Bloodbath – Celebrating DeathSunday, 2nd December 2018
Hard to believe it’s been twenty years already since the old school death metal champions Bloodbath first entered existence. Much hype circled the act from the onset, considering the wealth of Swedish talent involved, as well as their dedication to providing authentic old school death metal straight from their darkened hearts. One might even make the argument that they were the ones to truly popularize the retro death metal movement to begin with. Something that they’ve still managed to stay ahead of the curve on.
The band’s most recent release, The Arrow of Satan is Drawn, doesn’t pretend to be anything it’s not. A rollicking and raging good time that revs up the old school chainsaw sound with glee, but managing to provide a fresh listening experience. Precisely what fans want to hear, and just the sort of thing to appeal to anyone who has managed to stay out the group’s crosshairs to this point. We were all too stoked to send some questions over to guitarist Anders Nyström, who fielded some responses on topics on everything from the 20 year milestone, to the new album, to visa issues and the bonds of friendship that formed the band.
Dead Rhetoric: Considering the passion project nature of the band, and the busy schedule of the members involved, are you surprised that the band has lasted for near 20 years at this point?
Anders Nyström: Yes, because at times it can be absolutely impossible to maintain a flow! That’s also the main reason why there are so many years in between the releases and so little touring activity, but we try to seize the opportunities as they unfold and make the best out of it while we can. We just gotta keep an eye out for the essential gaps coming up in everyone’s schedules. No Bloodbath album is done in one go anymore. It’s all divided into individual sessions and those can end up being divided throughout a whole year until it’s a wrap. It can be both frustrating and relaxing, depending on where you are in the process, but we enjoy doing this so bloody much that 20 years feels more like it’s been 10.
Dead Rhetoric: What do you enjoy about Bloodbath as a continued outlet for creativity?
Nyström: The liberty to indulge in relentlessly extreme metal. The darkness and the aggression mixed with the entertainment values is what excites me. I feel drawn to it, it’s pulling me in. Death metal is a calling.
Dead Rhetoric: The Arrow of Satan is Drawn is your fifth album. How do you feel it compares to your previous releases?
Nyström: During this chapter we aimed for the general approach in everything to be as rotten, dark and gritty as possible. We wanted the album to feel like a bloody bulldozer on the loose, ramming down the entire block! Musically our prime objective was to get a balance with a bigger edge of black metal incorporated into the songs, but it had to be thoroughly stained and defiled with Bloodbath’s signature death metal sound. Actually, the very reason for bringing Joakim into the band was to have him colour the album with his black metal craft.
Jonas and I were already writing more and more black metal oriented stuff that would meet very well with Joakim’s way of writing, but as I said, the objective was to filter it all through a death metal perspective. To see Bathory and Darkthrone mentioned in the same sentence as a Boss HM-2, that’s towards where our minds were drifting. Of course the album didn’t turn out to be a 100% pure black metal record, we still carried the Morbid Angel, Autopsy, Death and Entombed influences up high like a torch in some of the songs, but as a whole this is the most black flamed lit album Bloodbath has ever made with horror being the key element.
Dead Rhetoric: It’s also your second release with Nick Holmes on vocals. Given the top tier vocalists Bloodbath has used over the years, what do you feel Nick brings to the table in this regard?
Nyström: I think the creative process and dynamics have evolved while working on another chapter with Nick. We’ve spent a couple of years playing many live shows and know better what is required, what works better and what to avoid. Grand Morbid Funeral was the first time we ever worked together with Nick and I don’t think he had even heard all the songs prior to recording that album plus he was still getting used to to the feeling of getting back into those familiar old worn shoes of his. This time around he was very well prepared and sang on demos and we did pre-production before we entered the studio and we also collaborated on a few lyrics and made sure everyone was on the same page as far as concepts and imagery goes.
I’d say that Nick is really “in the zone” these days. He’s been delivering the growling style so frequently that it has become his second language again, like the early days. I also like to regard Nick’s vocal style as a bit different compared to the former vocalists. Nick’s vocal signum is closer to evil snarls rather than traditional growls or screams and that fits like a glove for the rotten musical style of the last two albums. Mike’s asset was how he could in an almost inhuman way reach a very low growl while retaining a perfect articulation while Peter had the widest range of them all going from low growls to very hi-pitched screams, even executed in the same breath. They’re all different guys with different talents making their marks on different records.
Dead Rhetoric: Jeff Walker, Karl Willetts, and John Walker all guest on the album. What did you enjoy about bringing together this trio of UK vocalists?
