For those of you unfamiliar with the metallic sounds of Soilwork, consider today your lucky day, because Tim Louie is going to introduce you to one of the best metal acts to come out of Sweden. Singer Björn “Speed” Strid and guitarist Peter Wichers formed Soilwork—whose name means “working from the ground up”—in 1995. The release of their 1998 debut album, Steelbath Suicide, showcased the band’s blues rock, power-groove riffs and melodic vocals so infectious that they hit the ground running after the CD’s release.
Personally, I didn’t get introduced to the music of Soilwork until my fiancée introduced me to their 2002 release, Natural Born Chaos. I haven’t heard metal this good since Pantera! Natural Born Chaos would also be the CD that brought the band to the United States for the first time. They became such a huge success here and fans wanted more, so Soilwork began pumping out CDs. Figure Number Five was released in 2003, followed by their epic 2005 album, Stabbing The Drama. Two years later, they released Sworn To A Great Divide, which was when I got a taste of Soilwork live for the first time at The Gramercy Theatre. These guys were just as amazing live as they were on CD! In 2010, they would release their eighth studio album, The Panic Broadcast, but last June, founding member Peter Wichers left the band for a second time.
Earlier this month, Soilwork unveiled a double album, The Living Infinite, and it’s everything you’d expect to hear from Soilwork and more! The first single from it, “This Momentary Bliss,” is technically sound and “Speed” sounds amazing!
Soilwork will be bringing their brand of metal back to our shores tonight, March 13, at The Trocadero in Philly, and this Friday, March 15, at The Gramercy Theatre. In the transcription below, drummer Dirk Verbeuren gave me a buzz to chat about The Living Infinite, lineup changes, and the upcoming tour.
The Living Infinite sounds like Soilwork have returned to their raw metal form similar to Natural Born Chaos. Do you feel that you went back to basics with this CD?
Well, you know what? We just wrote and it just kind of happened. I think the fact that we have David [Andersson/guitarist] in the band, he contributed quite a lot to the songwriting, and everybody in general worked together on these songs. It’s just kind of how it turned out. Since the previous album, The Panic Broadcast, we’ve kind of let the music do the talking and not really set any plans as to if we’re going to make it sound more like this or are we going to make it sound more like that. We just kind of wrote music and this is how it came out.
Do you feel the lineup changes within the past decade have influenced the evolution of Soilwork’s sound?
Definitely! I mean, everybody brings their own thing and that’s the logical part, but also I think the state of mind right now in the band is definitely very open. So we all get along, we all have very eclectic musical tastes, so anything that comes to the table will have a chance, and if people in the band are happy with it or feel excited about it, then it might very well end up on the album, so I do think that is a part of it for sure.
The first single, “This Momentary Bliss,” is amazing! But why that track as opposed to songs like “The Spectrum Of Eternity” or my personal favorite, “Tongue?”
That’s your favorite? Cool, cool! It’s really rough to pick a single when you have 10 songs or 11, but when you have 20, you’re like “Oh, God!” (Laughs) We basically just talked to the label [Nuclear Blast] and saw what they also thought would be strong and stuff and kind of decided like that. But there’s going to be more singles coming out, so I think that people will get a chance to hear different aspects of the album.
Was there a story behind the title, The Living Infinite? Or was it named after the tracklist of 20 songs?
(Laughs) Yeah, it’s kind of appropriate isn’t it? It’s actually a description that Jules Verne [author of A Journey To The Center Of The Earth] had for the “ocean.” The ocean is kind of a theme that is present in our lives. Soilwork is from the south of Sweden, and Björn, the singer, he lives really close to the ocean.
Actually, when we were rehearsing for this album, literally his back yard ends in the ocean, so we would go swimming in the ocean every day and stuff, and it’s just kind of something, even when he didn’t live there and the years before, we would go for walks by there, and it’s just kind of something that’s there and it seems like a good metaphor for life in general as well, because just like the ocean, life is an ever-changing thing, and it’s never in one particular state. There’s always things evolving and always things changing and I think that Björn kind of used that with his lyrics as a conceptual line to follow. We all liked it and thought it was a cool title, and something appropriate for the band.
In your mind, how does The Living Infinite measure up to the previous releases?
It’s always so hard to say that because I haven’t listened to it all that much yet, and I think time will tell. For me, I think over time, I will see that. Right now, I’m very happy with it. I think it’s definitely one of our most open-minded, adventurous albums since I’ve been in the band and not to diss any of the previous albums, but I like it when an album is a rollercoaster ride with lots of different tempos and moods and feelings coming across, and I think because we have two CDs here to do that, we can really push that and we can include some track that maybe wouldn’t have been included on a 10 or 11-song release. So I really like that part of it.
Why did the band choose to put 20 songs on The Living Infinite rather than releasing two separate records?
It was just an idea. Speed just had that idea a few years ago and he was talking about it with a lot of passion, and eventually he got us into that mindset. We were kind of skeptical at first. We were like, “Yeah, I don’t know if we’re gonna be able to write that many good songs in a short time, and I’m not sure it’s going to make the studio sessions really hectic and stuff,” which they were by the way.
Eventually, he convinced us that it would be a cool thing to try, and just a new challenge for us. It’s our ninth record; we’ve done eight regular albums and it’s kind of cool to have something else to try, something different, something new. It was a conscious choice and luckily, there was a lot of inspiration. We actually recorded 26 songs for this record.
So now you have six B-sides to go with all of your singles! What would you say is your favorite song on The Living Infinite?
Oh, man! I’m going to say “Long Live The Misanthrope” because it is just a riff-fest. I like them all, but that one is really fun to have that aspect back where it’s just a pile of riffs that are all thrown together somehow and just a lot of stuff happening. I like that (laughs)!
Is there a favorite Soilwork song to perform live?
Out of our whole catalog, I would say one of my favorites to play actually is “Let This River Flow” because it’s a fun song on drums. It’s got some really good grooves. I’m really happy with some of the stuff I did on that one, and it’s just a classic song. It caught on instantly with people. It’s just one that I also always play when I do drum clinics and master classes and stuff. So, yeah, I love to play that one.
You’ll be at The Gramercy Theatre in New York City on March 15, which is where I saw you five years ago. Are you fond of playing in New York as opposed to playing in Europe?
New York is a city that I really love. I like walking around there. I love the vibe. It’s very unique to me, so I love playing there, but Europe has its good sides too. I lived in Europe for most of my life, so it’s obviously kind of something I have a relationship with as well, so I wouldn’t be able to pick a favorite.
Has there been any Spinal Tap type of stories from the road?
(Laughs) There’s been quite a few! I would have to think about that one. I can actually remember one night where two band members, who I shall not name because they’re still in the band, one of them was… I don’t know what he took, but he was naked in a shopping cart being pushed around by the other one in a parking lot. (Laughs) So, I walked out of the tour bus to that spectacle, so that was kind of interesting. I cannot say who it was (laughs).
Catch Soilwork at The Trocadero on March 13 and at The Gramercy Theatre on March 15. Soilwork will also be at Mexicali Live on May 1. Their new double album, The Living Infinite, is available now. For more info, go to soilwork.org.