Four-on-the-floor recordings are rapidly going the way of the dinosaur. Thanks to advancements in technology and the preponderance of ultra-clean production jobs, bands no longer have to stand next to each other while recording. However, the loose and vibrant feel that such recordings create are tailor-made for the grindcore scene, which is exactly what Norway's Beaten to Death did for their startling Xes and Strokes (Mas-Kina Recordings) debut. Not only does the album have the razed and brashness of classic grindcore, it also doles out spurts of melodic and atmosphere, almost as if to prove there's more tinkering to be done with the style's formula. Blistering is definitely on board with this, for tracks like "A Soulless Alarm" and "A Word to the Wise" split the defintion of what grind can be in this era.
With current members of Norwegian underground champs She Said Destroy and Tsjuder in the ranks, Beaten to Death (or "B2D") is a side-project that could turn into a main priority if the band allows, but as we learned by chatting with guitarist Tommy Hjelm, the Nords are simply about having fun at this stage. Good enough reason for us...
Blistering.com: “Melodic grindcore” isn’t a term we hear very often. What prompted Beaten to Death to go this route?
Tommy Hjelm: I guess not. We are all suckers for a good melody and still want things to go fast. Why not combine it?
Blistering.com: Some of the members play in other bands, some of which are quite busy. Does that make the time you get together for Beaten to Death all the important and better yet, fun?
Hjelm: We're not too busy to get together and grind. Although B2D is more or less a side project, it's always fun to hook up and play. It's a great release to just go all in for once, and not tinker with minute details, like we do with the other bands.
Blistering.com: What ultimately brought the band together?
Hjelm: Martin [Rygge] and I have a bunch of projects together, B2D is only one of them. I guess the band emerged after Pig Destroyer released Prowler [In the Yard] which blew me away. We made some demos and stuff back in 2006 with Chris [Svendsen, drums] and Mika [Martinussen] but buried the idea until last year. I can't remember why we decided to revive it, but with the addition of Anders [Bakke] on vocals, it suddenly clicked. It sounded right, and we decided to just go for it.
Blistering.com: Do you think that because everyone comes from different backgrounds, it helped you develop your identity quicker?
Hjelm: We definitely allow for more personal touch than in any other bands that I do. I think that the secret of our "success" is that we don't take things to seriously and encourage any stupid idea. It's probably crap, but possibly gold.
Blistering.com: The new album sounds fantastic and very lively. It feels like you recorded it with everyone standing in a room together. What was the recording process like?
Hjelm: That's exactly what we did! We recorded everything live. As soon as Chris had a good take, we did a quick survey. If everyone gave their respective thumbs up, it was a wrap. Vocals were done the following week. I'm proud to say that we haven't edited ANYTHING, no quantizing, no post fix-ups. All the errors and fuck-ups are genuine. Contemporary metal has put focus too much on tightness and too little on soul. We do our bit to remedy that.
Blistering.com: What does the title, Xes and Strokes represent?
Hjelm: Haha, this is embarrassing. It's a literal translation of the working title "xer og streker." The last riff has a sequence of repeating rhythms. I wrote it down on paper as xes and strokes ---xx--xxx--x-x-xx--x-x----xx--x so that the other guys could "read" it. I guess Anders found some other meaning to it. It sounds cool, don't you think?
Blistering.com: What’s the secret to writing a good grind song? The cool thing about Xes and Strokes is that it’s so fast, but memorable. You must have some kind of tricks up your sleeve…
Hjelm: If you start analyzing our music, I guess you'll find that most songs have a pop approach to them. Verses, choruses and bridges. We also have a barrage of different music in our music collection, and we are not afraid to try out "really stupid" ideas. There isn't a grindcore scene in Norway, so we are alone, and don't have any other bands to compare with. God knows I want nothing to do with the nonsense grind stuff out there. I think there's a place for serious grindcore also. Take the music seriously, and the listener will appreciate it.
Blistering.com: “Cat Olympics” is quite the funny title…care to explain what the song is about?
Hjelm: Ouch, another translation of a moronic working title. Working titles are fun; we always try to outdo each other with stupid titles. They sound particularly stupid in Norwegian. Anders has made lyrics for the song, so again, there is probably a meaning there.
Blistering.com: Grindcore is known for its humor, so is it safe to say to B2D is a humorous bunch?
Hjelm: Of course. But that's a basic element in any band I play in. If you don't have fun playing in a band, do the world a favor and quit. I know of a few bands that should have done that years ago. That said, I think grindcore bands do themselves a disfavor with all the so-called "humor." Much of it is quite pathetic. In the end the listener will pick up on that, and won't give the band the credit they might deserve. It' s like the genre is telling the world "we know we're pathetic.” That's not what Napalm Death told me!
Blistering.com: With everyone in the band having other priorities, how often does Beaten to Death get together? Better yet, will you make it more of a priority now that the album is getting such good reception?
Hjelm: We try to focus on set goals. If we have a show, we hook up for a couple of rehearsals beforehand. It's been really fun to see all the good reviews, and we've also noticed that the shows have gone down real well. It's weird to realize that there is crossover potential for something as extreme as this. We are definitely up for touring, but right now we don't have a management or booking agency, and busy as we are, we just don't have the time to do it ourselves.
Blistering.com: Finally, what’s on the agenda for 2012?
Hjelm: We are writing songs. The plan is to hit the studio (aka the rehearsal room) in April and record album number # 2. Then we'll take it as it comes.