The death metal supergroup Bloodbath, which features members of Katatonia and Paradise Lost, return with their sixth album Survival Of The Sickest. Guitarist Anders Nyström fills us in on the new album, plus some info on happenings with Katatonia.
Chad Bowar: How did your newest member, guitarist Tomas Akvik, come to join the band?
Anders Nyström: Our relationship with Tomas goes back to the times when he used to play session live guitar for our other band, Katatonia. We quickly figured his passion was rooted more in extreme metal which resulted in him starting up his own death metal project Lik together with Niklas, Katatonia’s bass player and they’ve come a pretty long way in a short time. Tomas has always been a close friend, so it was natural for us to ask him first about filling the vacant guitar slot.
How did the songwriting process for Survival Of The Sickest compare to other recent Bloodbath albums?
It’s been more or less the exact same procedure since the first album, really. It always starts with discussing the vibe. Once we agreed on the sound and style, which are always linked together, everyone pretty much just fucks off on their own to write songs! (laughs) We keep a group chat going and Dropbox for audio files for feedback from each other which actually motivates and inspires everyone to up the game. I usually collaborate with Nick who’s doing most of the lyrics for my songs, so we send ideas back and forth on themes and vocal phrasings until we’re happy with what we got. We eventually finalize everything as demos that are used as a blueprint towards the studio album recording.
What led you to work with producer Lawrence Mackrory, and how was the experience?
We thought Lawrence’s mixes for the last Lik albums sounded awesome, so we knew he was more than capable of the job. We gave him the brief of the sound and attitude we wanted and he was on the same page and got the pointers instantly. The fact that he also lived pretty close by made it a no brainer to get him involved, so we didn’t have to travel. We recorded this album during lockdown of 2021, so we had to piece it together for a pretty long time whenever the opportunity was given. Lawrence first went out to Axe’s place to set up the drum recording back in the spring, then we recorded all guitars, bass and vocals down at our rehearsal space during the summer. Eventually, everything was re-amped, mixed and mastered by Lawrence at his studio by the end of the year.
How has the band’s sound evolved from The Arrow Of Satan Is Drawn?
This time it has probably regressed, or at least taken a steep turn away from where we left of with The Arrow Of Satan Is Drawn. We felt that “blackened” chapter had reached its peak, so we wanted to go back to the no-frills classic death metal we represented when we started the band back in 1998. We got drooling to make songs inspired by the Florida scene again and picked up all the traditional traits and goodies that came out of the 1988-1992 era.
How did Barney Greenway, Luc Lemay and Marc Grewe’s guest appearances come about, and what did they add to the album?
We simply reached out to them and asked if they would do us the honor of shouting on the album. We’ve always been on the lookout for guest contributions, mainly by the veterans of the old death metal scene, because it’s a huge honor for us, as fans, to be able to close the circle that way. We already had a bunch of legendary vocalists featured on our former albums such as Chris from Autopsy, Karl from Bolt Thrower, Jeff from Carcass, John from Cancer and this time we figured we’d pick these three. We still got a couple of death metal gods left to ask before throwing in the towel, so praise the dark one they are still around by the time we need them.
What lyrical topics do you cover this time around?
Mainly politics, environment and some finance! (laughs) No, it’s the same old shit and will always be. Death metal has its limitations for a reason, you step outside certain topics and it’s not conceived death metal anymore. I’m not downplaying our lyrics as a joke. On the contrary, we take quite some time and effort to make them entertaining and even symbolic, but the topics will always be about death, disease, terror, blood, guts ‘n gore! There’s enough room for fiction and cliches to find their way in there balancing out the serious indoctrinate stuff.
How did you come to sign with Napalm Records for this album?
We were back and forth negotiating with a bunch of different labels for about a year when Napalm pretty much stepped up and killed the competition. Their offer, organization and enthusiasm surfaced on a higher level compared to the rest.
Has your expectations from a record company changed over the years?
Of course. The times, climate and industry have changed drastically. Being signed to a record label back in time was completely different than what it is in 2022. I was personally signed to Peaceville between 1998-2021 and I definitely experienced the ups and downs along this passage. We were too young to be signed in the ’80s, but we got our first record deal in 1992 when we were still underground.
What have been some of the highlights of the shows you’ve played this summer?
We’ve done a couple of festivals, but it’s been a slow start after the pandemic getting back on track with the live shows. Things will probably pick up next year, when the new album’s been out for a while and the bookings catch up.
Do you have plans for any more shows or touring besides your September 9th show?
We’re always open for any touring opportunities that come our way and will consider everything if the time is right, but our target is mainly at playing festivals and one-offs as we go along.
With six albums now under your belt, does it get more challenging to put together a setlist?
A little bit, but a big chunk of the setlist will always be reserved for the classic songs. The fans expect to hear them and as long as we don’t get tired of playing them, it’s all good with me keeping them in there. We try to exchange and swap around a few of the brand-new songs with some of the lesser-known old songs in there to see what kind of reception they get or how well, or bad (laughs) we’re able to perform them.
You’re touring North America with Katatonia later this year for the first time in five years. What are your favorite things about touring here?
The weather and the food, perhaps? There’s always something open, the service is good. No language barriers and only one currency to deal with.
How do you occupy your downtime while on the road?
I guess I’m on my laptop half of the time! (laughs) Touring means a lot of travelling and waiting, which is very boring, so you try to sleep or occupy yourself as much as possible to avoid getting caught up in that spiral of awareness. Other than that, I try to seek up places to visit and eat and get a change of environment as it’s too easy to get trapped inside the bus and venue walls, groundhog day and night.
What musical itch does Bloodbath scratch that your other projects don’t?
It’s death metal, period.
The promotion process is now driven by social media. Do you like the transparency and interaction, or do you prefer when there was a bit more mystique around album releases?
Personally, I prefer pre-millennial times when it comes to an album launch. I was part of that both as a fan and as a professional musician and it just gave me so much more value. That magic has entirely gone missing, it’s lost, as things seems to be about spoon feeding everyone these days with way too much irrelevant side crap. It truly annoys me how you become a product or a tool, where you also have to analyze your own lyrics, music, recordings, artwork, what you wear, what you ate and explain and expose all that for the audience just like it was declared for the customs. I’ve seen VIP packages going out of control, highly questionable weird ass merch oh and the rise of artists prostituting themselves offering “pay me and I’ll do what you want” services that are straight up pathetic. All this, constantly pushed by and through social media. Not my cup of tea. Rant over (laughs).
How challenging was the pandemic for you from both a business/music and personal standpoint?
It wasn’t really that much of a concern to me personally, as I got to spend more time with my family and also take care of things I’d been postponing my whole life, like getting a driver’s license, but professionally, it was a struggle to maintain a flow of income and keep the momentum for the bands. We had to shift a lot of things around and more or less sacrificed a brand new Katatonia album as it was released during the lockdown without being able to start the promotional and touring cycle for it.
What’s the best movie or TV show you’ve seen lately?
Last thing I watched was Obi-Wan Kenobi and it was amazing!
What are some of your non-musical interests and hobbies?
The world of music used to be my main hobby, and then that turned into my profession, so there’s still a lot of grey area involved with that. I used to do sports and graffiti back when I was young. That took up a lot of my time, but these days I just try to take care of my family and do as many chores as possible to give me credit for all the time I’m away from home.
Anything else you’d like to mention or promote?
Thanks for the support, cheers!
(interview published September 9, 2022)
Listen To Bloodbath – “Carved”