Old school and Swedish death metal is popular in the subterranean metal universe now, perhaps more so than during its heyday in the early ‘90s. Bands that may have been overlooked via the finite promotional channels kicking around pre-Internet now receive a closer examination by the curious and the nostalgic. One such act breaking the surface in this fashion is Wombbath, formed in 1990, defunct by 1995 and reborn again in 2014. With two albums, two EPs and a few splits under their collective belt, the Swedes arrive to play a one off show live in London at the cramped Black Heart.
Both pre and post- reincarnation Wombbath are distinct, both concerning music and personnel. It could be that Wombbath never reached the escalations of compatriots Grave, Entombed, Unleashed or even the secondary Carnage, God Macabre and Centinex first time round because their style of death metal, despite coming from Sweden, ran parallel with what was going on in the United States’ output. Fast forward and 2015, reunion album ‘Downfall Rising’, featuring guitarist Håkan Stuvemark as the sole original member, blends this American style with the guitar tone of classic Swedish death metal to create a less orthodox sound.
Vocalist Jonny Pettersson is doubly imposing on stage, both with his blood-curdling vocals and intimidating stage presence. The band storm through a set of crunchy classic-sounding predominantly mid-tempo death metal. Occasionally speeds slow down to those often heard in the more brutal chapters of brutal death metal with bone-crunching tenacity. ‘Downfall Rising’ tracks receive multiple airings tonight and the crowd are more than willing to mosh to the likes of ‘Underneath this Rotten Soil’, ‘Fall of the Weak’, ‘Putrid and Bound (By the Seed of Satan)’ and ‘Under Apokalypsens Svarta Vingar’, with Dismember-style nastiness coupled with contemporary brutal death rhythms and economically deployed blast beats.
Trips to the debut album ‘Internal Caustic Torments’ are served up to the punters including ‘Corporal Punishment’ and ‘As Silent as the Grave’ recalling old school American death metal like Cianide or Rottrevore. Some new material is also shot out, very much continuing the route of their ‘Downfall Rising’ and does a superb job exciting the more reactive elements of the audience. This is a meat-and-potatoes exhibition in death metal – heavy riffs, headbanging tempos and a band showcasing an austere stage presence. When the Swedes leave the stage, their instrumentation is substituted with well-earned cheers from the crowd.
The death metal underground is conceiving some fantastic acts now but it is heartening to see that there is still room for those who flew under the radar in the genre’s formation to make an appearance now. Wombbath’s last album was met with a positive response from its listeners and given it connected old school American death metal with the Swedish sound, they should be recognised for doing something that may not be reinventing the wheel but stands out nonetheless. Their show at London was definitely fully appreciated by the fortunate attendees.