Saturday, September 22, 2018

Bloodfiend - Dead Blood Madness (2014)

Bloodfiend is an Argentinian metal act doing its part to channel the death metal deities of yesteryear, only from a slightly fresher angle due to what I can only assume might be a more localized regional listening influence. Judging by the cover artwork alone I wasn't sure whether I would be faced with some indistinct, brutal death via the mid-90s style. The zombie-strewn cover art looked cool, but as a subject matter many would argue that they've long outworn their welcome as vehicles for horror. So it was a positive surprise to hear a group reaching even further backwards to the 80s roots of their genre and twisting them just enough that they've manifest a sound which is conventional and predictable, perhaps, but also authentic enough that you never get the impression they were just setting out to copy any one of their forebears in particular, but rather calling upon a whole host of inspirations.

To be more specific, I'd liken Dead Blood Madness to a Scream Bloody Gore, or Cause of Death, only infused with the South American blood of a vintage Sepultura or Sarcófago. Primitive riffing patterns splayed out in familiar patterns that juggle between evil tremolo picked open notes and a more chugging, meaty substrate. When they erupt into the faster tempos, they walk...or shamble, along a fine line between Chuck Schuldiner's earlier rhythm progressions and those you'd equate with Schizophrenia and Beneath the Remains, but the larger percentage of slower, grooving riffs are rife with the DNA of bands like Obituary, Cianide ("Rage War" is covered at the end of this album), even a little Bolt Thrower for good measure. I really enjoyed the guitar tone, just fat enough for the palm mutes and lower chords, but really slicing through you like a surgical knife though suture and flesh; just about perfect for their style. They also include some higher pitched, simplistic melodies that also recount sepultural atmospherics, but seem to shy away from the unkempt, explosions of lead guitar, which does seem to create a vacancy here that those melodies can't entire fill, especially on the instrumental tune "Decaying Madness", which would have been truly excellent with more lead work, or at least some vocals.

Gabriel Rotten's vocals possess a natural, nihilistic growl which really anchors the old school riffing into the graveyard, with just enough sustain and resonance, and he'll occasionally pitch a higher or louder guttural into the vaulted ceiling of the album's sonic envelope to curb the monotony that this style often faces. The drums offer up some concrete death/thrashing aesthetics, occasionally burst out into controlled blasting but never going too extreme that the album is turned loose from its decidedly throwback feel. The bass guitar really got lost for me behind the rhythm riffs, and doesn't seem to do much of anything interesting throughout the 33 minute playtime, but to be fair I can't imagine that fattening up the tone or wandering off into disparate, distinct lines would have done much to strengthen the overall presentation Bloodfiend was reaching for, which is more like a spade full of clumped cemetery soil being tossed into your face. The band really knows what it's trying to capture here and I think the production choices are seamless towards that vision, the riffs and beats are placed at complementary levels and the vocals are loud enough to dominate without stealing your attention away from those ravenous rhythm guitars.

Ultimately, Dead Blood Madness is a sort of record that I might not reach for above classics of its genre, or even the better retro bands of the current day, but it definitely engages the imagination and nostalgia once you've gotten caught up in it. I could have spun this record in 1989-90 and gotten the same chills as I did some of its peers back in that era, though whether it would have held up as much is unlikely. The horror themes course through its veins like dried up, blood, and for a good chunk of this you can feel the hopeless claustrophobic press of lumbering, mobile corpses as they prepare to chew the life out of you. Pairs well with a can of cheap beer while you ingest an afternoon of B or C-grade zombie flicks, and if you think that's anything but a compliment, then you and I are just never going to work out, so we'd best see other people.

Horror-meter: Seven out of ten decaying neighbors.

Verdict: Win [7.5/10]

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