Review – Wombbath: Downfall Rising

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  • Bio: n/a
  • Label: Dark Descent Records
  • Release Date: August 21st, 2015
  • Genre: Death Metal
  • Website: Visit Website
  • Rating (out of 10):

Originally going by the name Seizure in 1990, Wombbath is a death metal group from Sweden that has stood the test of time despite breaking up in 2005. The five years initially active saw the release of two EPs, the latter showing the band venturing in more of a death ‘n roll style along the likes of later Carcass, one demo, a split with Burial and Psychosis, as well as their debut full-length effort Internal Caustic Torments in 1993. Founding guitarist Håkan Stuvemark (Skineater, ex-In Thy Dreams) reactivated the group in 2014, bringing vocalist/bassist Johnny Pettersson (Ashcloud, Human Harvest), drummer Henrik Åberg (ex-Battlelust, ex-Gates of Ishtar), and guitarist Al Riglin (the last two mentioned joining roughly a year later) for the ride. 2015 saw another split release, titled Ascending Into the Oblivion of Dusk, followed by the long overdue follow-up studio album Downfall Rising, which is being handled by Dark Descent Records. But is it the effort fans have been anxiously awaiting, or have the band simply grown stale over the years?

The “Intro” track cordially invites you into a dark realm of seventies, even eighties horror themed brutality in the dankest of trenches, right down to the sound of a film projector rolling, playing what one could only assume to be a snuff film with a woman screaming. It’s effective enough to set up the proper atmosphere, but doesn’t fully brace the listener for what is to come upon the first spin. “Under Apokalypsens Svarta Vinga” hammers away with a thick bass presence and down tuned dirty guitar distortions, playing up the kind of filth one might expect from an early Avulsed or Carcass album with some Swedish flair. This acts as a better example of what to expect from these legends this time around, as it establishes the hellish atmospheres through faster hooks and bouts of bludgeoning doom-laced riffs with near funeral procession precision in the crisp drums, not to mention a superb traditional heavy metal inspired guitar solo that elevates the grit to heights of brief grandeur, something not delegated to this one performance.

“Fall of the Weak” is another one that thrusts its doom metal tendencies around a bit for all to see, as well as plenty of epic elements for good measure. What starts as an innocent sense of hopeful isolation quicly builds to a sudden reminder that daylight cannot permeate this slab of helplessness. Infectious grooves with a steady bass kick presence progress things along in a burdening manner. But, as you approach three minutes, some technicality ushers in a brief period of bludgeoning that only continues to slam your head into the ground with additional male vocal harmonizations in the background as the speed, though not the pacing, continues to grow.

But then you have a few slabs of traditional Swedish death metal goodness. “Underneath the Rotten Soil” has more of a sleaker tone to it’s heavily distorted Dismember-esque uncompromising hostility, complete with a slam just past two minutes in and a natural crawling pace to round out the song. “Paid in Blood” stands as something a little on the side of cliche, but still an enthusiastic cut that’s easy to appreciate. It’s littered with infectious grooves and more of that mild hardcore attitude in many of the bridges.

Wombbath

“I Am The Abyss”, however, doesn’t quite work out in the long run. It has a far more brutal side to the bass heavy assault that surrounds random mid-tempo grooves with a little extra attitude, which is enhanced by the additional harsher vocals thrown into the mix. The main problem, sadly, is the slower material actually comes off a bit forced, jarring the flow of the performance as a whole fairly early on. The transition doesn’t really seem too natural, it hits a bit too early, and definitely stays well past it’s welcome during an otherwise merciless track, all for the sake of a crushing second act that offers up an unneccessary creepy environment for a short period of time. There’s also the moody Cradle of Filth-esque closing track “Abandoned Furthermore” that, while dark and brooding, sounds as out of place as the performance is muffled with washout on the cymbals. In fact, it’s so different, it wouldn’t be surprising if this was some sort of demo recording towards the end of the band’s first run in the nineties, or perhaps upon reactivation in 2014.

Downfall Rising manages to easily capture the filth-ridden days of death metal in the nineties with a nice brutal touch to its Swedish steel. It’s just unfortunate that it took over twenty years to finally get this long awaited follow-up album recorded and on store shelves (digital or otherwise). Downfall Rising isn’t perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s still pretty damn close. Haunting, unnerving atmospheres complimented with blunt hostility and attitude, the latter showing traces of a subtle hardcore influence to the group’s music, traditional heavy metal solos, primal gutturals, all oozing with a good deal of energy and just the right tuning to weave a creation that blurs together analog edge and digital clarity. Fans of down and dirty death metal need to take notice of Wombbath‘s latest, as this return will remind listeners not only of their existence or what makes this style of metal so good in the first place, but also serve as a warning that the absence hasn’t left the once prominant newcomers crippled and covered in rust.

Wombbath

Digital review copy of this release provided by Dark Descent Records via Clawhammer PR.