Soilwork guitarists David Andersson (left) and Sylvain Coudret share a 6-string moment while performing in their native Sweden on the Metal West Tour in May 2015. Photo by Josefin Wahlstedt
Just before the release of Soilwork’s latest album, The Ride Majestic, the group announced that bassist Markus Wibom would be replacing Ola Fink, who had been with the band almost from the start of their 20-year career. “I’m not quite sure what happened,” says Wibom. “Björn (Strid, the lead singer) just said, ‘Things are pretty good, but we’re having some difficulties. We want you in the band.’”
While many bands would be shaken to the core by such a change, Wibom had previously toured with Soilwork as a guitar tech and lighting designer, so the transition was fairly seamless. Besides, Soilwork has weathered similar storms in recent years. Guitarists David Andersson (an MD who moonlights as a gastroenterologist) replaced founding member Peter Wichers in 2012, and Sylvain Coudret replaced Ola Frenning in 2008.
Still, the making of The Ride Majestic was impacted by tragedies within the Soilwork camp. During the writing and recording process, death and severe illness befell several members of the musicians’ families. The band channeled their emotions into the music, and not surprisingly, a touch of melancholy is evident throughout the album. “Whirl of Pain” is driven by a wistful melodic figure, while “Death in General” employs a dissonant motif and haunting open-string clusters.
Premier Guitar spoke with Andersson, Wibom, and Coudret about melody in the metal genre, the writing of The Ride Majestic, and the band’s current gear.
From the lyrical passages that open the album to the catchy chorus of the title track, it seems like you prioritize melody. Is melody a lost art among newer metal bands?
Sylvain Coudret: Yeah, a lot of bands are really fantastic musicians, but sometimes I miss the melodies. It’s more difficult to write good melodies than just some fast stuff. Or to write good parts behind the melodies.
Markus Wibom: It depends on the music. Some people are doing just fine without it. Every band has its own thing. It’s for every band to decide whether to have melodies or not. Maybe it fits their style, maybe it doesn’t. There are bands that almost never use vocal melodies, but they still get it together.
David Andersson: To be honest, I don’t listen to much new metal. We’re a little older now, and we all grew up listening to lots of melodic music as well. We all love metal, but all of us are also big fans of classic rock, progressive music, pop music, and whatever. Doing melodies comes quite naturally to us, I guess. We hear some younger bands and—not to be rude to them—it sounds like the melodies are sometimes an afterthought. I grew up on classics like Deep Purple, Black Sabbath, and Ozzy Osbourne, and then I gradually learned the early thrash bands. One of my favorites growing up was Testament. Then the Swedish melodic thing came with bands like At the Gates and Dissection. When I listen to metal now, it’s newer stuff like Behemoth.
Markus and Slyvain, what were your musical influences growing up?
Wibom: My influences come from old punk bands. That’s what I’ve always listened to, and I still do. I’ve always been a fan of Matt Freeman from Rancid because he does fairly technical bass playing on simple songs. So I grew up on punk rock. I started touring with Soilwork in 2004, and I started listening more to metal. Soilwork is a band I’d always been into. Every time there was a new record, I’d listen to it intensely.
Coudret: When I started playing guitar I was into Beatles songs. When I was a kid I only played acoustic guitar, so I got into Paco de Lucía and John McLaughlin. When I turned 18 I got my first electric guitar, but I was already into AC/DC, Van Halen, Iron Maiden, Metallica, Joe Satriani, and Steve Vai.
How would you characterize the differences between your soloing style and David’s?
Coudret: We’re pretty close, and it’s hard to describe the differences. We grew up on the same music, so we’re in the same area when we play together. Differences? Maybe I’m more into the Steve Vai types, and David’s more into the classic rock types. I know David’s a big fan of Scott Henderson. I used to listen to him a lot too. We love pretty much the same jazz-rock players.
Do these influences creep into Soilwork’s music?
Coudret: People say things like, “This sounds a bit jazzy, or like jazz-rock.” But we don’t think about it. We just play the way we want to play. Maybe because we used to play that stuff a long time ago, that’s the way we hear it.
Andersson: I actually sneak in a few fusion influences here and there. Perhaps they’re not audible [laughs].
The solo on “All Along Echoing Paths” has some ear-perking note choices you might not expect in a metal context.
Andersson: Yeah. I guess you hear it pop up in some places if you know what to listen for. I’m a big fan of melodic minor, and I base my riffs on it. That’s also a part of the Scandinavian melancholic thing. A lot of Swedish folk music is based on the melodic minor, and it’s also a big thing in jazz and fusion music.
That’s a refreshing alternative to Yngwie’s harmonic minor vocabulary, which a ton of metal guys copped.
Andersson: Yeah. Obviously no one is doing Yngwie better than Yngwie.