While many will know “Old Nick” Holmes as the haunting frontman of Northern England’s Gothic Metal stalwarts Paradise Lost, he also presents a far more brutal side as the current frontman of Death Metal act Bloodbath. Holmes follows in the vocal footsteps of heavy luminaries Mikael Akerfeldt and Peter Tagtgren, but undoubtedly brings his own style. This is certainly apparent on the recently released new Bloodbath album, ‘The Arrow of Satan is Drawn,’ and Holmes gives a summary of how it progresses from the previous offering, ‘Grand Morbid Funeral.’
“It’s a little bit more varied in the styles. I mean, they’re all under the umbrella of Death Metal, but there’s quite a bit of variation within the styles. There are definitely some Black Metal elements in there on certain tracks, so I think the styles vary a little bit more. I think it’s heavier than the last album, as well. It’s certainly no slouch in the heavy department, hopefully,” he chuckles.
On this album Bloodbath welcome new guitarist Joakim Karlsson, and Holmes ascribes some of the development in sound to him. “There’s definitely, in the songs he wrote, a Black Metal sort of edge to them that’s kind of the newer Black Metal sound that’s out there, because he’s from the band Craft, which is that way inclined. So that’s definitely rubbed off a little bit, I think, particularly on the songs that he wrote. They’re very different for Bloodbath.”
When it comes to the writing process, it can be a bit of a solitary affair in Bloodbath. “The guys, Joakim, Anders and Jonas , they pretty much wrote three songs each, I think. Then I just contributed the lyrics to two of Joakim’s songs and two of Anders’ songs, I think. Everyone tends to write their own songs, stick with their own songs, and there’s no real collaboration apart from what I just mentioned, I just did the lyrics to a couple of songs. It’s kind of a faster way of writing I think, with people doing their own thing, and also it changes the style as well, because everyone has their own style of writing.”
With Holmes needing to contribute vocals to songs written by the other band members, he opens up a little more about how he connects with the material. “You’ve just gotta listen to it and get into what people are thinking, you know? If you’ve got this four-minute song and there’s a lot of different riffs, a lot of different time changes, you’ve gotta listen to it a lot to get where the person’s coming from when they’ve written it. But I also know the guys are very passionate about it and they spend a lot of time writing it, so it’s just a case of getting into the song and understanding how it flows, and the time changes, and then once you’ve done that, then writing lyrics for it or singing it just makes a lot more sense. There’s obviously a hell of lot of singing, so you’ve gotta get used to the time changes in that respect, as well.”
Bloodbath use cloud technology to their advantage, facilitating rapid sharing without having to find time in the studio together. “There’ll be a scratch track of lyrics that the guys will sing how they want it to sound, and then I’ll just do it in my version. If it’s a song I’ve done, I’ll demo it and send it, the file sharing’s kind of done on the fly. We don’t sit on something for ages and then just present it like, ‘Ta-da, here it is!’ Everything’s swapped over as it’s done pretty much, so everyone’s on the same hymn sheet in that respect. So if I try something out, I’ll just instantly send a little clip to say, Anders and say, ‘What do you think of this?’ So everyone’s up to speed with things, you know?”
Bloodbath is a very different beast to Paradise Lost, not least in the vocal style for Holmes, and he reflects on how the two compare for him. “It’s not about expression, it’s just it’s something else. It’s very different to what we do in Paradise Lost, and I enjoy both equally for different reasons. It’s a lot more extreme than PL, it’s just a different element of music. But it’s also something that I was very much into when I was a kid. It’s a music style I was very passionate about as a teenager, if not my early 20s. So I guess there’s a certain element of nostalgia I get from it as well, which is a really nice sort of feeling. PL, it’s a different thing, but they’ve both got a place in my heart, and they both work, so it’s great.”
Following directly on from Akerfeldt’s tenure in Bloodbath, Holmes works to strike a balance between being true to the work of the previous vocalists, and delivering his own style. “The only thing in that respect is I’m obviously incredibly familiar with Mike’s songs that I do love, and some of Peter’s songs. You know, I don’t sing like those guys, so I’ve got my own style of the Death Metal voice. They’re both great singers for sure, it’s just doing their songs justice the best I can with my style, you know? Ultimately I didn’t sing on those songs, so there’s always going to be someone who’s not happy because someone else is singing it, but that’s life, you know?” He gives a wry chuckle. “There’s nothing I can do about that. But I try to represent them live and stay true as much as I can to the versions that they did. I certainly don’t try to re-do them in my way, but it is me singing, not them. It’s as simple as that, really.”
You can hear Holmes’ unique approach for yourself on ‘The Arrow of Satan is Drawn,’ out now via Napalm Records!
GET YOUR HANDS ON BLOODBATH’S ‘THE ARROW OF SATAN IS DRAWN’ HERE!