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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].".

I 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! Amazing.".

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 [2013], 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.

And if we're gonna compare with The Ride Majestic [2015], 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 and melody-wise.

Tobbe: And if you would compare it to the early albums?

Björn: Well, I think it connects. You know, something has happened, like: we have consciously stepped away from… you 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 [2005] and Sworn To A Great Divide [2007] 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.

So 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 company… [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.

Tobbe: 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 we go.

But 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 want to.

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.

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