Danish quintet Baest are schooling a new generation in old school death metal. And they’re not letting a few underground purists hold them back. Rich Holmes caught up with guitarist Svend Karlsson to hear the story behind the band’s new album, Necro Sapiens…and get the lowdown on the band’s rapid rise.

While the new wave of old school death metal is being led by US acts like Frozen Soul, Undeath and Sanguisugabogg, it has European standard bearers too.

And one of the most exciting acts to emerge in recent years is Baest, a band whose mix of Floridian groove and Swedeath rage has propelled them to headline status in their native Denmark – and helped them carve a path into the international scene.

Their debut, 2018’s Danse Macabre laid the groundwork.

Its 2019 follow-up, Venenum, showed the quintet had a firm grasp of death metal dynamics – and the technical skills to back that up.

Necro Sapiens, released this month on Century Media, represents another major step forward.

The Aarhus outfit have sharpened their songcraft and brought more melodic suss to the table on tracks like Genesis.

The hooks are stronger.

But there’s still room for cold, unflinching brutality in the form of Meathook Massacre and Purification Through Mutilation.

“The main thing was to not have too many rules about what was going to end up on the album and what wasn’t,” says guitarist Svend Karlsson, reflecting on Baest’s approach this time out. “The reaction from the fans has been great, everyone is psyched about it.

“There is always the guy that writes the demo was better and I can appreciate him, that’s fine…but I think this one is better!”

Along with their compatriots Undergang – whose third album, Aldrig i livet, dropped last year – Baest are spearheading old school death metal’s resurgence in Denmark. The two bands, Karlsson, says, are bringing more attention to their home scene.

And they’re introducing a younger generation to the sounds of Obituary, Bolt Thrower, Dismember et al.

“In Denmark our fanbase is exploding with younger kids who have never heard any kind of death metal and their parents weren’t into old school death metal, because it’s too small a genre,” says the guitarist.  

“For the first time they were listening to mid-tempo, double bass riffing and they were like, ‘What? I thought death metal was all about blastbeats and speed and laser sweeps’.”

He continues: “Just before the pandemic closed Denmark down we were playing sold out venues and we were the ones bringing younger bands to play sold out shows.

“We were the first rock band in Denmark to sell out our home venue in Aarhus. We are just super lucky to be able to do that.

“The scene in Denmark is great – the venues and the people that work in them are great.

“The underground scene can be a but harsh and we get a lot of shit for not being underground enough or not being ‘true’ enough but I still love the bands and I don’t really care too much!”

It’s testimony to Baest’s instinctive approach to old school death metal that the late, great Lars-Göran Petrov, legendary vocalist with Entombed/Entombed A.D., was a fan.

Rushonrock spoke to Karlsson a few days after Petrov had tragically passed away at the age of just 49, and it was clear that the Dane was deeply affected by his death.

“We toured with Entombed A.D. and Simon (Olsen, Baest vocalist) joined the guys each night for Wolverine Blues – he had a great connection with L.G.,” recalls Karlsson.

“I had some great moments with L.G., everyone did, we had a great friendship with the guys. (His death) is really hard to understand.

“We found out while we were rehearsing. It was horrible.

“He had been true to the scene his whole life. I am happy to see the respect for him: it’s a shame it’s too late.”

What did Karlsson learn from his time touring with Petrov?

“L.G. didn’t look down on any band or persons whatsoever,” he replies. “He made no distinction on genres.

“If it was loud guitars and loud drums and loud vocals he liked it. If it made him happy, he enjoyed it.

“L.G. was like a cheery guy – that’s important.”

The Baest work ethic – and the band’s future

Three albums in just four years…that’s one hell of an achievement for any act.

And Baest’s impressive productivity levels have no doubt helped the Danes build momentum.  

They are certainly putting in the hours…

Karlsson says: “Everyone is staying in the same town and we are still meeting up and rehearsing every Monday and Friday. We are meeting up and sending out all of the merchandise together as well.

“With everyone being tight knit and being part of each other’s everyday lives, we are able to do more than other bands. I play in other bands and the biggest challenge in those bands is to get together and rehearse.

“But in Baest it’s really tight. We keep working hard all of the time and meeting up all the time and I guess that means you can be more effective and you can learn more from each other. For example, in song writing, we know what everyone likes – it’s becoming clearer now that that’s special.”

The pandemic has been a frustrating time for Baest – as it has for every band. Karlsson is busy rescheduling tours, posting out merch and working on streaming projects, and insists the band are “good to go” when the live music scene finally gets the green light.

And work has already begun on Necro Sapiens’ follow-up.

So what will that sound like?

“I think we are going to be more of everything, more of Meathook Massacre-style, super intense death metal and more of Genesis – way more melodic, more like Opeth,” replies Karlsson.

For now, though Necro Sapiens is gnawing its way into the hearts of fans worldwide.

And Baest are proud to be part of old school death metal’s global resurgence.

“I was born in ‘94 and I was discovering death metal in my late teens,” Karlsson concludes.  “I wanted to sound like Those Once Loyal or Clandestine.

“We’re not afraid of revisiting the old stuff. We look back at something that was done before and enjoy it on our own terms.”