Blending progressive metal with grindcore is something you’d assume wouldn’t work. However, Norwegian outfit BEATEN TO DEATH have fused the two styles over a seven year career that has spawned a reputation in the music underground. 2017 sees the band perform at Complexity Fest in the Netherlands, a festival that caters for bands that push the boundaries of metal. The band’s upcoming performance seems like a major turning point for the Norwegians, we caught up with bassist Mika Martinussen to talk about Complexity Fest and the band’s unique approach to grindcore.
Your are set to perform at Complexity Fest in the Netherlands next month. What can fans expect from your performance?
Mika: We’ll play tracks from all of our three albums, and maybe even try out one or two from the coming album.
You are performing on a lineup that features a wide range of extreme bands across various styles. What are you aiming to do to make your band stand out on the lineup?
Mika: Pretty much just do what we always do; have fun and keep it tight and energetic. I guess the somewhat weird combination of traditional grind and melodic Telecaster stuff will somehow separate our sound from most bands on the bill anyway.
Festivals that cater more to the progressive elements within metal seem to becoming more popular these days. What exactly about Complexity Fest appeals to the sound you play?
Mika: To be honest, I don’t know how to answer that. But I guess we have sort of a progressive – or at least experimental – take on the Classic Grindcore Sound and hopefully won’t be so out of place at the festival. Or we might be the odd band out. We’ll just have to wait and see. In any case we’re honoured to play the festival and really look forward to both playing and checking out other bands.
Following your performance at the festival, are there any bands in particular that you will be wanting to watch?
Mika: Unfortunately I haven’t had the chance to get acquainted with the bands on the bill yet, so for now the only bands I’m looking forward to see are CRYPTOPSY, MUTINY ON THE BOUNTY, SUFFOCATION, FRONTIERER and our fellow Norwegians; the awesome AIMING FOR ENRIKE. I hope to check out as many bands as possible, and I’m sure they will all deliver.
Moving more to towards the sound of the band, you really have a rather unique approach to both progressive metal and grindcore. What influences your sound?
Mika: Thank you! I’m not sure how to answer that either. But I’ll try. I think maybe one of the guitarists likes indie pop/rock from the ‘90s and ‘00s, while the other one seems more into old school death metal. Our drummer is of course also the drummer for TSJUDER. All of that probably influences the song writing somehow. We all enjoy grindcore, of course, but I think it’s safe to say that Anders (vocals) knows more about the scene than the rest of us. He’s not involved in the song writing, though – just the vocal parts, together with Tommy (guitars/vocals). I know he likes bands like DISCORDANCE AXIS and BRUTAL TRUTH. For me, the mighty PIG DESTROYER, NASUM and ROTTEN SOUND is the shit, but we obviously don‘t sound anything like any of them. I would say the song writing process has a lot to do with the dry guitar sound and Christian‘s drumming style and what happens when you combine the two. Also the distorted bass sound plays its modest part in the mix. And our sense of humour. And of course, the music we’ve grown up listening to is there somewhere – even though we seem to have been listening to at times very different stuff.
Blending progressive metal and grindcore isn’t necessarily something that should work, but you are able to make it so. What difficulties do you face when writing and recording new material?
Mika: Thanks again! As far as difficulties in the writing process, I can’t imagine they are any different than any other bands experience. Turning an idea, or 3-4 ideas, into a coherent and hopefully exciting song is always a challenge. That said, sometime songs seem to materialise in a matter of minutes, and we try to pay attention when that happens, and not over-think too much. Every song we have ever made could have been tweaked and arranged for hours, but we believe that would have killed most of the original and spontaneous impulse, so usually a new song will be more or less finished the same day the basic riff is brought to the table. The recording is always done live, with no editing or overdubs of any kind (apart from the vocals), so the challenge in that respect is having the four of us on the top of our game at the same time, hopefully before one or two of us run out of juice.
The upcoming performance at Complexity Fest comes two years now since the release of your last record, Unplugged. What progress has there been towards a new record?
Mika: We’re actually recording (pre-prod) the last 3 or 4 songs this weekend, and after that, the studio awaits. Hopefully the album will be done by the end of April. I can’t wait, to be honest. I believe we have some killer tracks on our hands. And a couple of fillers, of course. They can’t all be monster hits.
With Unplugged being your third full-length record, has the creative process of writing new material become easier?
Mika: It’s easier in the sense that we know each other better and communicate more effectively, yes. But on the other hand, after three albums, there’s always a chance you start repeating yourself, and maybe even get a little lazy and comfortable. I hope we’ve managed to avoid that. Our sound is still more or less the same, for sure, but we always try to add something new to keep us on our toes and challenge ourselves a little. I guess part of that challenge has been that almost all the new songs have been written collectively at our rehearsal space – as opposed to having more or less finished demos from individual band members going in, which we did more frequently on the former albums. There are pros and cons with that approach, I would say. But for sure, writing something together and see it go from a five second riff to a two minute song in an hour can be a truly satisfying feeling.
Following your performance at Complexity Fest, what other plans are in store for BEATEN TO DEATH in 2017?
Mika: Hopefully we’ll play more concerts outside of Norway, and maybe even Europe. We do all the booking (and everything else, actually) ourselves, so it all comes down to us. I think playing Japan and parts of the US would be appropriate for BEATEN TO DEATH. Also, our three albums will be available on CD in the US for the first time, with exclusive, and awesome, cover art to mark the occasion. And then there’s the before mentioned fourth album, of course.
And finally, we’ll offer you the floor. Do you have anything to say to the readers of Distorted Sound?
Mika: We hope to get out there and play more often! Playing live and meeting people is what it’s all about. Other than that; be good to each other folks, the world is a fucked up place theses days.
BEATEN TO DEATH play alongside IHSAHN, SUFFOCATION, GOROD, CRYPTOPSY and more on February 25th in Haarlem, Netherlands.
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