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INTERVIEW: Anders Nyström & Martin Axenrot – Bloodbath

BLOODBATH are one of death metal’s shining stars. Comprised of members from iconic bands who have come together for a pure love of death metal, for those who crave all things heavy, the band certainly deliver. Since their inception in 1998, the band have had a merry-go-round of members (certainly in the vocalist department) but since welcoming Nick Holmes of PARADISE LOST the band have graced more festivals and shows in sporadic but brutal performances. On a rare appearance on UK soil, at this year’s Damnation Festival (read our review here), we caught up with guitarist Anders Nyström and drummer Martin Axenrot to talk about the band’s love of death metal, progress on new material and how the band react to be labelled as a supergroup.

So BLOODBATH are headlining Damnation this evening, what can fans expect from your set?

Anders: Swedish death metal I guess? Crushing, distorted, pounding, brutal, dynamic [laughs]

Any aggressive word fits really doesn’t it. So with the fact that BLOODBATH are headlining, do you have special surprises in store?

Anders: With a festival like this it is more, for us, an underground flavour in general. It’s so far away from a big corporate festival, it is indoors so we want to keep it more like a club atmosphere.

Martin: So we’re just going to do hopefully a really cool set of the best songs we can dig out basically!

I was going to say in terms of setlist choice, is it balanced with material across your career or is it focused to your more recent album?

Anders: I would say it spans across the whole discography actually.

Martin: We’ll maybe play one more new song than we did the last time we were in the UK but other than we’ll have songs from every record. Every era.

BLOODBATH playing in the UK, appearances are quite rare, do you feel by doing that it brings more fans out and makes the set feel more special?

Anders: Oh indeed, it is more special. We rarely play live in general, we never tour. So each appearance for us is even rare for us I guess! It’s like when we do BLOODBATH we take time off from our other main bands to make this happen and that’s why we still enjoy doing it because it is that rare and special. So each show is so far from the standard you can get and I love it!

Martin: It’s a completely different approach than we usually do with our other bands.

You guys are all involved in other bands so how difficult is the creative process for BLOODBATH when you are writing material? Do you need to plan to take time off well in advance?

Martin: Yeah I guess so, it needs to have some time. We have to end both writing with our main acts and the touring schedules. It’s not easy to write on tour.

Anders: No, we tried that and it didn’t really work for us. You need to be in the mindset and the inspiration and it is hard to get that on tour as you are constantly busy doing other things. I think everything has its own place. I wouldn’t want to rush things with BLOODBATH because it is more special coming off from something else. You find the motivation to do it, you don’t want to get whipped into doing it, you don’t want to get pressured into doing it. Now, OPETH are taking a break [nods to Martin]. We’re having a little break with KATATONIA so now is the perfect time to get back into the writing style with BLOODBATH, make a new album and hitting the road with that again as much as we can.

So BLOODBATH is very much a passion project?

Anders: It is very much built on passion yes…

Which is important as I guess it then feeds into the music…

Anders: It keeps it fun, the worst kind of enemy for your creativity is doing things because you have to. You want to have creative freedom and it has to come naturally. So BLOODBATH has always been about just letting those things come to you.

So coming into Damnation it has been three years since Grand Morbid Funeral and it was the first album to have Nick on vocals. Looking back now, how do you feel that album has been received, are you happy with the reception?

Martin: It’s been different. Every singer is different and always with a new record it takes a while for people to get it. So at first, maybe there was some negative responses but after a while the positive responses overwhelmed the negative. We also hit the road a bit more than we have been earlier so it has been so when people see it live they see it is working.

I always feel that with every BLOODBATH album it feels like something completely different. Is that always the intent? To do something that you haven’t done before?

Anders: It’s not something we plan or that we have to do, it’s just a natural answer because we feel like we have the creative freedom to be like a chameleon within death metal. We’ve done the whole Florida scene, we did the Stockholm kind of thing, we’ve done the technical stuff so we just feel like at the point where we are with our career, if we are all on the same page it’s going to be an answer to the last album so we are definitely not into repeating the process twice. So, it is like Grand Morbid Funeral was a very different album than The Fathomless Mastery and the new album isn’t going to be super different than Grand Morbid Funeral but maybe take a even deeper step into a almost black metal sound. Going more primitive and just doing things that we think we haven’t accomplished yet with BLOODBATH.

With death metal as a whole, since you have been a band, death metal has changed a lot and evolved into various sub-genres. Do you feel that the scene as a whole is healthy and positive? Or do you feel that it has gone a bit stale?

Anders: Both I think. Obviously there are bands from the old scene that are still going and we hail them for not quitting and that’s great. But at the same time to be honest some output from those bands these days maybe don’t carry the magic they had in the beginning. Also, with new bands they weren’t really around in that time so they don’t know what to relate to and compare with. They have a different kind of scene and a different attitude which maybe we have a little bit of a hard time relating to. There’s a lot of death metal bands that have more in common with core metal based sound which we have no experience with at all! We come from the old school death metal scene so I think our roots will always be in the late 80s/early 90s. This is what we can talk weeks about without getting bored. We love this style, we will always love it and this is what we come back to.

I think that is good to still to be bringing into the modern age. As people are adopting new influences, to still have that old school sound…

Anders: I think so too, it is a lifestyle for us in a way.

Martin: In a way it is not a old school sound because when you start you never try to sound old school because it was modern back then. So in a way it is the same sound! I guess it depends on how you look at it.

With a band like BLOODBATH the term ‘supergroup’ gets thrown at you guys. Some people don’t like that term so how do you see it? Do you see it as a bunch of guys from different bands coming together for a love of death metal?

Anders: Yeah, just friends. Just friends coming together doing what we love to do together. It is an opportunity for us to play together since we are in different bands and we are so busy otherwise. This project is like a playground really, for nostalgia. We get to bring out all the memories and still have that going because I mean OPETH and KATATONIA have come so far away from the bands they originally so by still having BLOODBATH we still keep in touch with our roots and still having fun that way. This whole supergroup thing, I never said that, it’s something the label likes to do to promote and introduce us. So that’s there.

With bands like OPETH and KATATONIA that have moved on from their respective roots, does any of that modern influence come into BLOODBATH?

Anders: I think we try to avoid that coming into BLOODBATH! We try to keep that wall really high! We would never bring that in, and I can promise you that, we will never bring in any gothic influences into BLOODBATH. They just don’t have their place in it, I think we are just busy trying to make it just as primitive as we can. And that is a challenge in itself! How primitive can you get without becoming one riff per song. It’s a challenge because we are still picky! We are really serious about BLOODBATH because a song should still be very groovy with a hook and it should be re-memorable. It shouldn’t be like a pop band or anything, it should still carry a violent feel!

And really just to close off, once you have played Damnation what’s next for BLOODBATH?

Anders: For us we are focusing on the new album. We are right now entering the writing phase of that so we are just concentrating on that for the remainder of this year and knock out as much material as we can. Hit the studio and record that and then next year release it.

Well brilliant, best of luck for playing Damnation tonight and for the new album!

Anders & Martin: Thank you.

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