Saturday, 23 July 2011

Wombbath - criminally underrated Swedish legend

Following the tracks of old Swedish death metal, one shouldn't miss band called Wombbath. They have an album from 1993 released, which together with EP and demo tape, is some of the best sounds this country has spawned at the glorious times. I recommend getting the Necroharmonic re-release CD, definitely! Myself I have the bootleged vinyl version of the album (See photo), but I just read on band's facebook ( that they work on official vinyl re-release of Wombbath full length. Great news!!! Meanwhile, read this article I putted together about the band and my opinions concerning each of Wombbath's recordings. Hail!

WOMBBATH is definitely one of those unlucky Swedish bands that never got much attention of the scene, despite the quality of the music. Sure, unlike acts like ABHOTH, MASTICATE, DARKIFIED or even NIRVANA 2002, they did manage to put on a couple of CDs, as well as an EP, but these were already the times when death metal popularity was going downhill quickly and the metal scene was concentrating more on what’s coming out of the Norwegian mists than on the good old Swedish sound. And this is why so many fantastic debut albums that were released in 1992-93 remained criminally underestimated – albums like “The Winterlong”, “Passage of Life”, “Prodigal Sun”, “Seeming Salvation” and “Internal Caustic Torments”. The last one was recorded by WOMBBATH. This Swedish band was formed in Sala, 1990 under the name SEIZURE. As they heard that this moniker was already taken they changed it to the more original and creative one, WOMBBATH. The band members were: Tomas Lindfors (voc), Hakan Stuvemark (gtr), Tobbe Holmgren (gtr), Rickard Lagberg (bass) and Roger Enstedt (drums) – and this line up remained unchanged on all the official recordings. In two days of January 1992 WOMBBATH has recorded a debut demo “Brutal Mights”. It contained four tracks and musically wasn’t so typical Swedish death metal as it had many influences taken from bands like BENEDICTION for instance. The demo was great anyway. Then WOMBBATH didn’t come up with news songs until in June 1992, when the band has entered the SKY LINE Studios and recorded two new songs plus an intro which luckily later were released as a 7”EP by two French labels, INFEST / THRASH Records.
Musically the band developed into more tight death metal, but not so obscure anymore. The same labels offered WOMBBATH a contract for the debut full length and so “Internal Caustic Torments” was released in 1993. Surely it was the best material WOMBBATH recorded, but unfortunately these were no longer prolific times for death metal bands. Old crews were slowly developing their styles with different influences (ENTOMBED, GRAVE, MORGOTH, TIAMAT and many more) and not many were able to record really groundbreaking albums at that time. And labels weren’t as much interested in signing “fresh blood”, so there was no chance for underground bands like WOMBBATH to really get wide attention. Luckily such albums like “Internal Caustic Torments” remained classics nowadays - underrated but they managed to survive the test of time and that’s why today they get a second chance. “Internal Caustic Torments” was even re-released (bootlegged??) in 2008 on vinyl, and also NECROHARMONIC has unleashed in 2010 a CD with band’s all early recordings on it! But back to the past, after the debut full length WOMBBATH recorded a couple of new songs and send the promo to few labels, hoping to get a better deal. But none of the major labels – NUCLEAR BLAST, CENTURY MEDIA, EARACHE, etc – were interested in the band. So WOMBBATH decided to cooperate with a small (at the time) Austrian NAPALM Records. “Lavatory” MCD was released in 1994 and showed completely different band. The music became much less brutal and deathly, using surprising softer elements. To some point it must have been influenced by death’n’roll of FURBOWL and ENTOMBED, but musically WOMBBATH wasn’t even close to get such a brilliant songwriting as these two bands did. The mini album was done directly from their demo recording which NAPALM thought was good enough to release. Later on WOMBBATH recorded and sent new material for the full-length album NAPALM boss Max never got back to them and was completely unreachable. The band sent some of the new songs to the bigger labels but without any result. After these unfortunate events the band lost their enthusiasm and after another demo they soon broke up in 1995. I think it could have been good decision, considering how shitty “Lavatory” was.

