Thursday, December 11, 2014

Death Metal World Cup Quarter Finals: Bloodbath vs At The Gates

Grand Morbid Funeral
At The Gates
At War with Reality

It's Stockholm vs Gothenberg in this quarter final match, as the poster boys for the HM-2 revival take on the band who put Gothenberg on the map...

As someone who actually got into death metal via Entombed and Dismember, I can say that quality releases in that vein were few and far between during the Gothenberg/melodic death metal explosion of the late Nineties. Most of the genre's leaders abandoned the style (Entombed), broke up (Grave), or did one and then the other (Desultory, Edge of Sanity, Unleashed, etc). During this nadir, there were only a few notable attempts to carry the flag for the Stockholm sound: Nicke Andersson took a death 'n' roll detour with Daemon before pursuing the Hellacopters full-time; Dellamorte did a kind of Motorhead-meets-Hollowman thing that was fun but largely ignored; Dismember alone strove to keep the classic Swedish death metal sound alive (though their NWOBHM-rooted approach had as much in common with the Gothenberg bands as it did Entombed). At that point, melodic death metal was all the rage, and friends who were new to metal were dismissive of the Stockholm bands. All that changed when Bloodbath released their first EP, a simple but effective reminder of how good the Sunlight Studios style was.

Flashforward a decade and a half, and it seems the shoe is on the other foot: Melodic metal is decidedly uncool with newer heshers, while every also-ran and never-was who couldn't cut it during the first Sunlight Studios glut have dusted off their HM-2 pedals to try and imitate Bloodbath's success with a younger, less discerning audience. Well, everything goes in cycles, and fans and critics alike may finally be getting sick of all these derivative Entombed/Grave clones that bring little to the table besides a guitar pedal. I look forward to the day that message board lemmings remember why the early Gothenberg bands were so highly regarded, and hopefully realize that being a fan of one doesn’t preclude enjoying the other.

THE MATCH UP: So where does that leave Bloodbath and At the Gates in 2014? A little tired-sounding, frankly. I respect both bands for sticking to their guns, but I did expect more than "more of the same". Both bands suffer from the over-saturation of their respective styles, but Bloodbath suffers a little more when you realize that their success is based on little more than how deftly they replicate the seminal work of Entombed, Grave, and Autopsy. I have my issues with the new At the Gates album, but it is just that: At the Gates, except new. They may travel a well-worn path, but it's the path they themselves hewed over two decades ago.

WINNER: At The Gates