Interview with Niklas Sandin: Lik’s “Misanthropic Breed”

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Lik’s Misanthropic Breed is a respectful nod to SweDeath tradition, harnessing the talents of vocalist/guitarist Tomas Åkvik (Nale), guitarist Niklas “Nille” Sandin (Katatonia), drummer Chris Barkensjö (Witchery), and bassist Joakim “Myre” Antman (Diatonic, Overtorture, The Ugly).

The album, released September 25th, 2020 via Metal Blade, begins with an overture of primal screams followed by Åkvik’s growls in “The Weird”, gathering all the fury necessary for its feverish pace. “Funeral Anthem”, one of the chosen singles, features some Misanthropic Breed‘s more melodic riffs of , and “Female Fatal to the Flesh” is a welcome addition, its title reminiscent of a Morbid Angel album and its 4:36 duration full of intense groovy, doom-inspired riffs that slow down the pace precisely when it’s needed.

Close your eyes for the remainder of Misanthropic Breed and you’ll imagine a venue in 1990’s Stockholm, lights dim and mosh pit churning- an appreciated transport from current times, in which live music has ground to a halt. “Faces of Death” is another highlight, its guitar solo and satisfying harsh vocals ready to quench any listener’s thirst for both rage and death metal nostalgia. Dismember’s Matti Kärki even appears on the album’s bonus track, “Revel in Gore”, which was originally released on Lik’s 2019 Sthlm Death Metal EP.

Three full-length albums in, Lik have truly hit their stride; they don’t stray far from their prior releases, but thoughtfully continue to their mission to pull an aging but revered stripe of death metal into the present day.

In an interview with Metal Solstice, Sandin described the feeling of performing Lik’s unrelenting live set, and explained how the band marry their own musical elements with the traditional sounds of SweDeath during the composition process.

Misanthropic Breed album cover. Art by Mark Riddick.

Metal Solstice: Lik’s music isn’t subtle! Tell me about the feeling of performing this in-your-face, gritty death metal, as well as the atmosphere at your live shows (remember those?) especially in contrast to performing with Katatonia.

Niklas Sandin: It sure isn’t, since it is very straight forward and on the point death metal. No frills or candy coating. Just the way I like it. It’s quite different than performing with Katatonia. It’s less dynamic, meaning that it´s always in a high gear and it makes me not just gain happy memories, it also makes me lose weight. Which is of course just a joke, but it can feel like a workout up there. Especially in tight and hot venues.

MS: Lik’s sound and imagery evoke some “golden era” of Swedish death metal, and you’ve cited the likes of Dismember, Edge of Sanity, and Entombed as influences. Have members of those bands come to see Lik play live, or offered their thoughts on your music?

Sandin: We’re friends with the Dismember guys, and they only had good things to say about how we carry the torch forward for death metal á la Stockholm. We even have Matti Kärki on one song. The “Revel in Gore” tune that we recorded for the Sthlm Death Metal EP. It was a very humbling experience, and he was just as cool as I hoped he would be. And kind as he is, he also accepted to be in the music video. An experience which turned out just as a fun.

MS: When approaching songwriting, what is the recipe for balancing the band’s own new ideas and riffs within the boundaries of a time-honored style of metal? Which songs on Misanthropic Breed contain the most of your personal input?

Sandin: That’s a good question! The main songwriters in the band are Tomas and Chris. Me and Antman come in later with input regarding song structure and arrangements. At least this was the recipe for the latest album. On earlier ones I’ve contributed with more hard material. But on the next I hope I can spit out more of my own stuff. And I think the main recipe of writing these songs is to not overthink it. Just go with what sounds really good and speaks to you as a death metal lover. But maybe discard those riffs who sounds too influenced, hehe.

Lik, 2020. Photo provided by Metal Blade Records.

MS: Seems like Lik has really found a home at Metal Blade. Since touring is not a near-term activity, are you already spending time on material for future releases?

Sandin: We really have found a warm and sweet home at Metal Blade records. No one could be happier that we ended up under their roof. There’s lots of good vibes between the label and the band. Since it´s primarily not about making money for them, they’re equally as much fans of metal as we are. So that makes a huge difference when keeping things legit and authentic. We’re very much on the same page when coming with ideas and future plans. And since there´s no touring going on, we’re a bit at a standstill because of that. But there’s still activity in the camp. But only the future will hold what that will be!

MS: What are some challenges that arose during 2020 that you learned from, or perhaps made you stronger as a band?

Sandin: Trying to stay positive and go forward, even though all the plans you’ve worked for get cancelled. We are a band that very much love to be on the road. Something that’s highly fulfilling on all kind of levels. So when that was taken away from us, just before recording a new album that we wanted to promote, was devastating. But one just has to look at the bright side of things and march on!

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