Reinventing its own sound especially after shuffling members can stifle a band. But for veteran Swedish metallers Soilwork, they have embraced this challenge head on and have created some of their best works working around the members on each release.
They recently completed their latest North American tour supporting Soulfly, and in support of The Ride Majestic, their tenth and latest album, and while frontman Bjorn “Speed” Strid talked about working with the incoming members on recent records, he also talked about whether the ideas and concepts of each release comes together quickly.
“I don’t think we discuss it that much. I think basically what happened is that we definitely found something new with The Living Infinite. We rediscovered ourselves as songwriters through the album. I’m happy about the Panic Broadcast as well, but I think we found something new with The Living Infinite and with David [Andersson] entering the band as well and playing together with Sylvain [Coudret]. I think it brought something interesting to the table. I think it really inspired us to write the new record because it was quite a project. It was almost like an experiment as well because we recorded 26 songs total. 20 ended up on the album. I think that was a great way for us to find ourselves again after everything happening with Peter [Wichers] quitting the band and then coming back again and then quitting again. I think it was a necessary thing to do in the end.”
“With this new album [The Ride Majestic], it was pretty easy. We just booked the studio and we felt very inspired. We could have toured twice as much as we did for The Living Infinite, but we ran into some troubles with our management at the time. So that killed it a little bit. It happens and there’s quite a number of bands that could relate to it.”
“Basically we said let’s focus on making a new album instead, and channel all of our emotions through that album instead. That’s what we did and I think we have this mutual vision that we thought it would be somewhat darker. I guess the keyboards led in the darkness. That’s exactly what we did and going through everything, with personal tragedies with family members passing away during the actual recording, it actually made it pretty rough. I think the music became a big comfort and it happened so close to us. It was the close encounter with death and dealing with an album where a lot of lyrical content is dealing with a lot of expediential questions about life and death and those things. It definitely affected the approach to the recording and also a little bit, the songwriting as well.”
The Ride Majestic was produced by the band with David Castillo and Jens Bogren mixing the album. After working with a few different producers over the band’s history and even self producing a few along the way, Strid said having both options when working on records has helped them learn how to approach each release differently.
“I don’t even think about it. It just kind of happened that we started producing it ourselves. We never really decided ‘OK we are producing this record and that’s it.’ It just happened that way.”
“We tried out doing producer teams before with Devin Townsend and Fredrik [Nordstrom], which was a pretty interesting and chaotic project as well. It turned out really good.”
“I don’t mind having people having opinions. We’ve been working with really cool people for sure. David Castillo has worked with Fredrik Nordstrom and Daniel Bergstrand.”
The death theme became a common topic during the recording of The Ride Majestic. While much of the material was already written, personal tragedies began to affect each member of the band during the making of the album, which altered the dynamics of the album.
“Most of the songs were done already. It would have still turned out to be a pretty dark album. The songs became a more real soundtrack to what was really happening at the time. I think it affected us as to how we approached the actual recording.”
“For example, when I recorded the vocals, it was a pretty tough time. It felt very real and I could really relate to the melancholic sounds that run through the album, especially with the melodies. They are very Scandinavian and melancholic.”
Since the recording of 2013’s The Living Infinite, Strid lost his longtime writing partner and guitarist Peter Wichers for the second time from the band, and was getting used to writing with two new guitar players who had just joined the band then on a full-time basis. Getting acclimated to new chemistry became a challenge, and also helped Soilwork move forward as a band at the same time.
“I worked with Peter [Wichers] for such a long time. We started the band and I was so used to working with him and when David and Sylvain came in and they started throwing me some stuff…like whoa…what is this? So I really had to step outside of my comfort zone. That really made me develop as a singer as well, and also inspired me to pick up the guitar again. I used to write a lot of stuff. I wrote eight songs for The Living Infinite and on the new album I wrote four. It’s been very inspiring for me.”
