October 26th saw the return of Sverige/Anglo death metal conglomerate super group, Bloodbath to the record racks with The Arrow of Satan is Drawn, four years following their previous album, Grand Morbid Funeral. And while four years of silence may seem like PR suicide, it’s not like things have been totally quiet on their front. The group has toured and made numerous festival appearances, released a split with fellow old-school demons, Autopsy and then there are its members’ other bands.
These include Katatonia (bassist Jonas Renkse and guitarist Anders Nyström), Opeth (drummer Martin Axenrot), Paradise Lost (vocalist Nick Holmes) and Craft (guitarist Joakim Karlsson), none of which could be considered slouches when it comes to scheduling and keeping busy in their own rights. We caught up with Nyström at the tail end of a press junket to ask about revamped expectations, black metal’s new wind and the uptick of UK death metal content on the new album.
My presumption is that when Bloodbath was first put together as a side project, five albums wasn’t part of the plan. In that sense, how has the meaning of the band changed for you from then to now? Anders Nyström: Looking back, I think the minute we signed a record deal we kind of realized Bloodbath was going to get a little bit bigger than we planned it to be. What was originally just going to be a DIY cassette demo with a bogus line-up and hilarious made-up thanks list turned into a worldwide distributed CD/LP edition with unlimited quantities. Things started rolling pretty quickly from there and as the media and fans around the world got their hands on the release, it didn’t take long until we were doing press and constantly getting tours, festivals, and record deal offers on the table. So, five albums, a couple of EPs and two DVDs down the road, here we are sailing the vomits in our souls!
“Bloodicide” is the latest lyric video from Bloodbath.
Now that there are fans with expectations, a business behind it and so on, do you feel a longing for what the band was originally designed for? Nyström: Actually, the fun and freedom have always remained intact with Bloodbath, at least up till now. That’s essentially why we still do it; we’re still enjoying ourselves on the ride! We usually don’t make future plans further ahead than the year we’re currently in, partly because we’re restricted by other commitments, but keeping some spontaneity also helps keep things inspired and not forcing the endeavors to happen. Finding a balance of persistence, competence, and pleasure is a recipe that will reap what you sow.
How did Joakim end up in the band and what impact has he had in Bloodbath? Nyström:Sodo (Per “Sodomizer” Eriksson) our former guitar player got offered the opportunity to be part of another band, so we gave him the thumbs up and agreed to get a session guy covering for him if and when our schedules clashed. At first, it was doable but eventually got to the point where we had to prioritize commitments in favor of Bloodbath’s future plans. Considering how busy and successful this other band has become, we decided it was best to have Sodo dismissed and keep things less complicated by playing all the booked gigs with one and the same guy.
Soon after this, we got our noses to the wind from the scent of the black metal genius known as Joakim Karlsson from Craft as it turns out he was just as intrigued with Bloodbath and death metal as we were hell-bent to explore more of the black metal path lurking before us. The plot was simple, we just had to meet half ways and joined forces for another chapter in the Bloodbath saga.
What were you hoping to accomplish with the new album? Was there anything you wanted to consciously do differently, mistakes you wanted to avoid, areas to explore, etc.? Nyström: We wanted to venture further down the path we set foot on with the last album. This album is our most savage and raw sounding so far! We pursued everything to become even more unpolished, rotten and massive and apparently it was possible to dig that grave even deeper! The black metal influence is more vibrant now than in our past; it was something we wanted to explore and incorporate under our death metal flag. However, we haven’t abandoned what we achieved as we make sure to retain a balance of both things new and old, familiar and different. Other than that, it comes down to a new batch of songs dealing with the macabre topics of death, gore, and the occult. Business as usual, always.
One of the highlights of their catalogue has got to be “Church of Vastitas” off of Grand Morbid Funeral.
How long was the writing period for this record? Was it written in any way differently than previous Bloodbath albums? Nyström: It was written between November and February and was put together the exact same way we’ve always done: home studio solo crusades with programmed drums, sloppy instrumentation, and whispering growls. The demos shouldn’t be a threat to the album in terms of quality, but sometimes they do capture the magic of “first takes” that can hard to duplicate later on.
Does the band ever get in the room and jam or do you write individually? Nyström: The full band jam only happened for the occasion of the Breeding Death EP, but since then the working method has been to let every member individually write three to four songs each at their own leisure. Still, it’s a team producing effort where we drop “beta versions” of early demos in a collective folder for constructive criticism. A lot of small, intricate changes take place until the songs develop into final and complete demos and these versions make up the foundation for the album recording.
Out of all the songs we split up to write between us, we always aim for them to be as different from each other as possible. So, even if one song is fast and another is slow they’re all still carrying the writer’s own vibe and signature! Hence, three slow songs from different writers will still sound different and unique because of the way we think and write pretty differently. So, the end result has more diversity to it but is sealed together and super-glued into one unity courtesy of the performance and production. Under the banner of HM-2 we stride!
Did Joakim contribute much in the writing? Nyström: Yes, indeed. He collaborated with Nick on a couple of lyrics and came up with four songs, “Wayward Samaritan,” “Only The Dead Survive,” “Ride The Waves Of Fire” and “Wide Eyed Abandon.” The first two appear on the album and the last two ended up on the deluxe edition.