Nyström: Well, it wasn’t like we sat down and put together some plan to throw together an exclusive British death metal party. It just happened to randomly unfold that way as Nick, Karl and Jeff go a long way back in the UK death metal history together. So, this was one of those lucky moments where friends ask one another for a favour without the fuzz. Coincidentally, I had just done a guest solo on the new Cancer record, so I asked their vocalist, John, if we could have the pleasure of seeing him complete the trinity of guest singers and he was happy to deliver!
If it had been back in the 80s or even 90s we’d of course have been ”forced” to bring them to our studio, or flown out and recorded them where they’re at, which would have been really cool, but also very expensive and messy. Now, since we live in modern times we could actually just utilize some basic recording gear and have the online file sharing take care of the rest.
Dead Rhetoric: Could you discuss the artwork and inspiration for The Arrow of Satan is Drawn?
Nyström: Well, it certainly turned out different and far away from the standard cover you see every day in the death metal bins. In short, the artwork is the painter’s interpretation of our album title that Nick came up with. It’s actually a lyric line from a song on the album and it instantly distinguished itself with great emphasis to be crowned as the album title! These words are expressed as an instigation, an unholy declaration that should leave you with a brooding feeling of uncertainty. The cover artwork boosts that imagination and wraps it up with a visual representation.
Dead Rhetoric: You had to postpone your US tour dates earlier this year. What do you find most frustrating about the visa process?
Nyström: Well, everything about it really. First filing the tedious forms, collecting all your background data and heading off to the US embassy in Stockholm for interviews is never a breeze. We’ve done it many times, but it never gets easier. The bureaucracy is ridiculous and the vibes aren’t particularly friendly. There’s a ”hassling” feeling and that’s why it always feels like a relief leaving that place and those power tripping guards behind. Then once you have the VISA in your hands you’d think everything from thereon should be a straight line, but also arriving at the US customs can be very complicated and annoying, but I’m probably not the only one who feels that way. I mean, all we wanted to do is to play fuckin’ music for people who requested to see us live, but from that point until we’re actually on a stage performing is a one long roller coaster of ridiculous obstacles.
I don’t think fans realize how much damage control is put in motion when a band is denied their visas and entry. The financial setback is seriously harming the band. And cancelled gigs of course harms the promoters who invested in marketing and all the fans who might have made travel plans and paid for things without being able to get a refund. The more I think about it, the more pathetic it gets.
Dead Rhetoric: Bloodbath has been labeled a supergroup since the beginning, do you feel the tag has ever gotten in the way of how people perceive your music?
Nyström: Well, I guess the expectations could be higher. I heard so many weird things how people perceive this band. I mean, some people even use the terminology that if there’s an Opeth member in the band, it should sound like Opeth, which is a very naive and warped way of thinking. Bloodbath has nothing or next to very little to do with any of the bands we come from. Bloodbath is all about exploring the tree of death metal where we move like a chameleon between its branches.
Dead Rhetoric: Given the sheer number of bands going for the retro death metal sound nowadays compared to the early days of the band, what do you feel keeps Bloodbath at the top of the pack, so to speak?
Nyström: Well, we carry and share a healthy level of introspect. Our deed is substantial and we’re dedicating ourselves without boundaries to our creativity. I think if you try to fabricate that, it won’t have the core strength, it won’t transcend with magic. We also have a long history of experience that clears the road ahead from the most common mistakes and obstacles. We’re truly enjoying ourselves, or maybe we’re just making sure we please our demons and keeping them at bay…
Dead Rhetoric: What do you feel that members of Bloodbath have learned through doing the project – is there anything that has been applied to your ‘main bands?’
Nyström: I haven’t given that reversed scenario much thought. If anything, I guess coming back from working with Bloodbath and going straight to Katatonia, you find yourself in a rebooted state and ready to take on a blank canvas, instead of feeling the need to start blasting the canvas with black smudge, if you catch my drift. But every album, show and travel is another experience richer, no matter what band you’re out with, so as long as you live, you learn, and you apply what you need to continue evolve in every scenario, which doesn’t always mean looking ahead at all times.
Dead Rhetoric: Could you discuss the nature of friendship for the band, and how it has impacted your music?
Nyström: Bloodbath came together because a bunch of friends, normally doing our own things in our own bands, had one simple task in mind: to celebrate our never-ending love of old death metal! This musical genre is something we have had in common since our teens. It’s through this underground scene we first met and got to know each other. I guess the media and fans got pretty excited when they saw the line-up for the first time, so it didn’t take long until we saw the reviews preaching Bloodbath to be an ”all-star” death metal project. Of course the label loved that and quickly grabbed it for their marketing, but we didn’t object neither condone that term, it wasn’t a concern. Death metal was, is and will be our concern.
Dead Rhetoric: What plans do you have as we head into 2019?
Nyström: Diving into more shows! Hopefully more touring too, but the traditional metal festivals are definitely on the table.