Interview conducted November 19 2018
Interview published January 9 2019
Metal Covenant met up with Soilwork's
frontman Björn Strid to listen to his
words about the band's new album Verkligheten [Out January 11th].
Tobbe: The album title is an interesting
choice and what can you tell me about that title?
Björn: It was an idea that David [Andersson,
guitar] got a couple of years ago. We were watching, you know, Swedish
TV series, from the ´80s and the ´90s, that have elements
of some kind of suburban anguish, like the series Svenska Hjärtan
[Swedish Hearts], and we got so inspired by those piano intros and the
atmosphere, so David came up with, you know "We should name the
album Verkligheten [The Reality].".
have no idea where he got that name from. I was kind of like "Well,
that's kind of odd.". But something felt right "Well, let's
see what happens.". Then this thing kind of marinated for a couple
of years and when considering how the new record sounds; it's pretty
Scandinavian melancholic, specifically melody-wise with a lot of passages
and intros and stuff that holds that atmosphere, you know; then that
felt like the right album title.
And the thing is: as we're aging, it gets harder
and harder to outrun reality, you know. But there's also that contrast
where you sometimes must escape from reality, and lyrically: the texts
that I've written are kind of out of social realism and David's are
probably more out of escapism, so this creates kind of a nice contrast
too, so to speak.
Tobbe: And to name an album after an intro?
Björn: Well, it was rather that intro was given
that name because it had that kind of feeling. We didn't plan that one,
but it was just recorded at 3 in the morning, live, one-take, everything.
David came up with some idea and he was probably pretty hammered then,
I think. I wasn't present when that intro was recorded, but I woke up
the next morning and David told me "Now you have to listen to what
we have done!" and they played it for me and I was like "Wow!
Tobbe: If you listen to what Soilwork has
done before, what does this album sound like in comparison?
Björn: Well, I think it's recognizable. A new
era began with The Living Infinite , the double album, which started
out like an experiment for us, that we had to go through. We recorded
27 fucking songs. A crazy project, you know. It was at the time when
Peter [Wichers, guitar] had quit the band for the second time and I
think we needed, you know, to explore ourselves again through that record
and I feel like we found a new expression there. And we have continued
a little bit on that path and developed that sound.
if we're gonna compare with The Ride Majestic , there are more
nuances in this record and perhaps it follows more a theme as well.
Yes, it's cliché, but that's how it feels, and somewhere it tells
a story in a different way than The Ride Majestic did, both lyrically
Tobbe: And if you would compare it to the
Björn: Well, I think it connects. You know, something
has happened, like: we have consciously stepped away from
know, we have never sounded like Metalcore in my ears, but there are
people who have seen us kind of like a Metalcore band, which I don't
understand, but Stabbing The Drama  and Sworn To A Great Divide
 were kind of groove based and maybe a bit bouncy and we have
consciously stepped away from that, because it feels like we lost it
a little bit there.
Even if I'm very proud of Stabbing The Drama
and Sworn To A Great Divide, I feel that what we're doing now sounds
more like what we actually did in the beginning and it has a more, you
know, classic heavy metal thinking too, in a way. It has that vein;
it feels very Scandinavian and it's kind of not as catchy or striking
if maybe comparing it to Stabbing The Drama, which had grand choruses
and, you know
Tobbe: More radio friendly?
Björn: Well, it was. But I don't know if we ever
thought about that. We have never discussed the music, like "Okay
guys. Now we must make commercial music.". On the other hand, there's
nothing wrong with that, as long as you can really feel what you're
recording, you know. And we did that back then, but at the same time:
this is where we are now and this music speaks more to me about who
I am today and when I hear "Can't you guys make a new Stabbing
The Drama again?" it's like "No, we can't. It doesn't work
that way.". Well, maybe we could, but it wouldn't feel the same
way, you know.
Tobbe: The first edition includes a 4-song
EP as well and tell me about it.
Björn: Well, it's leftover material from the
studio. Perhaps this doesn't sound too exciting, but they are very good
songs, and there's always an issue about, you know, deciding which songs
that will be on the standard edition. It's really hard, you know. But
it's all about finding some kind of flow that works, that feels right,
and carries this journey all the way to the end.
these songs were left over, but they are very nice and instead of just
ending up in the vault, we might as well release them, or else they
might end up in some kind of mix stuff a couple of years later, like
Death Resonance [Compilation, 2016], which is, I don't know, kind of
dull in a sense. So it's better to put it out now, I think.
