Much like every instrument Anders Nystrom and Jonas Renkse have ever picked up, and every song the duo has ever recorded together, the publicity stunt regarding the new Bloodbath vocalist was played perfectly. Subtle clues were given, and months of guesswork and speculation followed. A team of NASA scientists were assembled, along with a field research unit that included Stephen Hawking, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Dr. Gabor Mate, and the guy that invented the Etch-a-Sketch. (A waste of tax dollars some were quick to accuse, but this is only the greatest Death Metal band of the 21st century we’re talking about!) With the data painstakingly analyzed, all signs seemed to point toward former Grave vocalist Jorgen Sandstrom. Okay… a solid choice based on his monumental performances on Into the Grave and You’ll Never See… but would he be able to live up to feats of long ago? We’ll never know, because the announcement finally streamed through the interverse, taking the stunned masses completely by surprise. The replacement wasn’t even a Swede! The new Bloodbath singer would be… Nick Holmes? Really? Okay… a solid choice based on his monumental performances on Lost Paradise and Gothic… but would he be able to live up to feats from long ago? Umm… yeah. He does, and seems to do so with relative ease. All skepticism and doubt are instantly annihilated upon first listen, and with Grand Morbid Funeral, a legacy of dominance is further forged and a legend is reborn before our undeserving ears. Regardless of your opinion of recent Paradise Lost output, I’m not sure anyone could have expected ol’ Holmesy to sound this brutal so late in the game. Perhaps his comrade’s endeavours in the mighty Vallenfyre ignited a healthy competitive flame? Whatever the case, Old Nick is in classic early ’90s form here. Tearing through the lyric sheet of soon-to-be classics like “Let the Stillborn Come to Me,” “Total Death Exhumed,” “Mental Abortion,” “Unite in Pain,” and the ominously paced, “God of Emptiness”-flavored “Church of Vastitas,” Holmes attacks with a morbidly gruff-yet-understandable serrated edge, earning the praise of many a longtime devotee of the most super of all supergroups. One fan and close friend of mine even proclaimed Holmes, “the perfect singer for Bloodbath.” A compliment of no equal, and with no disrespect whatsoever to the legends that have manned the most prestigious of microphones in the past, one I’m hard-pressed to refute while listening to the album. Of course, with the Godz among men —brilliantly listed as “Blakkheim” and “Lord Seth” in the credits here— creating the always-flawless musical backdrop, perfection is merely protocol. Dare I presume that having a member of their beloved Paradise Lost —a major influence on early Katatonia— on board has even inspired them to sneak a Katatonic melody in here and there? Only something for mortals to ponder. Eternals do what Eternals wish. Alas, there is one somewhat ill-fated decision here that prevents Grand Morbid Funeral from entering the halls of absolute Death Metal perfection. Of course I’m referring to the closing title track and the guest vo… y’know, I can’t even call them “vocals”… the guest mouth-noises from Autopsy’s Chris Reifert. A noble gesture given Reifert’s legendary early ’90s status, but not since the mighty Black Bolt has a voice caused so much destruction. Bloodbath has a scant few less-than-magnificent songs under their bulletbelts —the unmemorable Unblessing the Purity EP springs to mind— but this is their first completely unlistenable track. Let the record show it is by no fault of their own, musically speaking.
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