Bloodbath - Electric Ballroom, London
What started off as a drunken nostalgia trip shared between four friends seventeen years ago has since spiralled into one of the most respected death metal projects to emerge this side of the Millennium. No one could have guessed that when the three-track EP Breeding Death was released back in 2000 Bloodbath would still be a going concern, let alone hosting a Christmas bash in the heart of Camden Town with someone as illustrious as Aborted in support. Perhaps because of the informal nature of conception, this does not feel like a supergroup; devoid of all the egos and posturing that they often entail, the pall of the parent bands is completely absent. Now with four albums in the canon, and yet another exceptional vocalist handling duties, all that matters is the bloodied love-letter to old school death metal being adoringly recited tonight.
The increasingly multinational Aborted, in the process of completing album number nine, are pretty much as billed. Thirty frenzied minutes of grind-tinged gore is certainly violent and relentless enough to sate the appetite, but falls short of delivering that knock-out punch. We are treated to a couple of new tracks from the aforementioned upcoming record, although in the mayhem of a live gig it is difficult to judge beyond the fact they sound like, well, Aborted.
This is rather remarkably the debut London show for Bloodbath (and only the second in England, after Bloodstock in 2010) such has been the rarity of their live outings. And yet you would never guess that these five have rarely shared a stage together; this is an utterly ferocious onslaught that is as exhausting as it is exhilarating. The key is that guitar sound, the slightly muddy archetypal death metal tone that conjures images of chainsaws tearing through flesh all too easily. And there is of course the question surrounding quite how the latest vocalist will fit; "Old Nick" Holmes, dressed in a blood-spattered monk habit complete with inverted cross, is presented with an early test in the form of 'So You Die' and 'Breeding Death' from the band's distant origins. He passes majestically as he growls and spits his way through as if he wrote the lyrics himself – indeed he does so better than the original managed five years ago on these shores.
The setlist holds few surprises in its selection, but the reworking of 'Like Fire' was an unexpected yet delightful one. Tonight’s version is slower, heavier, creepier and quite frankly far superior as it oozes over the masses, a definite highlight even amongst a performance as superlative at this. Of course fan favourite 'Eaten' is included in the encore, and raises the loudest cheers of the evening. It increasingly appears more and more simplistic within the Bloodbath discography, but there is no denying just how catchy that chorus is – as well as conjuring up a few new ideas for next week's Christmas lunch… Replacing it as the finale is 'Cry My Name', which makes much more sense now that it is in place. The closing track to debut Resurrection Through Carnage, the climactic nature leaves us all on a high as indeed their name rings around the Ballroom one last time.