Swedish quintet Soilwork are fast creating the sort of buzz within the heavy metal scene that they could only have dreamed of when they first signed a record deal back in 1997.
musicOMH caught up with vocalist Bjorn “Speed” Strid in a bid to understand what drives the Soilwork machine, and discovered that it’s hard to write rage-filled lyrics when you meet the girl of your dreams…
Upon my arrival at a swanky London hotel I am greeted by five Swedes all sporting somewhat bemused smiles. Sat round sipping on mineral water and imported beer, there seems to be an air of disbelief amongst this group of musicians that the press is actually interested in them.
Soilwork actually started life 10 years ago as the death metall-y inclined Inferior Breed with the simple hope of playing some kick ass music, as vocalist and principal interviewee, Bjorn “Speed” Strid explains: “In the beginning, man, we were so happy to just get a record deal. Since then, our biggest wish has been to spread our music and the message we have through the music.”
I enquire just what that message is, what with so many metal bands these days having turned away from clichéd, hate-fuelled angst to more diverse subject matters. Strid responds: “We have a lot to say in the music – it’s about the ups and downs of daily life. You know bands are usually either just all brutal or really soft, but in Soilwork we have the perfect balance… For me I write about my demons, the things I have dealt with in life. I exorcise the things that I need to through my lyrics. I had to dig really deep on this album because I met the girl of my dreams and got married so I was, well, really happy! I struggled to find the darker subjects, and it took a lot out of me – it was a draining experience.”
“I had to dig really deep on this album because I met the girl of my dreams and got married so I was, well, really happy! I struggled to find the darker subjects” – Soilwork vocalist Bjorn Strid on the difficulties of lyric writing when you’re happy
I suggest that, whilst providing an ample opportunity for the exorcism of one’s demons, heavy metal lyrics don’t have to be filled with pain/anger. Bjorn is not so sure: “I don’t know – we aren’t gonna start writing ballads.”
Yes but can there not be any middle ground between bedlam and bliss? Surely one can only indulge in so much musical therapy? Bjorn assures me he will take this on board, with a perplexed kind of look that says something like: “I hope his guy has some better questions for me!” So, I move on to something Soilwork are particularly adept at – fusing melody with riff-tastic heaviness: “Yeah, from the start we wanted to be heavy, but not to the point where the music would suffer. I mean we want our music to be accessible, and if you make the heaviest music possible for the sake of it, you are going to exclude people, which isn’t what we’re about.”
Unsurprisingly, the band have suffered criticism from certain “fans”, some of whom are of the opinion that if it ain’t growled then it ain’t metal, and that melody should be strictly reserved for pop-punk chart-toppers: “Well, it happens, of course it does, but we are finding people are very objective. These days kids growing up seem to be a lot more objective than maybe people who are my age. That’s good, you know. Kids don’t care if it’s Marduk or Iron Maiden, they approach things with more of an open mind. That’s really healthy for the scene, the inbred urge to discover.”
“I was like, ‘Man this is a 30-hour plane ride, I hope it’s worth it!’ but it totally was” – Soilwork vocalist Bjorn Strid’s fears about Australia turn out to be unwarranted
With new album Stabbing The Drama being Soilwork’s sixth full-length release, I wonder if the journey of creating a Soilwork album been reduced to a fine art or if it goes in a new direction every time: “Well that depends on who’s producing and how much time we have. I play guitar myself, and came up with some riffs for this album. And we run the band very much like a democracy…”
At this point I interject by asking who plays George Bush. As I start to laugh at my own quick-wittedness, I realise that the English/Swedish language barrier has prevented my truly inspired moment of comedic “genius” from reaching Bjorn, who continues unabashed: “Yeah so, anyway, everyone’s free in the band to contribute to ideas. Peter [Wichers, guitar] and I will sit around using Pro Tools and he’ll come up with riffs while I work on melody, and although we write separately, we have some sort of unity that comes through – that genuine Soilwork sound.”
That “genuine” sound is providing the band with the opportunity to play their hearts out all over the world: “We just love to play live in general. We went to Australia last year – we were simply amazed by the response! I was like, ‘Man this is a 30-hour plane ride, I hope it’s worth it!’ but it totally was and we were overwhelmed by the amount of people who turned up to the shows and how well people knew our songs… The future for Soilwork consists of spreading our music, taking it wherever we can, and letting people know that we mean business.”
I leave Soilwork impressed that although originality may not actually be their strongest point, they have certainly found a formula that works damn well and you really get the sense that they’ve earned the payoff that they’re now experiencing.