Look, I love Blood Red Throne, yeah… I could waffle on here for a spell, admit that I probably say their name at least once a day; I could add some witty reportage here or there, give you an entire history lesson on these Norwegian behemoths who give hard work a new name. But no, I’ll just give you the facts. Blood Red Throne is a death metal band from Norway. They have released their tenth album – which quite frankly has set the benchmark for death metal. Fuck you, I said it, not taking it back. Imperial Congregation was made for the mosh pit, and… Ok, I’m waffling. Here is Freddy Bolsø, drummer for Blood Red Throne, for Sentinel Daily.
The latest release – the first on Nuclear Blast; Imperial Congregation – I might be a bit biased but this is my favourite release of 2021, I could go on for hours, but I’ll leave that for the review. When undertaking a new project – what comes first in piecing together a Blood Red Throne album? Take us through the Wizardry… “It’s really simple actually – and I guess YOU know a bit of the Blood Red Throne history, so the only two original guys left are Død (Daniel Olaisen, guitars) and me…. The two old motherfuckers. I don’t play guitar – I play three chords. I’m a drummer. Død is the one working on riffs and pulling them together- sometimes we don’t hear anything from him, maybe an email ‘I’m writing the most headbanging song ever, right now!’ Then it’s quiet for a month or so and then suddenly, full songs appear in our inboxes. Before you can say fart – we are in the making of an album – but it’s different every time. After I rejoined the band in 2013, we recorded…. Union of uh, what’s it called again? [Laughs] UNION OF FLESH AND MACHINE Freddy! “So I drove down to Kristiansand to record the drums with Daniel down there. For Fit to Kill – drums here with me and guitars and bass always recorded at Daniel’s place. It is confusing, I live in Kristiansund and the rest of the band live in Kristiansand… To record Metal – well, or at least the way we record it – being where we are in the country. It’s the backwards way of recording – a straight rock band or Blues band – you start with the drums and bass. Blood Red Throne begins with the bass and the guitars, then drums are added and vocals are last. So I didn’t know how the vocals were sounding before everything was done. I’m really happy about this album. It sounds brutal”.
It’s the most polished album I think the band have ever done, it’s so expansive, the tracks are unpredictable – where the tracks go is unpredictable. It’s just a melting pot. “I’m really glad to hear that because personally I was this old dude who was a bit skeptical to the modern sounding aspect of metal today – there’s not many albums I like that are modern sounding. Everything is so clean…. It just sounds like cardboard boxes. However, when I heard the album… I LIKED IT A LOT!”. Discussing the final result and how pristine it is, it is such a robust album – what were the fundamentals for the latest album’s sound, what did you want to capture? “When reviewers talk about Blood Red Throne, they always say the same; ‘So, you know, this is Blood Red Throne, they do this – and they ONLY do this’ and that’s partially true – but for us, every album has some variation; either pace, speed, intensity – low intensity. So it’s all about making everything sound right. So, is there something common here, is there a foundation (shrugs)… for me Imperial Congregation is the most complete album, when you think of the song writing aspect”.
Collectively, as a band where do you like to take risks? And what risks did you take with Imperial Congregation? “Collectively? Just doing this album and making it sound the way it does. We had discussions about it, and Daniel pushed the discussion ‘Is this Blood Red Throne?’ ‘Is this too far out for us?’ ‘Can we do this?’. I don’t think Blood Red Throne will ever be a band who experiments a lot – it’s just about the band evolving in some or another direction. If we managed to stay together as a band with this line up – it goes where it has to go”.
Ten tracks make up this jaw dropping album – how many were you working with or striving for – how did you arrive at your final track listing? “What I do remember is that I can’t remember more than ten songs being recorded – tenth album, ten songs is how we saw it. We were so happy with the outcome of those ten songs because we didn’t have to search or try and make a song in a hurry, and that’s rare! You usually have anywhere between five – fifteen extra songs, just shake the goodie bag and see what falls out”. What is also very rare is coming across an album where you can listen to it from start to finish – no track jumping. This album is a no track jumping album. Every song has a life of its own – are you all currently in the planning stages of testing the tracks live? “Yes, thanks for that – it will be exciting for us to play the new tracks live – when you promote an album it’s sometimes been a year or longer since you recorded, so you have to relearn the songs ‘Wow, what do I do here?’ ‘Can I do this, can I do this?’, ‘That song is too hard, whose idea was that’’ [Laughs]
As a drummer, you say you’re not particularly fond of modern metal – what has been your inspiration as a musician throughout your career and what led you down this path initially? “From the start – I grew up in a home where my dad was a total Rolling Stones freak and at school, I had some friends who liked this band Kiss… I’m still there, you know. From there it was Venom, Anthrax, Metallica, Slayer but you know I was also caught in the grunge era. I was in my twenties during that time – Soundgarden especially; Alice In Chains. There was a short affair with Silverchair, about this short: ‘Have you heard this band, Silverchair? ‘No!’ ‘Let’s listen to it!’ ‘Ok!’ ‘Wait, where did Silverchair go?” [Laughs]
