Tales Of Madness


I'm not sure what inspired the return of what is called the "HM-2 guitar tone", […]
By Brian Lowrie
December 29, 2020
Wombbath - Tales Of Madness album cover

I'm not sure what inspired the return of what is called the "HM-2 guitar tone", let alone what has inspired the return of the death metal styling that it is normally accompanied with. It seems like one day, tight production values and crystal-clear tones were all the rage, and only in the past year or so has there been a resurgence of people chasing after that specific "chainsaw-like" tone. With this being my second review of a band in this style for this year (and, probably not coincidentally, drummer Jon Rudin's second band that I've reviewed), I find it somewhat important to note that this somewhat esoteric, albeit raw sound isn't exactly my favorite subgenre, and my apathy for it does boil down to that abrasive guitar tone, mostly for it's distinct lack of clarity. With that being said, Sweden's Wombbath have composed an album that is, for the most part, modernized re-recordings of their earliest works, with a few new tracks to put their new direction on display.

The first half of the album is taken from their first demo release called "Brutal Mights" (1992), and as interesting as it is to have such an expedited history of the band, these four tracks tend to stick out like sore thumbs from the rest of the album by ironically being a little boring. Sure, they have all of the fixings of the usual early 90's death metal band: low register vocals, drums that often switch between blasting and double-bass runs, etc; but the Achilles Heel of these tracks is that they display the band at such a young, albeit integral period that they have respectfully grown out of. It is fun to see elements that would get more attention in later releases, such as the chorus samples and reverberated lead guitars that are in "Brutal Mights", but the remainder of the material just isn't that much to write home about.

So, let's talk about the turning point of the album. By the time "Lavatory Suicide Remains" (taken from "Lavatory", 1994) kicks in, everything feels so much more fulfilling, opening with echo-laden classical guitar lines, and re-utilizing the choral samples from earlier. This classical intro really helps lay on the aggression in the rest of the song, which, is probably the sonic equivalent to taking a cannonball to the face. Everything on this track feels more properly fleshed out, and even though the composition is rather unpredictable, every decision feels well deserved. This can honestly be said for the remainder of the album as well, as "Save Your Last Breath To Scream" seems like an interesting take on being more brutal than dizzying, but that doesn't mean some of the progressions are immune to experimentation. Fans of a more Americanized death metal sound would probably prefer this track to the previous. "Tales Of Madness" sees a considerable amount of vocal variation compared to the rest of the tracks, and it's really surprising as you wouldn't have guessed it, but vocalist Jonny Pettersson actually has quite a dynamic range on him. This track also sees an estranged, but welcome groove-oriented direction, while managing to push the technical boundaries they set for themselves earlier. "The Fleshly Existence of Man", the album's final track, pushes a lot of the compositional boundaries this time, with the inclusion of violin tracks courtesy of guitarist Thomas Von Wachenfeldt. This track feels like a proper conclusion to the album, as the concepts of insanity are really reflected in the sudden transitions and rather chaotic assemblage of ideas.

So,admittedly, I really shouldn't have been as harsh on this album as I was on first glance, and it goes to show you can't really judge a book by it's cover (or it's first half, in this situation). Even though I don't necessarily disagree with the idea of rerecording an EP's worth of material for a release almost 30 years later, the band is currently headed in a good direction as evidenced in the latter half of the album and should spend more time focusing on pushing themselves on their next release in the way they did in the last half of this album. As veterans of the death metal scene, it really does show on this record, and I look forward to hearing their next release.

7 / 10









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"Tales Of Madness" Track-listing:

1. Tales From The Dark Side
2. Brutal Mights
3. Unholy Madness
4. The Grave
5. Lavatory Suicide Remains
6. Save Your Last Breath To Scream
7. Tales Of Madness
8. The Fleshly Existence Of Man

Wombbath Lineup:

Jonny Pettersson - Vocals
Håkan Stuvemark - Guitars, Vocals
Thomas Von Wachenfeldt - Guitars, Violin, Vocals
Matthew Davidson - Bass
Jon Rudin - Drums

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