The Arrow of Satan Is Drawn is out now via Peaceville Records.
How is writing for you? Do you sit down and think, “Ok, time to write for Bloodbath today” and write in that style? Or do you constantly play and come up with stuff and just place your riff creations with the band that’s most appropriate? Nyström: Both those methods work for me! Usually I just pick up the guitar and hit the strings to see what comes out or I might be off doing something completely else, like the dishes or be out walking, and suddenly from nowhere I can “hear” a riff/beat/vocal line and my mind starts to work out an arrangement for the core of a song. When that happens you just got to go with the flow and allow yourself to be a tool for your fantasy.
What was the recording process like? Was it live recording or ‘Frankenstein-ed’ and pieced together and was there anything you did differently during this recording that you hadn’t done previously? Nyström: Well, the difference this time was that we wanted even more grit and urge, so we scrapped the click track and decided to keep hi-hat counts, some feedback and even the noise from when you start and stop playing; all the natural things that occur when you rehearse and play live. But the recording was still overdubbed in layers, starting with the drum tracks guided by some “slush” guitars that we eventually replaced once we dialed in the sharp custom tones.
How long were the studio sessions? How familiar were you with the studios you worked in this time? Nyström: Well, with most of us based in Stockholm, we started out in early February at Ghost Ward, the same place we used last time, (with) it being an ideal studio for tracking drums. However, this time we decided to work together with Karl Daniel Lidén as he really expressed extreme enthusiasm at being involved in making the album and his visions were in perfect symbiosis with our own ideas. Having already worked with him as our recording engineer on the last Katatonia album, we knew he was more than capable to handle this mission.
Fast-forward a couple of months we proceeded with recording the rhythm, lead and bass guitars at City of Glass (which is more or less the collective name for our own home studios) before we headed over to Tri-Lamb with Nick for the vocal recording session in May and then eventually entered the mix-and-master phase in July. So, the whole session was split up over the course of many months subjected to time and availability. The result speaks for itself as the sound on this album is like a bloody bulldozer ramming down the block!
How about some classic Bloodbath? Check out the video for “Hades Rising.”
I understand there are a number of UK death metal luminaries doing guest vocals. How did those spots come about? Were they planned ahead of time or done more spontaneously? Nyström: I was planning for “Bloodicide” to have some alternating vocal lines in the chorus, a perfect spot for guests, but I couldn’t decide whom to approach. So, then Nick suggested asking his old mates in Carcass and Bolt Thrower and once they were in, I reached out to John (Walker) from Cancer and it sealed the deal of a complete UK death metal bash!
You know, these singers were in some of the bands we used to crank and bang our heads to all the time back when we were teens, we stood at the front row at their concerts banging our heads and we wore their shirts ‘til the print vanished and now they’re singing on our album! It’s like “woah, wait a minute…” When things go full circle like that it’s kind of mind-blowing. It surely made our teeny fanboy selves awake from their slumber!
With members in other high profile, experienced bands, do you still find yourselves discovering and learning new stuff about music, the business, touring, etc. on a regular basis? Assuming a yes answer, were any of the lessons learned from your time spent in other bands applied to the new Bloodbath album? Nyström: Perhaps the obstacles come by more often than milestones these days, but every experience is one step richer and when possible, utilized for your own benefit. Some musicians are lucky enough to never have to deal with the business as they have other people taking care of that for them and they can create music with blinders on and dedicate themselves to do what they do best. Meanwhile, some are forced to step into both of those shoes for the insight and control but with the sacrifice of losing inspiration and dedication discovering the ugly side of the music business. I’m constantly torn between the two and sometimes there’s no other alternative but to slouch on one leg (laughs)!
Few things are quite as soothing to a young mind as a “Chainsaw Lullaby”.
Is there a story behind the album title, its significance or meaning? Nyström: It’s expressed as an instigation, an unholy declaration that should leave you with a brooding feeling of uncertainty. Nick came up with it. It’s actually a lyric line in a song on the album and it instantly distinguished itself as inexorable, which was emphasis enough to crown it as the album title.
What exactly is going on, on the cover and how does the artwork relate to the album’s title? Nyström: It’s that brooding feeling we want the album to hang onto. You don’t have to be spoon-fed to appreciate an ominous sign of something gone wrong. You see it, you feel it, your instinct awakes your nerves and you have to dwell with a sense of unknown uncertainty, which also reflects the picture of the world we live in today, we don’t know what’s next, but we know there is a constant threat out there, big or small, behind enemy lines, or just around the corner… ever present!
The future of the world is looking pretty bleak; personally, I think we’re irrevocably fucked. What are your thoughts on the future and what do you think could have been done differently to have avoided the sack of shit that humanity has created for itself at present? Nyström: Oh, I’m no soothsayer! I’m just a mere bystander from the sidelines watching it all slowly decay, implode and crumble. Humanity is really the most abominable thing to fester this earth and have done well in burying its own grave. The dystopian funeral awaits! Only the dead survive!