joy to The Arrow of Satan Is Drawn. No doubt in part because this Bloodbath doesn’t carry the same sort of obligations (artistic or otherwise) that the various parent bands do. Instead Bloodbath is likely a vehicle for each of the members to channel the inspirations of their youth into these fierce, effortless songs.

Songs that leave nary a bit of breathing room. The majority of the songs ring in at the four minute mark or less, each title tightly wound with a sequence that allows little time for distraction in the album’s 41 minute run time. The album is fucking thick, the bass adding a bottom end to the guitars and then some, a rapacious void all its own that has had no issues will vibrating my small apartment throughout the week. And a special bit of mention to the album cover, unorthodox in that isn’t overtly gory, instead possessing a subtler menace that belies the ferocity found within.

What else is there to say? If you’re familiar with any of the parent bands you know what Bloodbath is about. If you’re not The Arrow of Satan Is Drawn is a modern foray into the primordial Swedish sound that isn’t just carbon copy #947 of Left Hand Path. Embrace it, revel in the shtick and probably enjoy the most fun you’ll have with a metal album this year.

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