At a time when longevity in the music business is an increasingly difficult but also common phenomenon, many scene veterans are hitting their strides decades into their career. Soilwork are no different, having been around the block for over twenty years. We chatted to singer and mainstay frontman Bjorn ‘Speed’ Strid.
Reportedly having just woken up, the singer gingerly informed us he’d performed the night prior with The Night Flight Orchestra on their recent your slog.
Having a good chuckle at my poor Swedish enunciation (I got it right the second time!), Strid elucidated on why they chose their native term for ‘reality’ as this album’s title. ‘It comes with age, man,’ he muses, careful ‘not to sound too much like an old man in saying so.’
Reflecting on ‘how the touring, recording and writing cycle of a musicians’ lifestyle can be a great distraction’, he cites the realities of age and time as major influences on the songwriting. ‘I’m nearly forty, see, and we’re at an age where we’ve experienced illness and mortality among our loved ones recently. In that way, ‘Verkligheten’ is ‘about escapism from the idea of mortality, but also embracing and accepting it.’
Oof. I mean, not new lyrical grounds for heavy music, sure, but a weighty existential topic nonetheless. The always-upbeat-sounding Strid doesn’t seem to grapple too hard with it, neither with the recent band changes. ‘Obviously with Dirk (Verbeuren) leaving for Megadeth last year, we got Bastian Thusgaard in the mix, who’s great and real excited.’
‘On the songwriting aspect, it ended up being just me and Dave (Sylvaine, guitars) writing everything, which is a bit of a departure from the usual scenario of having one or two main writers and everyone else contributing. It’s got it’s quirks and charms, for sure.’ That it surely does; keeping with the majestic, grandiose and technical feel of their late-career prog-influenced melodic death metal arc, Soilwork’s latest is an opus which interjects many surprises beneath the bright and bold metal framework.
‘People tend to use Night Flight Orchestra as a reference point, merely because Dave and I are in it. And whilst I’m sure there’s an element of carrying your influences with you, these are two different things with two different expressions’. He cites the keyboardist Sven Karlsson ’s decision to ‘swap out the usual mellotrons and Hammonds for 80’s style synths’ and Soilwork’s ‘enduring classic rock and metal legacy’ alongside his individual vocal style as a reason for the comparison. Progression has always been a mainstay of the Soilwork timeline, however.
‘Whilst evolving and progressing has always been our intention since the start, we’re very lucky to have hit this period around ‘The Living Infinite’ onwards where we’ve really been able to redefine our sound and grow musically’, he notes. ‘Ironically, though, this new record sounds more like our late-90’s albums, so things are changing and coming full circle at the same time’.As the conversation steers broadly towards the state of the Scandinavian metal climate, the inevitable topic of the iconic Gothenburg scene arises. ‘It’s hard to talk about the ‘melodic death metal’ scene in Sweden particularly,’ he intones, ‘it doesn’t really exist in the way it used to.’
‘There was a point where a lot of us Swedish bands were quite similar,’ he affirms, ‘but generally we’ve all branched out and experimented and moved beyond that mold.’ With a wry chuckle, he adds, ‘With varying degrees of success, of course.’
And what of the internal state of the band? Whilst the natural ebb and flow of individual and group motivation, energy and endurance can fluctuate or even weaken over time, Strid is quick to remind that inspiration isn’t a one-dimensional, on-off switch either. ‘We are absolutely one hundred per cent still inspired,’ he declares. ‘Yeah, we absolutely burnt out a bit on touring – for ‘The Ride Majestic’ tour, for instance, we did multiple U.S. and European as well as Japanese and Australian runs. That part isn’t as easy anymore, so we have to pick our battles a little bit.’ Tired as he sounds, and wince as he may at the prospect of doing another relentless touring slog, it sounds like the band are in a measured and calculated place with their current tour regime, which will see them hit Australia next year.
‘The fire’s definitely still there, still burning – ‘Verkligheten’ and the passion of our live show can and will be proof of that,’ Strid remarks with authority. Lamenting the modern paradoxical dilemmas of social media and increased access to music also greatly increasing competition ‘to the point where your live show basically needs fireworks and full-length album plays to draw fans in’, he is nonetheless humbly confident about the enduring success of his longtime outfit.
‘We’ve been so lucky to be able to base our livelihoods on our biggest passion for so long’, Strid enthuses, ‘to be able to wake up and write, rehearse and perform music that you’ve molded with those close to you, that gives your music a sense of presence and being genuine’.
And from pre-emptive listens of ‘Verkligheten’, which comes online January 11th, we’re very much looking forward to that presence in both the studio and live setting when they also hit our shores early next year.
Pre-Order your copy of ‘Verkeligheten’ here!
Tickets for Soilwork’s upcoming Australian tour in 2019 are available here.