Brutal Mights (demo 1992)
Recorded: Recorded in 25-26 January 1992 at Gamble Studio Broddbo. Produced and mixed by WOMBBATH and Jesper Gamble.
Recording line up: Tomas Lindfors (voc), Hakan Stuvemark (gtr), Tobbe Holmgren (gtr), Rickard Lagberg (bass) and Roger Enstedt (drums)
Don’t know how many of you enjoy listening to the old demo recordings, but personally I love to. The most fascinating thing about it is that these demos have been recorded by some young lads who would never think back then (in the 80’s / 90’s) that their demo will still be able to catch someone’s attention almost 20 years later. And often maniacs will consider it as cult stuff. Probably they just though that they’re one of the many bands that either will success and get as much attention as GRAVE or DISMEMBER or will remain in the deep underground, soon to perish in the bunch of hundreds of similar acts that nobody remembers. Meanwhile here is such demo as “Brutal Mights”, which - although doesn’t bring anything to get over-excited about and extraordinary - still is good enough that some maniacs hold it as another piece of death metal history and give it a frequent listen enjoying these deadly tunes. Good death metal simply doesn’t get old that easily he, he. And it is great death metal effort in my opinion! Surprisingly “Brutal Mights” isn’t so close to the standard Swedish death metal as you would think. Actually it has been influenced much more by the band from the other side of Europe, from misty England – BENEDICTION. Really the vibe, the riffing style, mid paced rhythms, even the guttural vocals… Almost everything on the demo reminds me of the creators of “Grand Leveller” LP (especially the groovy “Tales From the Darkside”). And to be honest these songs of WOMBBATH aren’t that bad at all. In my opinion they would easily replace any song from the BENEDICTION album. Sure, the production may not be as aggressive and professional – although it’s very much OK – but the song writing is great. WOMBBATH brings some catchy riffs, great to mosh with… There are even some of these so typical melodic riffs that the English band comes with on their most memorable songs. “Beyond the Gloomy” is probably the best example for that – great song, which has some smashing riffs and a wonderful, melodic solo – little bit in the Swedish vein to be different he he. The guitar solos WOMBBATH plays in every song are actually one of the strongest points of the demo. I love for instance the fragment from the title track, when we get this calm motif with wonderful, melodic solo and the a doomy riff with a keyboard to deepen the atmosphere. Great shit, I’m telling you! I’m especially fascinated by these two songs I mentioned, but the remaining two – “Tales From the Darkside” and “Unholy Madness” – are also cool, so basically the entire demo is an absolute pleasure to listen to. Don't hesitate then to get it if you ever have a chance!
Best song: “Beyond the Gloomy”, “Brutal Mights”
Final rate: 85/100
Several Shapes (EP 1992, THRASH / INFEST Records)
Recorded: Recorded and mixed at SKY LINE Studio on 12 - 14 of June, 1992
Recording line up: Tomas Lindfors (voc), Hakan Stuvemark (gtr), Tobbe Holmgren (gtr), Richard Lagberg (bass) and Roger Enstedt (drums)
Wombbath, one of the least Swedish sounding death metal bands in Sweden?? He, there's some truth in this statement, as the band played more brutal kind of death metal than many of their countrymen. The debut demo, "Brutal Mights" was, in my opinion, a great slab of British and American influenced death metal, one, which I really liked, so when I started to dig through Wombbath's history I was really curious about the EP the band released in 1992. It was quite hard to get this EP, even mp3 wasn't that easy to find, but finally it became possible with Necroharmonic's re-release of the "Internal Caustic Torments", which luckily contained also the legendary EP. First, I love the front cover of this EP - zombies crawling out of the graves to bring terror and feast on the flesh of the living?? Man, what other artwork would I expect from brutal death metal band? Intro, that opens this single, is rather uninteresting, so I'll proceed to song titled "Several Shapes" immediately. First riffs of this track catch my attention straight away. Man, this mid paced, classic style death metal simply crushes! Vocals of Tomas Lindfors developed into much more guttural, what I like a lot. Also the production is much thicker and brutal, simply way better than on the already cool demo tape. This title song surely is one of the best ones Wombbath has composed in their short career, I must say! Then there's "Corporal Punishment"... The song begins with slightly more melodic riff, but soon it thrashes again with pure moshable riffage, in classic death metal way. Man, if you're into bands like Gutted or early Monstrosity (but of course in their slower parts, as these American band played much faster tunes on most of their "Imperial Doom" LP), also early Gorefest or Benediction, you may consider getting Wombbath's EP, I'm sure you'll love it also!
Best song: “Corporal Punishment”
Final rate: 89/100

