Riding a wave of praise from the Norwegian media Ondt Blod (which translates to Evil Blood) are launching their fusion of Satanic metal and feel-good punk rock upon the unsuspecting British public.
This exciting, unique sound, which they term, somewhat oxymoronically, as “catchy death music,” sees heavy metal verses counteracted by catchy punky choruses, with massive riffs aplenty.
Hailing from Kirkenes, a small town in the far northeastern reaches of Norway some 2,500 kilometres from Oslo, the quintet of Aslak Heika Hætta Bjørn (vocals), Alexander Våga Mortensen and John Nilsen (guitars), Kristoffer Joel Høe (bass) and Håvard Rushfeldt (drums) didn’t come together until they all moved to Tromsø for university.
As Aslak tells us: “Moving to a city with a vibrant underground music scene really lit a spark of wanting to do more music. I was seeing all of these great hardcore bands perform every weekend thinking to myself ‘I could do this… only better.’ We found our Kristoffer in the hallways of the law faculty at the University of Tromsø, completing the five-man death squad that is Ondt Blod.”
They may come from seriously cold parts of Scandinavia but they’re certainly bringing some heat with their sound. Frontman Aslak tells us: “Ondt Blod has been hailed as the pride of the north in the Norwegian press, and been compared to having injected five litres of coffee, two Underberg and a litre of Tequila in your body. Britain should prepare for a hard-hitting, catchy punk rock powertrip.”
Ondt Blod deliver an intriguing combination of punk rock and metal with big poppy choruses, largely inspired by fellow Scandinavian hardcore acts Kvelertak and Blood Command and bands that fuse aggression and grooves like Gallows and Modern Life Is War. As Aslak coins it: “The beautiful lovechild of the two extremes of Scandinavian music; hardcore and metal on one hand, and clever pop music on the other. Black Sabbath and Refused meets Abba and Max Martin.”
The latest proof of this is second album Natur, released last month, which offers a ‘political confrontation’ to listeners and is heavily fuelled by their Sami (the indigenous people of Scandinavia) roots. Aslak explains: “Natur is a Sami call to arms against the still ongoing assimilation and oppression of the Sami people, and colonisation of the North; against the loss of land, language and pride.
“Musically, the album is the Ondt Blod sound turned up to 11. We’ve always dabbled in satanic verses, before unleashing a cathartic poppy chorus. On this record, we’ve gone as far as we could in both directions, both giving more room for hard, punishing metal, before going far into the domains of both Beach Boys and Roxette. Schizophrenic, but always balanced and clever.”
Perhaps the best example of this is Start Han Opp (He Starts Up), the third track on Natur, which opens up with a big chugging guitar riff then drops into screamed vocals through the opening verse. A stabby guitar riff kicks in underneath then feeds into a singalong punky chorus, then the heavier guitar chords return and feed into lone screamed vocals, really cool driving guitars then another singalong chorus. That’s followed by a big chuggy guitar breakdown followed by huge screamed vocals, then a final punky chorus.
It’s followed by the also awesome Unge Kniva, which is a little more laid-back but also fuses big riffs and screamed vocals with a really catchy chorus, followed a big punky fast-paced guitar solo. While the following Med Ulver (With Wolves) opens up with an awesome low-tuned guitar riff, then female vocals lead into a catchy, fast-paced singalong punk rock chorus.
The album signs out in a dark manner, firstly with the awesome low-tuned driving guitar riffs supporting screamed vocals in the opening verse of Giftige Tunga (Toxic Heavy), then fast-paced higher guitars through a laid-back chorus. Then final track Giron, by far the longest on the album at 5:20 long, opens up with a cool driving riff then big screamed vocals supported by just a plodding bass line. There’s a pause after a couple of minutes, then repeated chants are soon joined by backing instruments to gradually build the atmosphere. That eventually explodes into huge screamed vocals, then calm vocals through a chorus that ends on huge driving drums that brings bring the album to a big conclusion.
Ondt Blod’s lyrics are equally inspired by their homeland. Aslak tells us: “As with the politics, most of our lyrics are influenced by the north. We’ve always branded ourselves as a band from Finnmark, the northern most county of Norway, and our identity as northerners has always been important to us. A lot of our lyrics are about growing up and growing out of Kirkenes in Finnmark, a small town in industrial decline; about spending most of our lives living for the weekend, and about moving from Finnmark and from your friends.
We’ve met a few Norwegian bands previously, but thus far they’ve all sung in English, which Aslak tells us they were always keen to stay away from. He said: “Starting up Ondt Blod, I never considered singing in English. In Norway, singing in our own language gives an immediate connection between the listener and both the message and sound of the music. The fact that the lyrics are in the listener’s first language makes it harder to get away with clichés, which challenges me to write better lyrics.
“Obviously, some of the immediate lyrical impact is lost in translation when exporting this bad boy abroad. Even still, we have gotten overwhelmingly positive feedback from both the UK and Germany. The nerve and the energy of the music is also such an important part of punk and hardcore, meaning that if you bring raw force to the table, foreign listeners might get a kick of the music, even if they don’t understand the words.”
Aslak’s absolutely right, you don’t have to have a clue what he’s singing / shouting about to love the fantastic sound of Ondt Blod.
The band are currently taking Natur on the road all the way across Norway, then to Denmark in May and Germany in June and July supporting Therapy? and Helmet, followed by a festival run at home then back to Germany, Austria and the Benelux in the autumn. More info on all their upcoming gigs is here.