“The songwriting has been looking pretty much the same. We write separately and sometimes meet up whenever me and Dave are sitting down and are going through some song ideas that we had. For the most part, we sit separately and put the songs together and bounce files back and forth. We’re used to that.”
“I think Soilwork needed this kind of member change. It was only natural at the end. It brought something new and I’m so proud of where we are today with the sound that we have and we found something interesting that I didn’t know that we had. It’s like we used an old cliché. It’s a new era.”
Since the last album, the band also parted ways with longtime bassist Ola Flink and was replaced by longtime tech Markus Wibom.
“He’s an old friend of the band so it’s been a very natural transition. He’s been on tour with us before. He used to be a guitar tech on both our European tour and our North American tour in the mid 2000s. Everybody in the band knows him very well and everybody liked him. The only thing was we knew he played bass, guitar and keyboards. We just didn’t know how good he was on bass. We had to try that out. We knew his personality which was spot on perfect. He pulled it off really well. It’s been a really smooth transition.”
“I definitely miss [Ola] Flink but I also could see that he was pretty miserable at the end being on tour. He’s in a better place now. Markus [Wibom] is really excited. That’s exactly what we need.”
“There are no hard feelings. He came to the point where he was like ‘I don’t feel motivated to tour anymore and I want to have a normal life and a normal day job.’ Most of us come to that point. It’s also rough surviving financially and there’s no stability for the most part.”
Strid also talked about the band reaching its 20th anniversary as a band. While many bands are squeaking by and reaching an anniversary date, he is proud of the band’s accomplishments and where they stand as a band today.
“I’m really proud of us for still being…we’re still making sense and we’re a very energetic band. You can feel the energy running through the music and we’re not trying to recreate that album, whatever that might be – Stabbing The Drama or Natural Born Chaos. Those are like somewhat cult classics by now. It’s been very important for us to not try to recreate something and being able to develop our sound and still being able to surprise ourselves and our listeners in a very positive way. I think it’s a pretty cool thing that most fans have been able to develop with the music and the band. People know they can expect some surprises for each and every album.”
“I don’t really hear a lot of people bashing us for like ‘oh go back to Chainheart Machine or Stabbing.’ Most people are happy with where we’re at right now and they can still feel that it’s true to our roots but it’s also that we’ve evolved as well,” he said.
With Soilwork’s influence upon the hard music scene overall, younger artists have shown their appreciation in many ways and YouTube videos have popped up with many variations of covers of their songs. Strid did admit he did occasionally view some of these and enjoys what he sees from these artists.
“It’s really cool to see. It’s kind of surreal when you look at it there’s somebody sitting in their bedroom or their dorms ripping through some songs from the old days or even now.”
“It takes about two days. If you have a new song, it’s like ‘uh ok…here’s the cover.’ It’s insane how many talented kids there are out there that can look at the songs and nail it.”
Being on tour and having ten albums worth of material, including a brand new release has made things a bit challenging when selecting a set list. Strid admitted that while it can be tough, they do have options on forming a strong set of songs.
“It is very hard, especially now that we’re doing a direct support tour. We have 45 minutes and that’s it and we’re promoting a new album. I think we’re going for a pretty intense set and taking the songs that work good live, has really cool dynamics, to get everything packed in there and that represents our whole career. It’s really hard to do. We have ten albums out.”
Lastly, would Soilwork be open to doing ‘An Evening With…’ style show doing an entire album or two from beginning to end? While he had mixed feelings about it, Strid shared his thoughts on the matter.
“We have discussed it but I guess we’re stubborn like that. Whenever people are doing that, we don’t wanna do that. It’s just too predictable. I know it’s kind of silly.”
“In a way I would like to do it. Maybe do Natural Born Chaos in its entirety, but it’s a little bit of a different lineup today. I want to respect that as well and not just be too nostalgic as well. I’m sure there will be a time where we could do something like that, even if it’s one of our later albums or even the new one or The Living Infinite in its entirety. That would be cool too.”