If you were to label yourself a metalcore fan, by now you’ll definitely have heard of Bad Omens, originating from Richmond, Virginia. You might be reading this, thinking – ‘yeah, obviously I know about them‘, but just a few years ago you mightn’t have.
The metalcore-come-EDMcore outfit introduced themselves around 2015-16 with killer tracks like ‘Exit Wounds‘, and then in 2019 flooded the scene with their Finding God Before God Finds Me LP, later coupled with a Deluxe release that certainly turned some heads, featuring captivating single ‘Limits‘ which hit the streaming radios of many.
Bad Omens have since amassed some big tours, with their font growing in size from poster-to-poster; but more on that Amity Affliction tour debacle reference a little later.
On February 25, 2022, the contemporary metalers released their third studio record The Death Of Peace Of Mind (our review here), featuring singles like the title track ‘The Grey‘, ‘Like A Villain‘ and their two simultaneous, yet juxtaposing singles ‘Artificial Suicide‘ and ‘What do you want from me?‘; but again, more on those last two in a bit.
The story goes (or begins): in 2015, Joakim Karlsson joins Bad Omens, alongside Nicholas Ruffilo. Karlsson shares his many duties of the band with his bandmates in varying nature, namely vocals, guitar and programming; the latter a crucial inclusion given their signature fusion of genres. The 33-year old is Swedish, and as such holds an alternative perspective to his bandmates over the Pacific – a helpful one considering his continent’s historical usage of synth.
A week after Bad Omens‘ record was released on Sumerian Records, I jumped on the phone with Karlsson in the midst of their album launch tour around the U.S. Speaking from the Spokane, Washington leg, Karlsson summarises the past week, all encompassing. “It’s been wonderful, it all feels really great,” he says succinctly.
With the title track as their lead-single, fans felt a piercing stab to the organic evolution from the preceding record in terms of metalcore richness.
Shortly after the title-track was released, they dropped ‘Artificial Suicide‘ and ‘What do you want from me?‘ together. They’re incredibly different and capture the breadth of TDOPOM – this is a band who are almost like a crossover of Bring Me The Horizon x Issues, sonically – just listen to ‘The Grey‘.
“(Laughs), it was done with the thought that we needed to show people that it was going be different.” They wanted to let fans know – “it wasn’t going to be like ‘Limits’ – it’s still heavy, it’s still punchy, but it’s different.”
Karlsson believes ‘TDOPOM‘ gave the people what they wanted, and the rest filled with decent singles too. “We think we picked the right ones, what do you think?” he asks me with friendly and relatable cultural rhetoric.
As I spin ‘Like A Villain‘ later on, pondering his question, I unequivocally think yes, they did pick the right singles – they picked those few to both entice and surprise, but without letting the whole cat out of the bag before release day.
In terms of the release strategy of those two aforementioned singles coming out together, it was an astonishingly unique move. Why? Because, in the streaming era we’re living in, metalcore bands are appearing to release less full-length albums and more singles and EPs to clock up streams and anticipation, but it makes sense, it’s just bl(e)gh-conomics.
On the title-track’s triumph, the multi-instrumentalist shares, “it’s one of those songs that we actually thought was really cool, [especially] as it was very different. Our good friend and songwriter Jesse Cash from the band ERRA helped us with a few riffs for it, and we just wanted to shed some more light on that one.“
On the notion of release strategies, Karlsson doubles down on his confidence in the singles released, as he looks through the telescope of time ahead. “In my opinion, it might get drowned out fifteen albums later, so we just wanted to make sure we shared it. We’re actually playing that one on this tour and it’s been really cool to play live.”
With the supposed abandonment of the metalcore rules, the muse of creativity happens to be nothing in particular, and in fact it becomes apparent that shapeshifting into a sponge was an unofficial approach for the band.
“We had different songwriters and producers in general, new plugins, and we just really like tearing down walls – we don’t care about where it comes from. If it’s a splice sample played and it inspires an idea, we will go with it. I think as far as how our sound’s changed, it’s evolving into something more experimental.”
The Swede assures that they didn’t go too rogue though. “I think it still follows certain structures. I don’t like to get too experimental song-wise (he chuckles). I think what we accomplished in this album is that it’s very production heavy, compared to instrument heavy.“
TDOPOM definitely has moments where tuned-down riffs kick-in with fitting breakdowns, but the focal point is arguably not metallic, and Karlsson acknowledges that. “It has riffs that are really sweet, but I don’t feel like it’s a guitar heavy album, it’s very vocal. A lot of the detail is on vocal production, so you know, it still sounds like Bad Omens but maybe a little bit more modern.”