Internal Caustic Torments (CD 1993, THRASH / INFEST Records)
Recorded: Recorded and mixed at SKY LINE Studio on 12 - 14 of June, 1992
Recording line up: Tomas Lindfors (voc), Hakan Stuvemark (gtr), Tobbe Holmgren (gtr), Richard Lagberg (bass) and Roger Enstedt (drums); Keyboard by Boppe Andersson on “Abandon”
When it comes to re-releasing the old albums I'm always sceptical a little. Sure, many of them are needed as hell as the chance to get the original pressing may be very minimal - and the price ridiculous. But often I have an impression that re-releases are done with too small effort and doesn't give the justice to the original recording. I just like if the label when decides to re-release something remembers about adding some demo tracks, a nice booklet and such stuff. Meanwhile I got this LP version of “Internal Caustic Torments” re-released in 2009 and what I see is just a plain vinyl, without any extras, there are no lyrics, band's history and such stuff. Shame really. Seems that only CRYPT Records knows how to do it properly (as spoils me with their many re-releases ha, ha!). Anyway, it's always great to get such albums on LP. This WOMBBATH debut full length is simply an astonishing, classic death metal record – despite the origin it’s not totally in the Swedish style, but again in the most groovy and strong BENEDICTION vein. WOMBBATH managed to put out an album, which fulfils all the expectations in my opinion. First of all, the production is really good. It’s hasn’t got the typical Swedish sound – which is fine, because it wouldn’t fit the songs. The sound is damn more aggressive and heavy than your average Swedish recording. It gives the songs a feeling and vitality, makes them even stronger and tighter. Surely they did great job when producing “Internal Caustic Torments”. But the songs also don’t disappoint. We’ve got here one real oldie – “Beyond the Gloomy” from the “Brutal Mights” demo. This was my favourite track on the demo, so it’s cool to listen to it again, with better production and slightly re-arranged. Strong shit, I’m telling you. But the new songs are much better. The opener “Prevent Anemia” is just fantastic, with the groovy mid paced riffing, which is easily memorable and catchy, has some cool melodies, amazing vocal parts, but as overall is still damn brutal. As death metal should be. From this very first song I knew that “Internal Caustic Torments” is an album, which is even stronger than any LP that BENEDICTION has ever recorded!!!!!! Yeah, this isn't a joke, I like WOMBBATH more! Great achievement, dare I to say. But let's get back to the music. Songs that follow "Prevent Anemia" don’t disappoint. Each has something to offer – brutality, catchy riffs, groovy parts, mid paced headbangers’ friendly riffage, as well as some occasional grinding fast moments, huge voice of Tomas, some great melodies – which aren’t present in every song, but only here and there… “Abandon” comes out of these songs as the most original one, having more epic mood, underlined by the keyboard parts. Cool song, really, which gives some diversity to the death metal aura of the album. Keyboards are also present in another epic track, “Conceal Interior Torments”, which is almost like early HYPOCRISY – to my opinion another band we can compare WOMBBATH to. Slow in some parts, with the keyboards – this song is really dark and heavy. But the more I listen to “Internal Caustic Torments” I start to realize that this album hasn’t really got anything I wouldn’t like. To my taste this is a complete death metal album, which is almost perfect in every detail. A real shame that it never has been well received and through the years became almost forgotten as it doesn’t deserve to rot in the underground. To me it's a classic.
Best song: “Prevent Anemia”, “Abandon”, “Beyond the Gloomy”
Final rate: 90/100
Lavatory (MCD 1994 – NAPALM Productions)
Recorded: Recorded and mixed at SKY LINE Studios, engineered by Markus Riedler
Recording line up: Tomas Lindfors (voc), Hakan Stuvemark (gtr), Tobbe Holmgren (gtr), Richard Lagberg (bass) and Roger Enstedt (drums); guest vocals - Dalle Samuelsson
The Swedish WOMBBATH so far has unleashed truly great recordings - one demo, an EP and finally that absolutely brilliant album called “Internal Caustic Torments”. All these three efforts are classics I worship, so you shouldn't be surprised that I was impatiently looking for this final WOMBBATH release for few months until I finally got it! But somehow I knew this CD won't be even half as good as the previous stuff. I've heard that the band was so annoyed by their shitty situation with the label and the fact that nobody really was giving a crap for "another Swedish death metal band" that it led to some unexpected decisions. And unfortunately "Lavatory" disappoints. A lot! Already the front cover comes as a surprise - come on! Romantic dinner with the candles, red roses and champagne on a toilet? Musically WOMBBATH has changed a lot since the debut full length and to be honest I don’t like their new style at all. It’s simply not the same band anymore. It’s not even death metal band. Sure, maybe WOMBBATH tried to take the path created by FURBOWL and ENTOMBED of the so called death’n’roll, but their music isn’t even half as good, groovy or deathly! I was very disappointed not to get any real death metal riffs on this MCD, nor even death metal vocals. Actually the vocals are the worst part of that recording. I can even tolerate the music and forget its undeath metal style – it is OK, maybe not my cup of beer, but decent. It has some heavy metal influences, even some punk rock in it, as well as the mentioned death’n’roll thing. I can hardly call it aggressive or extreme, but I guess an average pop fan will still consider it as damn noise ha, ha. But whatever WOMBBATH tried to achieve here was destroyed by the vocals. The singing style of Tomas Lindfors is really bad! He tries to do clean vocals in a hard core style a bit or maybe do some weird vocals like CARBONIZED tried on their second album. I don’t know what his aim was, but the result sucks. This guy - although he had a great death metal growling in the past – cannot sing! To be honest with you all I cannot find anything exciting or interesting in this recording and I’m not surprised WOMBBATH didn’t manage to get a major metal label to sign a contract with. I wouldn’t be myself interested in it at all – both as a fan and as a label boss. It almost comes as a shock that the band can change their sound so much within a year of time. Unbelievable, I just wonder what the reason for that change was. Was there a point keeping the name WOMBBATH then, if musically it’s not the same band at all? I guess it doesn’t matter anymore as it's an old story now. WOMBBATH remains in my memory as a great death metal band, which did a cult LP, while “Lavatory” MCD can be easily forgotten. I don’t like this MCD and don’t recommend it to anyone!
PS. Ain't that also one damn shitty front cover????????????????
Best song: Fuck - none????
Final rate: 30/100

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