Anders Nystrom, better known to many as Blackheim, is the prolific guitarist of death metal overlords Bloodbath, in addition to his duties with one of the pioneering bands of doom metal, Katatonia. With the latest Bloodbath album ‘The Arrow of Satan is Drawn’ having recently been released, Nystrom proves there truly is no rest for the wicked.
Reflecting on the new Bloodbath album, Nystrom considers its relationship with the band’s previous release, ‘Grand Morbid Funeral.’ “It travels on further down the same trail,” he indicates, “but plunges even deeper down the crypts where the sun won’t shine… It’s like a sequel giving you what you’d expect and perhaps a little bit more!”
There’s no doubt that’s true, and Nystrom goes on to shed a little more of that elusive light on his role as a writer on the album. “The chapter of a new album starts with a vision and all of us agreeing on a concept. Once that’s locked in, it’s just about getting the vibe going, gathering inspiration, jamming up riffs and beats, lyric lines, titles, artwork and head into the big puzzle of arrangements. Usually multitasking these bits and pieces is helping the album progress. We always record demos that are used as the template for the studio album. A pre-production, if you will.”
With his work ongoing in parallel bands, Nystrom reflects on the respective natures of Bloodbath and Katatonia. “Well, if Bloodbath would be a horror movie, then Katatonia would perhaps land in the drama genre. Both contain darkness in their own ways, but expressed through different channels and with contrasting attitudes.” Speaking of Katatonia, Bloodbath also share bassist Jonas Renske with the former, where he also serves as frontman. Nystrom offers a glimpse of how the two work together across the two very different bands. “Well, with Bloodbath we more or less come up with our own songs, in a way shorter time and the rules aren’t as strict. We’re having fun! Bloodbath is death metal and we do not seek to become anything else outside of that genre. With Katatonia things are more delicate and ideas have to process longer. It’s actually much harder to write songs for Katatonia. Things are very serious. The creative filter is hard to pass and the bar of expectations is constantly raised. There’s the constant pressure of trying not to repeat yourself, but also a looming concern of losing our trademark sound by experimenting too much for the sake of re-inventing the music.”
As for other band members Nystrom has had the pleasure to work with, he gives a retrospective of the different Bloodbath vocalists throughout the years. “They’re different people and with different personalities and talents, so it would be strange if they acted and worked exactly the same. I think Nick ’ vocals are more like evil snarls rather than traditional growls or screams and that has been his own style that fitted like a glove for the last two albums. Mike was almost inhuman in the way he could reach a very low growl, yet still have such a perfect articulation. I think his best performance was ‘Unblessing the Purity.’ Then perhaps Peter had the widest range of them all, going from low growls to very high-pitched screams even in the same breath! We never got the chance of having Peter playing live with us live, but he sure put his mark on ‘Nightmares Made Flesh.’”
There is also a new member of the band in guitarist Joakim Karlsson. Nystrom puts forward that Karlsson brings to the band, “Strong song writing. He’s really good at what he does with Craft. I think their new album is fucking amazing, so we wanted to stain our death metal with a little bit of that black metal dirt.”
There was plenty more collaboration going on with ‘The Arrow of Satan is Drawn,’ as a number of guests including Jeff Walker(Carcass), John Walker (Cancer) and Karl Willetts (Memoriam, ex-Bolt Thrower) all appeared on the album – but Nystrom never got to physically meet with them during the process. “No, all of it was done quickly and effortlessly through file sharing online, so they weren’t physically with us at our recording studio, although that would have been a very cool experience, undoubtedly considered more of a 90s thing these days though. Our plan was always to have three guests singing one line each on the chorus with Nick closing, nothing more, nothing less, so Nick simply asked two of his old friends that go way back in death metal history together, if they would be up for doing a guest appearance on one of our songs and much to our humble gratitude, they accepted and nailed it!”
It’s been some time since Nystrom last visited Australia with Katatonia, but he remembers it fondly. “All those shows were really intimate and great! Australia has welcomed us very well and I hope we can make a run with Bloodbath down under as well, that’d be so much fun!”
We can hope! And as for what Nystrom is sure to bring with him on tour? “Personally, I couldn’t go on tour without my laptop. Besides clothes and my passport, I have everything I need on that one to make the hours go by.”
While there’s no Australian Bloodbath tour scheduled yet, you can show your appreciation for soul-smashing death metal by checking out ‘The Arrow of Satan is Drawn,’ which is out now via Napalm Records!
GET YOUR HANDS ON BLOODBATH’S ‘THE ARROW OF SATAN IS DRAWN’ HERE!