BAEST – Leading The Next Wave Of Danish Heavy Metal
March 17, 2021, a month ago
Fast rising Danish death metal outfit Baest are leading the charge for the new breed of pulverizing and intense metal acts from their home country. Serving up a potent mix of old school death metal with a new school attitude of pushing forward and taking not a single fucking prisoner, Baest unearthed their eagerly awaited third full length album, Necro Sapiens, through Century Media on March 5th.
BraveWords caught up with frenzied frontman Simon Olsen for a crash-course on the new wave of Danish metal, the group’s outside-the-box connection to their fans, concept albums that go beyond the call of duty and much more!
BraveWords: Fans and industry insiders both are incredibly excited for the release of Necro Sapiens. Obviously no one plans for an album release during a global pandemic, but it's a fantastic reason to get excited during a time with few silver-linings. What’s the feeling in the Baest camp surrounding the release?
Simon: “Well, first of all, we're pretty confident about putting out the album. Of course the plan was that the world would open up at times now. (We were going) on a national tour, which is obviously not happening, and then next month we would be on a European tour promoting the album, which also is not going to happen. So of course it's a bit confusing, but you have to adapt to the situation and the circumstances right now. We still keep in touch with the audience and try to do some activities around that … Nobody knows what is going to happen afterwards, but we definitely have a plan B. Most of the tours that we had in the plans and schedule are being moved. We have to keep optimistic. We still feel very comfortable and the people are still listening to music at home. Maybe that's a chance to make an effort and try to communicate something about that, listen to our music, dig into the album. What do you see? And then how do you feel about listening to the album? We are confident and mostly positive, but of course we wanted to go on tour. We're a live band and we enjoy playing live. But yeah, we have to adapt to the circumstances and there's obviously nothing we can do about it.”
BraveWords: One thing I’ve always admired with Baest is your ability to think outside the box with marketing and connecting with your fan-base. From rum to underwear and fan clubs, you’re definitely going above and beyond.
Simon: “It's definitely a way to keep your fans active. And I also think it's kind of a mechanism for us because we don't want to just sit on our hands and do nothing. We feel that Baest and the band is pretty much also in some way carried with the fans. If you don't do anything, if you're not visible … I also think that you can maybe lose some of these fans or lose interest. That's kind of like the anxiety that's always above your head. What if people lose interest? And if you lose interest, you lose fans. And if you lose fans, you lose meaningfulness. Then what is the point of having a band then? Of course making music, but we've reached the stage that it's not only one way communication, it's also about the fans. So I definitely think it's an important thing, to maintain that contact and activity in the fan base.
“We have a Facebook fan group where we post interviews like this and different sorts of offers and bundles. We made like a sneak peek premiere on the new single, the new music video so fans could watch it before it was actually out and stuff like that. It kind of creates an echo chamber, all the activity. It's a way of fans making their own activities as well. Of course we want to make activities, but it has a further, bigger impact if you put it into the fan group and make it like, fucking explode.”
BraveWords: There have been comparisons drawn to Baest and old-school death metal greats like Entombed and Morbid Angel. How have you guys strived to honour those heroes of death metal while also forging your own path?
Simon: “First of all I think we had ourselves as a group that we looked at, because it is easy to do. We were kind like in our 20s, 30s, young people. And we're going to like, OK, what do we think is cool? And then we recognized that some of the old school fans that listen to a lot of like ‘90s death metal had a kind of retrospective happiness about the band and the sound. ‘You sound kind of like a mixture of Bloodbath and the old bands that we liked, like Illdisposed in the ‘90s. Yeah, it's so fucking cool!’ But we also seem to have, after a while and gaining some sort of success, caught on to some amount of young fans. Yeah, definitely important to maintain an audience that is young because young people are the prime fucking listeners. Those that might take the music throughout their lives and create meaning in the society around them and in themselves as well. So I believe that having that young audience and appealing to the younger audience as broad as possible can also make our music go as broad as possible.
“We don't want to be a parody. It's a destructible word, I would rather say we are inspired by (death metal legends). And I also think the new album is a more mature album because we worked a lot with our own sound and tried to put out that range and similarities, we try to put them more aside. The HM-2 guitar tone we've put a bit more back in the soundscape to create more room for a more airy and melodic theme. And I think that's a sign of us trying to experiment with our own sound. I definitely think the new album is the most Baest sounding album. I definitely think we've spent more time focusing on the new sound, on new kind of atmospheres as well. A track like ‘Czar’, which is kind of more dragging and in terms of form it's much more fluid and liquidy. We're trying to experiment a lot more with the atmosphere in the music other than hooks and stuff like that. Trying to to seek areas that obviously are not in the perspective of the more traditional sound of trying to make metal. But we also have a straight up old school death metal vibe too. We're an old school death metal band and we love that sound. So I think we're trying to experiment with the middle way of that, trying to find some things. But I think after this album we'll not stop just trying to experiment. I think we're still trying to evolve into something. Wherever it goes, man.”
BraveWords: Necro Sapiens is arguably your most complete and cohesive record yet. It truly feels like you’ve found that sweet-spot, that mixture of old school meets new. For all hands, did it feel during this process that you’ve truly found your rhythm?
