Drummer Martin "Axe" Axenrot's refusal to get vaccinated against COVID-19 led to his exit from Swedish progressive metallers OPETH, one of his bandmates has told BLABBERMOUTH.NET. THERION drummer Sami Karppinen has replaced Axenrot for OPETH's current live dates. Axenrot is also a member of BLOODBATH but has not appeared in that band's recent promotional pictures and live shows.
In a new interview with BLABBERMOUTH.NET, BLOODBATH vocalist Nick Holmes (also of PARADISE LOST) discussed Martin's status with the death metal supergroup. "He's still in the band as far as I'm aware," Nick said. "I haven't seen him for three years, maybe more. Waltteri's [Väyrynen, PARADISE LOST] been playing drums with BLOODBATH more than Axe has in the last couple of years."
Nick continued: "I mean, [Martin] was working with OPETH prior to the pandemic, so he decided to take a backseat to the live shows and Waltteri did the [BLOODBATH] live shows ever since. He's still in [BLOODBATH]. The whole pandemic — he didn't want to get the vaccine, so that caused issues with travel and touring with OPETH when they started to go out again six months ago. That caused them issues there. It's come over to BLOODBATH for sure."
Representatives for OPETH declined to comment when approached by BLABBERMOUTH.NET regarding Holmes's claim. Both OPETH and PARADISE LOST are managed by Northern Music Co. Ltd.
Axenrot has not publicly commented on his exit from OPETH and it is not clear if his vaccination status is the only reason he is no longer playing with the band.
When OPETH announced Axenrot's departure last November, OPETH frontman Mikael Åkerfeldt said: "However sad it is to not have Axe in the band anymore, we're not in a position to linger on anything that is going to hold us back. We need to soldier on.
"Needless to say, we're incredibly thankful that Sami is helping us out, making this tour possible and all. On top of that, he's quite outstanding, really!
"All of us wish the best for Axe in all and any of his future endeavors. He has been a incredibly important part of the band for many years now, and we're all heartbroken it didn't work out in the end. But that's life, I guess…"
Axenrot officially joined OPETH more than a decade and a half ago as the replacement for Martin Lopez, who left the band in May 2006 after being plagued by illness and anxiety attacks, which forced him to miss several of OPETH's tours.
Shortly after he first started playing with OPETH, Axenrot told Drummerzone about how he landed the gig: "During OPETH's tour in the U.S., Martin Lopez got ill. The band temporarily used the services of Gene Hoglan [who is also featured in OPETH's video for the song 'The Grand Conjuration'] but needed someone else for their European trek. While they were still in the U.S., I received a phone call from singer Mikael Åkerfeldt whom I already knew from our mutual project BLOODBATH. Soon after we all met in OPETH's rehearsal studio in Stockholm and here I am today."
Back in 2007, Åkerfeldt slammed the "new breed of idiot OPETH 'fans'" for questioning the abilities of Axenrot when compared to that of Lopez. Responding to a discussion on the band's forum regarding Axenrot's more "straightforward" playing technique compared to the "jazzy" style of his predecessor, Åkerfeldt wrote in an online posting, "Wow, looks like we got ourselves a new breed of idiot OPETH 'fans' on our tail, huh? Mindblowing guys...really!" He then added: "Axe is in the band now and we all fucking love playing with him.
"When somebody picks on [Martin's] drumming I can't help but to feel that that person is a deaf moron who knows nothing about music or drumming," Mikael continued. "I get defensive not only because I brought him in the band, but mainly because he's a fucking fantastic drummer."