Tobbe: The jewel case and vinyl artwork
is kind of special, I think. It's like you've taken the Soilwork attributes
and thrown them into some kind of '70s feel. What were you looking for
with that front cover?
Björn: Well, we had this crazy artist called
Valnoir. He has done, among other stuff, Orphaned Land covers that I
really like. So actually we just gave him some key words, because it
never turns out well if you're gonna try to describe a cover too much.
We also noticed that he had very much of an artistic soul too, so we
gave him kind of free hands to do it. And then he came up with this
and we were like "Wow!". It wasn't what we were expecting,
but it's really beautiful and I think it suits the music as well.
But yeah, it has somewhat of a progressive '70s
feel, and maybe there are some progressive elements on the new record
as well. And there are so many colors that we haven't used before and
that's also something you want to develop; you know, color-wise and
atmosphere-wise, and The Ride Majestic was also very dark, black and
gray, you know. So this cover is a pretty good answer to that record,
but yet as dramatic in a way.
Tobbe: The digipak has a simpler motive
and there is quite a contrast between those two different motives.
Björn: Well, you know, it's very much the record
[Nuclear Blast] But we would never had accepted it if
it wasn't all right, you know. But it's their creation, this snake,
and it's about this, you know, escapism, or about staying and feel that
everything is as usual even if you sometimes just have to get away.
It's always this struggle in a way, you know.
Tobbe: Might the cover art be more important
to the band than to its fans?
Björn: Yes, I think so. You know, it's very important.
As you've been living and breathing this record and the songs for quite
a while, then you want it to have a nice framing as well. Perhaps the
fans don't have the same connection to this, at least to begin with,
but in the long run I think it's probably important, because when you
see a record that you like and you see the artwork, then you want them
to have a connection in the end.
It's been about 3,5 years since The Ride Majestic was out and that's the
longest time between two Soilwork records ever and is that span between
records something that the fans must get used to from now on?
Björn: Well, that's a good question. You know,
with The Ride Majestic we decided, yet again, to do a full-scale world
tour, because we didn't do that on The Living Infinite, and I kind of
feel, in hindsight, that we should have done the opposite. Because The
Living Infinite deserved, you know, such a huge backup. You know, what
a win, what a record that is; I'm incredibly proud of it.
But problems with management and this and that
killed it and by the time we had gathered our strength again we made
The Ride Majestic and said "Let's do it again. Let's do such a
world tour again.". We did 3 US tours, we did 2 European tours,
we did South America, Australia, Japan, and all the festivals, and that
eventually takes its toll, you know.
So we toured for a long time and we're not a
band that really writes on tour and I guess that's the reason why it
took so long between the records. I think with the new record we will
choose our battles more carefully and maybe be a little bit pickier
about who we tour with, and where, and how, and when, and for how long.
Tobbe: Has Soilwork, strictly musically,
been affected by what you guys do with The Night Flight Orchestra?
Björn: As a singer I probably get affected,
in terms of I've become a better vocalist. But to me it's a constant
journey to find new ways to express myself singing-wise and it doesn't
matter if it's Night Flight or Soilwork. And then I've got this sense
for melody, and David has that too, and of course that follows us wherever
at the same time I think that the people who think that something on
the new Soilwork record is a little bit similar to something with Night
Flight Orchestra probably think so because they have a reference now,
because we have always had melodies and vocal melodies in Soilwork,
but at that time Night Flight didn't exist, and now it's probably kind
of easy to find some sort of connection, even though they are two for
us completely different things, you know.
Tobbe: The last two Night Flight records
came out just a year apart [Amber Galactic in 2017 and Sometimes The World
Ain't Enough in 2018.] and why didn't you put out a Soilwork album in
between the Night Flight releases?
Björn: I think it's because with Night Flight
we have two guys that have their own studios and we don't arrange stuff
in the same way as we do with Soilwork, where we write songs, book a
studio for 6 weeks, and record it. But with Night Flight it's, you know,
a continuous thing, where we meet up for a week and record a couple
of songs, since we have access to the studio more or less whenever we
Tobbe: Is it also easier for you guys to
write songs with a softer kind of music?
Björn: Maybe it's like: now I have done Soilwork
for 20 years and all the time these other things, that I haven't been
able to ventilate, have circulated somewhere, and maybe now everything
comes like a massive wave, you know. Like: you get high on things that
you haven't been able to do and now you just want to ventilate it. And
the more I'm able to ventilate there, the easier it is to return to
Soilwork, I think.