Written by: The Voiceless Apparition
Wombbath is a band that is simultaneously revered and underrated. I suppose the reasoning for this is that they formed pretty late during the Swedish death metal boom (formed in 1990) but that shouldn't have been the case. I'm glad that they reformed a few years ago because the quality of the albums are still great and it introduces them to a new sect of death metal fans who weren't born when they formed (that includes me). Choirs of the Fallen, I am happy to say is their best album since reforming and it goes beyond where they were with the previous 2 albums but while still sounding like themselves.
Choirs of the Fallen kicks in immediately with "Fallen," and this is a stellar opener. Running the gamut of death metal, crust punk, and small flourishes of black metal, this track bleeds aggression, and, at the same time, sinister atmosphere. It's a truly eerie sounding track. Track #2, "Crawling from the Pits," begins with a short intro but quickly bursts into a firestorm of groove and break neck aggression. This is a very evil sounding song as malevolent guitar melodies provide the atmosphere to your worst nightmares.
"We Shall Remain" kicks in with a sinister intro, only to bludgeon you with a barrage of crusty riffs and punky groove sections. This is a very old-school song and brings to mind the best of the best in Swedish death metal (Grave, Dismember, Nominon). Also, major props for the middle section of the song, it's a grand, epic section swimming in atmosphere and doom, it threw me off but in a great way. Unexpected but worth it.
Track #4, "A Sweet Taste of Death," ups the ante on the atmosphere. While this still remains a brutal number, this song develops more and goes into more epic and spaced out territories. A very dynamic song with grand keyboards and frightening melodies to add to the vastness of it. "From the Beggars Hand" is a crusty song with enough groove to move any mosher, but once again, in the middle of the song, we reroute into new pastures: an ambient piano and distorted bass guitar section, and to be quite honest it was unsettling. And that's a great sign. There's nothing really much to say on "Void", it keeps up with the same quality albiet a little bit more safe but the middle groove section with the keys overtop of everything was nice. "A Vulgar Declaration" sees the return of the more pummeling side but while still retaining groove and the punk-leanings when it's necessary. This song has easily the most memorable solo on the album, it was fantastic and doesn't distract from the rest of the song. Surprisingly, this song has no atmospheric section, but I think it works for the better.
"Wings of Horror" continues the same trajectory until once again in the middle of the song we get an atmospheric section but this is the most eerie and jarring one. This section features the usual fare of keyboards but this piano line is played in the way that you would here off of a Bethlehem album before it would ever be used in a death metal way. Also the ending is absolutely ending with the same piano line and a distorted sample being played behind it. "Choirs of the Damned" is a groovy monster. So much headbangability in this song, catchy as all hell, and slaying riffs. One of the best songs on the album. What other way could we end the album on then with the epic "In a Cloak of Anger". It's another groovy number but the inclusion of the choir vocals in the background gives the song a grandness one wouldn't expect from old-school death metal. Fantastic way to end the album!
Now on to the production. Excellent quality. The drums sound great, the snare is booming, the toms are beefy. My only complaint is that the bass drums sound a little bit too triggered but that's a minor complaint. The guitars and bass are raw as hell, with the sound of it being unearthed from centuries of rot and filth. I'm a sucker for the "chainsaw" tone so this is up my alley. The vocals are very upfront in the mix but don't distract from the other instruments. Overall a strong mix from legendary Sunlight Studios producer Tomas Skogsberg. Also, the artwork for this album is beautiful, courtesy of Malfeitor guitarist Benny Moberg. It's sinister, obscured, and full of dread and atmosphere. I also love the way the design and color-scheme is very unique and original. Fantastic work!
Wombbath seems to have struck that fine balance between atmosphere and brutality on Choirs of the Fallen. If you fell in love with them because of Internal Caustic Torments, then you will surely love this album. I'd go as far as to say that this is almost like a follow-up to Internal Caustic Torments in a way (obviously not, but still). If you are a fan of the Swedish style of death metal, or death metal in general, this is for you. Highly recommended!
Wombbath - Choirs of the Fallen will be released March 6th from Soulseller Records
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Providing thoughtful reviews of music that is heavy, gloomy, and loud enough to wake us from slumber. Written by a groggy-eyed, highfalutin peasantry.