With a new al­bum and a grue­some new look, death metal lif­ers Bloodbath are ready to tackle hor­rors both real and imag­ined…

Metal Hammer (UK) - - Contents - WORDS: ALEX DELLER

Death metal’s A-lis­ter col­lec­tive ru­mi­nate on B-movie thrills.

whether it’s Black Sab­bath turn­ing the pages of Den­nis Wheat­ley pa­per­backs, An­thrax riff­ing on Stephen King or the gut-rip­ping an­tics of Can­ni­bal Corpse, heavy metal has a long and tor­rid love af­fair with hor­ror. Afi­ciona­dos of both are death metal su­per­group Bloodbath, whose mem­bers have cut their teeth on death, black, gothic and doom metal, along with no end of grimy hor­ror schlock.

Given the de­mands of fam­ily life and the band­mem­bers’ day jobs (Kata­to­nia, Opeth, Par­adise Lost and Craft, in case you’re keep­ing score…), each new Bloodbath re­lease feels like an event, and over the course of a 20-year ca­reer they’ve glee­fully raided the death metal cat­a­combs for in­spi­ra­tion. New al­bum The

Ar­row Of Satan Is Drawn con­tin­ues down the re­gres­sive path forged by 2014’s Grand Mor­bid Fu­neral and sees the band pick­ing vul­ture-like at the genre’s prim­i­tive be­gin­nings.

“I think we started some­thing with the last al­bum that we wanted to ex­pand on,” says bassist and band co-founder Jonas Renkse.

“We wanted to make some­thing uglier and dirt­ier. I think we pretty much suc­ceeded.”

He’s spot on, be­cause what you get is an un­whole­some lump of stick-to-yer-ribs death metal filth that man­ages to mix re­spect for the art with gen­uine ex­cite­ment and en­thu­si­asm. De­spite their clear love for Bloodbath, though, it’s no se­cret that the mem­bers’ var­i­ous com­mit­ments mean their time to­gether comes at a se­ri­ous pre­mium.

“When we go away or when we’re in the stu­dio I’d say we’re very, well, pro­fes­sional,” Jonas chuck­les. “Ev­ery­one knows how to be­have. Fif­teen years ago we’d prob­a­bly be drunk all the time, but now we know that some­thing has to be done.” Rather than a hin­drance, how­ever, Bloodbath’s time-lim­ited na­ture may well be the source of their en­ergy and dy­namism.

“We’ve al­ways drawn in­spi­ra­tion from the old death metal bands from the late 80s and early 90s and I think that’s how they did it as well,” Jonas says of the band’s smash-and-grab ap­proach. “Back in those days you couldn’t af­ford a lot of stu­dio time – you had to be well-re­hearsed and you had to do every­thing as fast as you could. I think this kind of mu­sic ben­e­fits from that, be­cause it’s sup­posed to be an­gry and fast and a lit­tle bit chaotic.”

The Ar­row Of Satan Is Drawn def­i­nitely sounds ur­gent rather than rushed, with the band suc­cess­fully bed­ding in vo­cal­ist Nick Holmes for his sec­ond out­ing (“His vo­cals are fan­tas­tic,” smiles Jonas. “Very grim, very rot­ten-sound­ing!”) and wel­com­ing gui­tarist Joakim Karls­son to the cult.

“We re­ally like Craft,” says Jonas of this new­est ad­di­tion to Bloodbath’s ranks. “They’re black metal, but maybe a bit more rock’n’roll. It’s still very grim, but it has a groove to it. Joakim is a re­ally good fit, and any time you bring some­one new to a band you get some new en­ergy to feed off.

while the mu­sic sounds feral and im­me­di­ate, the band’s cur­rent aes­thetic def­i­nitely sug­gests some­thing more thought­ful and con­sid­ered. The al­bum art, for starters, trades the overtly hor­rific im­agery of yore for im­agery that in­stead in­stils a qui­eter sense of dread.

“We just gave the guy who painted it, Eli­ran Kan­tor, the ti­tle of the al­bum, and he came up with the art,” says Jonas. “I think it’s a per­fect way of sum­ming up the ti­tle – it hints at this global threat, like a pre­mo­ni­tion. You have to think a bit more, and when you re­alise what’s go­ing on it’s even more hor­ri­fy­ing than the usual guts and gore.”

