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Bloodbath – Bloodbath over Bloodstock (DVD)

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“Mass Strangulation” (live at Bloodstock)
Con subtitulos en español

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Bloodbath over Bloodstock is the second live DVD release in three years from the Swedish supergroup. The band has only played eight shows total, and most members are busy with their main bands – Opeth and Katatonia – both of which just announced a joint US tour for later this year. A follow-up to The Fathomless Mastery may not come for a while, so this DVD is something to enjoy in the meantime.

Bloodbath is a side project for everyone involved. Their music wouldn’t give this away, but their live show does. At times, they are awkward to watch. But it’s an intriguing kind of awkwardness, since we already know that each member of the band has major credentials with other projects. It’s interesting to see Jonas Renkse and Mikael Åkerfeldt cover different musical ground. Renkse as a bassist in Bloodbath is entirely different from Renkse as a frontman in Katatonia. Mikael Åkerfeldt seems to fumble around slightly in his Bloodbath role, but it works for the band. On this DVD, the Opeth frontman stands on stage, sans guitar, in aviators and a fitted leather jacket. His jokes are well-rehearsed, but are still so eccentric that they remain funny. He jabs at himself and the ridiculousness of the death metal image (“I remember I vomited just before I was recording my vocals [for the Breeding Death EP], and it came out pretty well, I must say”.) A few band members sport haphazard attempts at gore makeup – Mikael’s being shrouded by his aviators and barely noticeable. You have to wonder if this is all so strangely thrown together on purpose. Knowing Åkerfeldt’s sense of humor, it is.

It turns out that “Eaten”, the song featured on the official promo clip, is one of the weakest tracks on the DVD. It just doesn’t pack enough punch without Peter Tägtgren’s inhuman screech, and Åkerfeldt sounds like he’s trudging through the song. The vocals are better executed on the remainder of the DVD. Åkerfeldt’s growl is now lower and grittier, which took getting used to initially. This could be from fatigue after years of doing vocals, or him making a conscious effort to conserve his voice. Perhaps it’s just a personal decision to continue deepening his vocals, as he has over the span of his career.

The ultra-distorted guitar tone sounds identical to the tone on the studio albums, but the leads are noticeably more vibrant. The backing vocals are clear and menacing. The tracks from Nightmares Made Flesh take on a new character as Åkerfeldt adds his own spin on Tägtgren’s work. The real standouts are the selections from Resurrection Through Carnage and The Fathomless Mastery. “Process of Disillumination” and “Mass Strangulation” explode with energy – the first with its ominous tremolo riffing, the second with its haunting leads and whipping drumbeat.

Quick cuts and a variety of camera angles give some edge to an otherwise standard festival setting. Sunlight floods the camera shots, minimizing the onstage effects. This DVD really puts the spotlight on the music. The sound would be tight enough to stand alone on a live album.

Never taking themselves too seriously, Bloodbath have a great balance of strict death metal on record, a tongue-in-cheek live presence, and that element of mystery that results from performing so infrequently. Next to catching one of their rare live appearances, Bloodbath over Bloodstock might be the easiest way to get the full effect of the band’s laid-back but crushing death metal.

— Julia Neuman

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