Drawing from the talent pools of bands like Opeth and Katatonia, Bloodbath have been carrying the torch for Swedish death metal for over two decades now. They’ve played Europe’s biggest festivals, released five albums and caught the attention of international media and researchers for their gruesome lyrics. But there’s one thing they haven’t done – perform in Australia. That’s about to change when they ship their frosty, bloody show here in September for the inaugural Southern Slaughter Festival. While the collective has not played Oz, at an individual level, their ties run deep. Guitarist Anders Neistrom and bassist/backing vocalist Jonas Renske, both of Sweden’s Katatonia, performed their first headline tour of Australia in 2016; drummer Martin Axenrot from Swedish group Opeth came in 2017, returning for a full-sized national tour in December 2019; and vocalist Nick Holmes did an Aussie run in 2017 with British gothic metal band Paradise Lost.
So with their first ever Aussie shows just around the corner, we thought it apt to pick the brain of Holmes, who was at his home near Leeds. “I’m just at home at the moment writing new material for Paradise Lost in between summer festivals,” he says in a relaxed tone. Just as casually, he adds this revelation: “We’re looking at going into the studio in October. I guess once that’s released, hopefully we can come over to Australia again next year or maybe the year after that.” So there you have it – Paradise Lost have confirmed they plan to enter the studio in October to record their 16th album. But that’s enough about them. We’re here to talk Swedish death metal.
For two exclusive Australian dates only, Bloodbath will hit Sydney and Melbourne as they headline Southern Slaughter. Holmes laments about how quick the trip will be, but says it will be special nonetheless. “We’ll be bang – in and out. I think it might be a record,” he laughs. “We did… a two-week stint with Kreator and Dimmu Borgir last year but that’s the only time we’ve ever toured. It’s always one-off gigs and specials. I don’t think Bloodbath’s about touring – it’s more about doing albums and the festival season. We’ve got like 15 shows over the summer in Europe then obviously we’ll come and do the shows in Australia as well. We’re looking forward to it. When they (management) asked us, we immediately agreed to it. Sydney and Melbourne are always great shows, so we figured those two places in particular would be very fun to play.” Holmes, 48, has fond memories of growing up on death metal, including some Aussie material. “This is going back so far, but it was Slaughter Lord. That’s a long f*cking time ago,” he laughs. “I always loved Slaughter Lord when I was a teenager. There are a few others as well, but I can’t pull it out of my mind.”
The trip to Australia comes off the back of their fifth studio album, ‘The Arrow Of Satan Is Drawn’, which was released in October 2018. While the album is important to share with fans, they’re still going to tap deep into their discography. “We’ll probably do three or four songs from the last album and lots of old stuff. We sort of stick to a similar set, though it should be a little different to what we’re doing on the European circuit at the moment.” The band began recording The Arrow early in the year at Ghost Ward, City Of Glass and Tri-Lamb Studios, with mixing and mastering handled by Karl Daniel Lidén. Welcomed into the fold was new guitarist, Joakim Karlsson of Swedish black metal cult Craft. All was going well for Bloodbath until April this year, when something went awry – Karlsson quit. “Joakim’s gone now,” Holmes says. “Now we have Tomas Åkvik… our session guitar player over the last couple years. (Karlsson) wrote a few songs on the last record, which he is very proud of. His heart is really in Craft. He’s a great guy and he was great while he was in the band. We’re all adults. Onwards and upwards.”
Holmes also speaks very humbly of Bloodbath’s origins and the fact that he joined the 21-year-old band just five years ago. “It’s definitely Swedish death metal. It’s certainly not British death metal. That’s almost blasphemy,” he laughs. Following the release of the Bloodstock 2010 DVD, it was reported that vocalist Mikael Akerfeldt (Opeth) had left the band and a replacement was shrouded in mystery, with several rumours and reports on who would step in. While the speculation was spreading, the band entered the studio to create their next masterpiece, with recording commencing in the spring of 2014. It was later revealed that Holmes would be the new vocalist for the album, titled ‘Grand Morbid Funeral’. Holmes has been dealing with the flak ever since. “When you change members, people are going to whinge… I expected the amount of grief I got replacing Mikael, although Peter (Tägtgren – Hypocrisy, Pain) was after Mike anyway. I still get it all the time, but now I just don’t care.”
While Australian fans are yet to eyeball Bloodbath, the country’s researchers have already taken a keen interest in them, using their song Eaten as part of a study into the emotional effects of music. Macquarie University in Sydney found that neither this song, nor the gruesome lyrics of others of the genre, inspires violence. “Anyone who’s into death metal and even metal knows that it’s all bullshit anyway,” Holmes says. “It’s just escapism. I guess if you’re not from our world, so to speak… when you read some of the lyrics… you’d have to have some underlying mental illness to act on anything you read. It’s like watching old horror films and laughing at the gore scenes. It’s all very cartoon horror. If you’re singing songs about graveyards and zombies, you don’t have to go into massive depth about them. It’s not social commentary. It could be a metaphor for something perhaps,” he laughs.
Twenty-one years later and the Swedish DM flame still burns bright. The two remaining original members, Anders Nyström and Jonas Renkse, still have an admiration for quality death metal in the old style, and so too do the newer three. They’re ready to share their disgusting music with Australia.
Tickets are available here.