Then, of course, there’s the band’s new look… “We wanted the pho­tos to look like they could be used on a poster for a hor­ror movie,” laughs Jonas. “Nick has a kind of el­e­gant, well-dressed un­der­taker vibe, and we look like his ex­humed army of death metal zom­bies.”

While sub­gen­res like black and nu metal might be used to raid­ing the makeup case, this re­cent shoot wasn’t quite so fa­mil­iar for an act more used to denim and well-worn band shirts.

“It took a whole day, nine or 10 hours,” says Jonas. “It was weird, be­cause we’re used to sweat­ing off make-up when we play live, but over a day the fake blood started to stiffen and you couldn’t re­ally move your face. It was im­pos­si­ble to smile and stuff like that, which was prob­a­bly a good thing.”

Talk of movie posters and the sham­bling un­dead means con­ver­sa­tion in­evitably turns to the hor­ror genre, and its close re­la­tion­ship with death metal. “To me, the two have al­ways been hand in hand,” Jonas muses. “When I started lis­ten­ing to death metal it just felt like the per­fect match – I loved hor­ror movies, and death metal sounded like the ul­ti­mate mu­si­cal ver­sion of a hor­ror flick.”

While you might ex­pect his top tips to in­clude the sham­bling hor­rors of Lu­cio Fulci or Ge­orge A. Romero, Jonas in­stead has some sur­pris­ing choices when it comes to his stand­out hor­ror me­mories.

“I re­mem­ber see­ing Pet Se­matary at the movies and that one had a big im­pact,” he says. “I was pretty young, and I re­mem­ber walk­ing home from the cin­ema by my­self, in the dark, through the woods. It was re­ally ter­ri­fy­ing for a young kid. But I al­ways think that when you put on a hor­ror movie you should want to be scared, oth­er­wise there’s no rea­son to do it. Nowa­days I tend to pre­fer more psy­cho­log­i­cal hor­ror. Things like The Oth­ers with Ni­cole Kid­man, which has this des­o­late feel­ing through­out the whole film. There are no jump scares, but every­thing just gets worse.”

As in­ured as we might be to hor­ror cin­ema’s many tried and tested tricks, many of us have cer­tain squea­mish turn-offs – splin­ters of wood to the eye­ball or lump ham­mers to the kneecap, say – that make our sphinc­ters in­vol­un­tar­ily con­tract. Jonas’s choice is per­haps an odd one for a guy who prob­a­bly has at least a cou­ple of Car­cass LPs knock­ing around the house… “I have a prob­lem – and it’s not only in hor­ror films – with the kind of posters you have at the doc­tor’s surgery,” he laughs. “You know, where a hu­man’s been bi­sected and you can see how the or­gans look, or a skele­tal face with the eye­balls star­ing out. I can’t stand look­ing at that kind of thing, it freaks me out!”

While we could per­haps gas for hours about The Omen’s clas­sic death se­quences or re­cent Toni Col­lette movie Hered­i­tary, it’s nec­es­sary to steer things back on course, so Ham­mer cir­cles back to the ‘global threats’ Jonas men­tioned ear­lier. Af­ter all, while there’s a pun­gent, corpse-like stench to songs like Deader or nods to Tobe Hooper with Chain­saw Lul­laby, the new al­bum is also in­fused with a sense that mod­ern re­al­ity of­fers more night­mare sce­nar­ios – cli­mate change, never-end­ing con­flict, the in­creas­ingly crazed be­hav­iour of cer­tain world lead­ers… – than fic­tion can of­fer.

“Yeah,” sighs Jonas. “If you’re about to make a death metal al­bum then you don’t have to look very far for in­spi­ra­tion. You don’t have to watch 10 hor­ror films, you just have to watch the news.”

Still, if there’s one shred of bit­ter­sweet com­fort to take from the sham­bolic state of the planet, it’s that ter­ri­ble events will al­ways in­spire art, lit­er­a­ture and mu­sic – just look to how every­thing from UK an­ar­cho punk and US hard­core to thrash metal was in­spired by the pos­si­bil­ity of life’s de­struc­tion dur­ing the Cold War. “That’s true,” nods Jonas. “I feel sorry for any coun­try with a shitty leader, but it’ll at least in­spire some peo­ple to make great mu­sic.”



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