Simon: “Yeah! We pretty much went into the rehearsal room and rehearsed the songs and tried to make forms and stuff like that. We were confident that this is something quite new and something more progressive than the other things that we did on album one and two too. But I also think it's a natural evolution. In terms of how we recorded the album, we wanted to take the live dynamics and energy into the album from the rehearsal room as well as we played it there. A good sign is when we have a laugh. When you straight up play a riff which is so fucking awesome that it makes you laugh in the middle of it all. That's when you know that we're going to take this into the studio man, and just play it as it is. We've recorded most of the album live, actually, all the instruments playing together. When we were done with one particular track we went out and usually got shit drunk and listened to the music, with all its aspects as well. It's much more kickass than going in, putting a layer on. Now you have to listen to drums, now you have to listen to guitars. Why not listen to it all together? And I also think that has a lot to do with us getting confident and digging the new kind of old school sound on the new album.”
BraveWords: Producing the type of metal that Baest has become known for certainly carries a kind of pressure to maintain that level of heaviness and intensity. Is there a conscious effort that you guys have to continually up the aggression?
Simon: “I still think we will maintain a brand of grooviness and heaviness all of the time, and that's also what makes us laugh. I've only seen a few (comments) that were like, oh that's a bit changed in the sound, the HM-2 is not as defined, but then they're like but something else is defined. We kind of dig that, that's fucking awesome, you know? And so we will always maintain (the heaviness) and I think we see ourselves in the light of our fans as well. Like we like heaviness. We like blast beat stuff and the grooviness that they like as well. So I don't think that people should be worried about us trying to experiment with this new kind of sound, because we still have heaviness. We still love playing with ultra-heaviness. So don't be scared that we'll turn into some kind of core clean band with clean singing or something like that. We're still a death metal band.”
BraveWords: I think back to your collaboration Venenum Inferno surrounding the Venenum album, and I just think that’s a perfect complement to the record. Can you take me through those kinds of ideas, and how you add that little something extra to your album cycles?
Simon: “First of all, we are a band that for three albums we've released we have worked a lot with concepts and concept albums. And even though we tried to work around this album being a concept album, it turned out to be anyway. When you create a concept album, there's themes and subjects. You also start trying to say OK, how can you actually brand and market? It's not the only thing, of course, but how can you also twist and turn this kind of concept and the lyrical conceptuality into something else and into something more interesting? You might actually hit a fan segment, which is completely away from all this death metal mythology, but into something of a kind of new world.
“Plus we have a good relationship with a British author who has lived here in our hometown. We met him a lot of times and he's a close friend of ours called Richard Galbraith. He has written a lot of sci-fi literature, and we asked him if he was interested in writing a kind of short story based upon the lyrics of the album and the concept of Dante's Inferno, which Venenum was a part of. And he was quite fond of that. Mostly Svend did a lot of work and the ideas with it. We have a big cultural segment in Denmark which is kind of fond of books and literature as well ... It creates kind of like a bigger segment of interest for maybe the music, but also the concept all in all and us as artists as well. And it's a way of communicating your art. We also like doing collaborations. I know that there is something in the kettle as well for the new album here with the same author as well. I can't say so much about it. It's not going to be like a short story. We don't know yet. It's still on the drawing board. It's still Svend who is getting these ideas about it. I think it's going to turn out quite cool.”
BraveWords: Denmark’s heavy metal scene has often been criminally overlooked given its closeness to hotspots like Norway and Sweden. What’s your take on the Danish metal community in 2021? It feels like there are so many hungry new artists popping up in recent years.
Simon: “First of all Denmark has been, very much, in the shadows of Norway and Sweden, but there have still been a lot of great bands with ambitions. I think right now there is a growing generation that are very, very ambitious and willing to do the work behind the business part of being a band and a death metal band. I don't think a lot of bands recognized what they had to do at that time and therefore didn't get as much success over the years, but I definitely think there are eyes right now on the metal scene in Denmark.
“There are quite some interesting bands right now. Møl on the shoegaze scene, they've signed with Nuclear Blast. There's a deathcore band Cabal … There's a new band called Iotunn signed on Metal Blade, a kind of cool progressive metal act. There is Demon Head which is also signed on to Metal Blade, a kind of more black rock inspired act. You see all those kinds of acts and the new generation is blossoming right now. I think they are ready to find out what to do business wise, but also have the right ambitions to go abroad as well. The old bands, I think they were ambitious enough, but in terms of the changes that happened on the music market at that time, it was quite confusing. What and how to tackle these business models? So I think we're a part of a Danish metal generation which is very ambitious, very talented, very hard working and willing to do the hard work.”
BraveWords: With the downtime for so many artists during the pandemic we’re seeing more and more new material being released. It’s most certainly an angst filled time that perfectly fuels something like death metal. With Necro Sapiens about to hit the waves, how soon would you guys like to get back to work? All your albums have had a fairly quick turnaround.
Simon: “Yeah, I'm not that concerned because the creative energy is high in this band and ain't going to stop right now. And I already know that we are in the progress of trying to create new music as well. We have some riffs on the drawing board. I think it's a matter of being optimistic in these times ... I'm not sure about festivals this summer, to be honest. I don't think it's going to happen. But let's look and see. I think people are getting ready for what is going to happen after when we're going to open up and when we open up I think there's so much energy from fans and from people who are eager to come and watch concerts. So I don't think we'll lose anything on that, and I don't think anyone will lose any kind of interest from any fans. The fans are still there and they're so eager to come out and watch a concert at this point. It's just a matter of time and it's just a matter of how the government's playing it out. Now you have to make plans, step plans, that this is the time when we are going to open the most up and make something that people can actually strive for. I'm looking forward to that. I'm going to watch those shows. I'm going to drink beer. I'm going to spend time with my friends and look at some fucking awesome music. I'm not concerned at all. It's going to be fine. Just have to wait.”