The Swedish death metal band Lik just released their second album Carnage. Guitarist/bassist Niklas Sandin fills us in on the new record, their new record label, touring, the future of Katatonia and other subjects.
Chad Bowar: How did the songwriting process for Carnage compare to your debut?
Niklas Sandin: It was pretty much the same. We all contribute to the music in terms of making riffs and lyrics. Some do more and others do less. But the most important thing is that we all gather at the rehearsal studio to finish the songs and arrange it to become what it´ll be on the record. This is a very good formula for great music. If it´s only from one person it becomes bland and you really gain lots by having everybody’s input.
What led you to work with producer Lawrence Mackrory again this time?
It´s because he really knows what we want from the sound. He has a very good ear and quickly dials in the guitar sonics that we crave from the Hm2 pedals. It´s not rocket science to dial it in yourself just putting it in the signal chain, but making it pop correctly in the mix on an album, that´s another story. And we all know him from before. So communicating and hanging out is super easy. So we´ll most certainly repeat this again!
How was the experience recording in the famous Dugout studios?
For me it was the first time being in Dugout studios and of course it was a cool thing. Lot´s of great albums have been recorded there over the years by Daniel Bergstrand. He’s one of the more well known producers in Sweden when it comes to metal. But a studio is never better than the people working inside of it. So it was again Lawrence who made this such a treat!
Is it simpler recording an album with three members?
In a way, yes. There´s less different inputs and we all have the same goal. But for me it complicates stuff as I handle the bass duties on the records. I consider myself to be a bass player, and since I play guitar in Lik, the playing is a bit of a struggle. It doesn´t come as naturally to me as fiddling the four stringers. So I need to put lots of effort into preparing myself for the guitar tracks. Especially as we record all rhythm guitars live with Chris behind the drums. That demands you to be on edge! So because of all this I need to compose the bass together with the band and Lawrence on the spot, something that also puts you on edge. But in the end it´s all good fun!
How has the band’s sound evolved from your debut?
It´s the same thing, basically. I can compare this to when I was in the States with Katatonia. I walked into a McDonalds and saw a double Big Mac. You can say that if Mass Funeral Evocation is a Big Mac, Carnage is the doubled up version. Same flavor but more, and louder!
What inspired the album title?
It´s an homage to the great Swedish death metal band Carnage from the early ’90s. So it´s pretty much as simple as that. Can´t get tired of their great Dark Recollections album. And all things we do is out of respect and inspiration from that era.
How did you come to sign with Metal Blade?
With this album we all felt it was time to step it up a notch. It was great to be on War Anthem Records, and they will always be the people who believed in us first. But we need to reach more people and make this more than it was before. So after some searching we came to an agreement with Metal Blade records. They´re by far the best option for us and we really speak the same language in terms of looking at music. We’re in it for the passion of the scene and they are, too. The last thing we wanted was to work with people just caring about spreadsheets.
How does that affect your goals and expectations for the album?
We of course expect more out of this album and it´s already been proven that things are happening for us. We´ve gotten more feedback and offers now than during the whole album cycle for the debut record. So we can´t be more pleased. And the main goal now is to go out and play as much live as possible. That´s one of the key things why we play music.
Carnage was released on May 4, which is Star Wars day. What’s your favorite Star Wars movie?
Oh that´s a tough one, but with a risk of sounding a bit cliché, it´s episodes 4-6 that do it for me. There´s just something so charming with the old movies that got lost with the new ones. It´s another way of telling the story, and since computer generated effects weren´t on the table back then, less attention was given to grand effects. They needed to make the movies interesting anyways, and I think that´s why they´re not as cheesy.
What has been your most memorable Lik live show?
I think it was playing Party San festival. It was so good I can barely remember it. We had no expectations for that one, but once we hit the stage the tent was fully packed and then some. So it´s a bit ironic that something I almost can´t remember is the most memorable one, but that´s just because it made such an impact. And it´s also a damn good festival, one where you truly can feel that everybody is there for the same reason: good metal!
What are your upcoming show/tour plans?
Right now there´s only one announced date for us and it´s in Helsinki, playing a headline show with Satans Fall and Morbid Vomit. It´s the 8th of September. But more stuff will be posted later.
2017 was a great year for death metal. Do you think the genre is experiencing a renaissance, or are things pretty much the same they have always been?
I think there´s a rise in the interest of true old death metal with no frills. I think that’s good since some consider metal with schlager refrains is death metal just because the singer growls. To me it´s much more; a vibe and something you feel. It needs to be gritty, brutal and go into your bones, just like Swedish winter.
What does the future hold for Katatonia?
We´re on a hiatus right now, and that´s just because it´s sound to have a breather. The band has been going for many many years and we´re just taking a break to focus on other stuff for a while. It couldn´t have come in a better time for me as I´ve been able to put lots of time into Lik, which I´m happy for.
Will there be another Aoria album?
Once in a while I meet the others in Aoria. Last time I met Robin was at the Lik release party in Stockholm. We were very lightly discussing that we both are up for another record. It was an awesome experience recording The Constant and I´ll gladly do it again.
Who are your all-time top five Swedish metal bands?
These questions are always too rough for me. Bands go in and out of fashion for me. But Dismember is truly on top. Let´s just leave it at that.
Anything else you’d like to mention or promote?
The best way to promote the scene is to come out to the shows and join our celebration for death metal. So I hope to see you all there once we play a city near you. And yeah, keep on keepin´ on!
(interview published May 9, 2018)