Of course the record shines a light on the elephant in the room, their tidal of wave of EDM. “I don’t listen to that much music,” Karlsson suggests, in terms of influence, “but I definitely love EDM, and I’ve been making some myself,” he says, speaking about programming like a lavish meal – a rather different notion to that of guitar, bass or drums.
“But I’m a big Avicii fan, and [the record] has some melodies in there that are actually very inspired by his work.” The Bad Omens influence is therefore not too far from home, as the late (and arguably world’s best) DJ also reigned from Sweden.
Remember that sponge analogy? It carried through more of the influence of TDOPOM. “There are fifteen tracks on this album, and (at the start) I wasn’t by any means saying there should be that number,” he says alluding to their blank slate approach.
“We started writing and we knew we had four to five strong tracks, but there were also songwriters working on the side,” and through that process – “you might hear someone say ‘look at this song I wrote, it could be anything, it could be for a side-project’, and then I listen to it and go ‘this is pretty f*cking cool, I can help tweak it into something.’
“Why wouldn’t this be metal?”
This was a question Karlsson would regularly ask himself when samples were shared with him. “They go – ‘yeah, why not?’ So we make it a bit more like this and less like that, and then and then music that was never meant to be a Bad Omens song appears on the album,” and it turns out a few songs turned out that way on the album.
‘IDWT$‘ is one of these tracks – “it’s very 80’s,” and that song isn’t standalone either, just listen to ‘bad decisions‘ and you’ll hear that 80’s influence re-appear.
With such an extreme avant-garde approach to metal, it’s curious when considering other heavy outfits that originated in Richmond, Virginia – you’re probably thinking about Lamb of God, formed in 1994. It’s interesting to compare the pair in terms of heavy music’s generational evolution.
Of course, it’s not much that Karlsson can talk to compared to his bandmates who actually originated from Richmond, Virginia – unlike him.
“I think we’ve played a few festivals with them,” he says with nonchalance. “We’re big fans of them though. Nick, our bass player is a very good guitarist and he will always riff them,’ but there’s a lot of good bands from there too, other metalcore bands that are successful.”
Fair to say, the Swede couldn’t feel farther away from Virginia while talking to me in Washington State, the complete opposite end of the U.S. Bad Omens are in the thick of touring, and doing so in a COVID landscape has become second nature to them.
“We mask up a lot and we’re double vaccinated so we are as protected as we can be, but it just feels absolutely normal,” he tells us matter-of-fact. “We always hang backstage and even if we have guests asking to join us, we have to say ‘sorry we cannot hang’, as we’re not supposed to talk to people, just to be extra safe during these times.”
They’ve been practicing these protocols for a while now. “We did a tour with Ice Nine Kills at the end of last year – it was fantastic, but it’s definitely different, we have to be more cautious now and a little bit more reserved.”
Playing shows has been part of Bad Omens‘ DNA from the get-go, and in the midst of their popularity spurt in 2019, there was a debacle involving a tour where they were meant to support Australia’s very own The Amity Affliction, also supported by Senses Fail.
The ‘Misery Will Find You Tour‘ poster (as pictured above) was not to the band’s satisfaction, so they dropped. However, the band dropped off the lineup on the day the tour was announced and according to Senses Fail it was because Bad Omens‘ logo was too small on the poster, compared to the other bands. They since released a statement about the debacle and released a shirt with their small logo, by way of taking a stance.
Often during times like these, diehard fans will take sides with the artists they’re most loyal to, and many Aussies instinctively favoured Amity in this moment. In terms of the current relationship Bad Omens has with Australia, Karlsson thinks it’s a good one.
“I absolutely have no idea if that debacle made us look bad in Australia (he laughs), but we’ve toured with Polaris in Europe, and I love those guys – such good dudes. It was awesome – and then I saw a few months later, they went home and [played] some really big shows in Australia.
“On that whole [situation], I haven’t felt any bad effects or negatives from Australia at all personally. We would love to come down there and I hope that The Amity Affliction will take some time to check us out,” he giggles one last time.
Interview by Ricky Aarons (@rickysaul90)
The Death Of Peace Of Mind is out now via Sumerian Records, listen here
Bad Omens – THE DEATH OF PEACE OF MIND tracklisting
1. CONCRETE JUNGLE
2. Nowhere To Go
3. Take Me First
4. THE DEATH OF PEACE OF MIND
5. What It Cost
6. Like A Villain
7. bad decisions
8. Just Pretend
9. The Grey
10. Who are you?
11. Somebody else.
13. What do you want from me?
14. ARTIFICIAL SUICIDE
Chip in a buck or two for the WoS crew!
Want to help Wall of Sound grow and deliver more killer content? Support us by chipping in as little as a dollar to help!