It happened to me and I’m sure a lot of other fans of heavy metal – the more the listen, the harder you go, the harder sound you look for, you crave for and then you finally arrive at the genre that you like and you plateau there for a while – so, you reached death metal and thought, yeah this is my jam, this is where I’ll stay, this is where I’m comfortable? “Yes and no, because I don’t really like every death metal band either, but when I’m listening to metal – it’s Blood Red Throne who are making the kind of death metal I want to listen to – with that I’ll listen to Suffocation, Cannibal Corpse, Deicide, Decapitated, some Vader – Brutal Truth, Bolt Thrower – all these old bands actually. The new bands – I don’t remember their names [Laughs] shit loads of bands pop up everywhere. As you said though – when you start listening to hard music, it gets harder and harder and harder and that’s what happened to me – I started listening to pure noise for a second there – like, the worse sounding the better. Like Complete Chaos – one of my all time favourite bands because of the chaos! It’s rewarding to play death metal – the way we play, because death metal, extreme metal goes faster and faster and soon the drums will go so fast we’ll hit four hundred and forty hertz – that’s next level! I play all styles of music, I love every style, but, to pound out death metal together with my boys, it’s so rewarding. Playing a gig, it’s forty minutes of pure exhaustion, but afterwards, it’s such an accomplishment. You should come to the next gig we play in Canberra [Laughs]. I have followed the band for over fifteen years now – and I have been screaming to get you guys to get to Australia and I know that it has been a long dream for the band. With the singing with Nuclear Blast – is it more of a reality now do you feel? “I hope so – I talked about being sceptical to the modern sounding music – I have also been in the music business for so long that I am SUPER SCEPTICAL to the whole music business shit. I’ve been with bands and played with artists where the business has just destroyed the bands and the artists, I’m weary of big record labels. In saying that – the album has been out for six days – there isn’t a lot of shit to read, it’s all been positive. So we can only hope that sooner or later, the opportunity to get to Australia presents itself”. You’ve made it to the other side of the world in six days…. Not bad. “That’s cool”.
After chatting about the grandeur of Johnny Farnham, The Amenta and the ‘tiny’ island of Tasmania for a spell…. We progress.
Let’s fuel your scepticism eh – you guys have jumped into bed with one of the biggest metal labels out there – and obviously Blood Red Throne has not been an overnight success by any stretch; what sealed the deal to have the band onboard with Nuclear Blast? “Ehhhh, you are aware you are interviewing the drummer? [Laughs] One of my first experiences with heavy metal was buying CDs and seeing this little label down in the bottom corner of every CD in the world; Nuclear fucking Blast, you know. So, the Nuclear Blast logo on its own is like a magnet, you want to be there. The band has been chasing Nuclear Blast for years and years. I’m excited to see what will happen – how wider this will go; their arms are long”.
What qualities does one need to possess to be a successful member of this band? … Like, if I were to join the band tomorrow – what characteristics do I need to have? “…. What do you play then?” I play the violin, very poorly (long pause) “…… No……” [Laughs] “Look, as many may have discovered, this band likes a good party, so to be a sober dude or dudette; I don’t think you’re going to have a good time with us” [Laughs] “When we’re on tour – we’re having fun – you must like to have some fun – in saying that, you need to be in shape; both physically and mentally – it’s death metal, it’s no luxury ride – it’s kind of dirty”. I feel I could slip into Blood Red Throne quite easily…. I could get the coffee “You could be our tour manager when we come to Australia” [Laughs]. Look, as phenomenal as that would be Freddy – I’ll leave that to the professionals. Totally up for grabbing coffee though.
How and where, more importantly do you feel the music of Blood Red Throne has evolved since, say Affiliated with the Suffering (2003) or 2005’s Altered Genesis – the band has become more refined, musicians honing their craft – where do you feel this has been more prominent? “Welp…. Ok, so this is how I see it – we have a formula here, Daniel being the main songwriter and he gets older and more mature and because of that he writes his songs and riffs differently. But almost every record has a new or different band member on it and different periods of time – it has to change but Blood Red Throne hasn’t changed too much. In saying this – I wouldn’t call any death metal album mature – but I can definitely hear big differences from the first three albums to the current album. Twenty Three years…. Some things happened….” [Laughs] 1998 to 2021, that’s a lot of years. Ten albums and now we’re on Nuclear Blast”. And hats off to the band, the tenacity and appetite you have all shown. It has been a long bloody time, and not an easy time climbing this mountain. What has been the frontrunner aiding to the band’s longevity? I mean Død is like a dog with a bone – however, from your perspective? “I think it’s the same answer for every musician, the eagerness to go out and play, to play live, to play your music in front of fans – to better yourself, your performance – replicate it, play it harder, play it better! ….. To conquer! [Laughs] …it’s too early in the day for that. We love to play and if I don’t play, I get to be this angry, grumpy guy, like (literally barks like a rabid dog) it’s a lifestyle, you just have to do it. An addiction. So for the last two years, it has been challenging, but you have to do what you can, get what you can out of it, we have remained productive and positive in a way”.
Lockdown has worked in your favour – fans have gotten a new album out of it – so 2022, throw them at me, what are the tour plans? “There are a lot of plans laying on the table, nothing of which I can talk about of course. Put it this way, 2022 will be a lot of touring” [Laughs] and look – we’ll see you in Australia – we will…. Fuck off all those snakes and spiders though”.
Imperial Congregation is out now.