Wormwood - Interview
Swedish Wormwood recently released their third full-length output "Arkivet" (read review here). The album is very impressive, musically and also lyrically and shows the fragility of mankind and the consequences we might face if we cannot stop the climate change. I talked about these topics with main-writer and guitarist Tobias Rydsheim and of course about musical influences and the process of writing the album. Enjoy the interview and check out the album!
Hi Tobias, how are you doing?
I'm fine. There's a lot of stuff going on in my life so it's kind of hard, juggling with everything but I'll manage that.
First of all, congratulations on your new album. I haven't heard a record like "Arkivet" (that touched me musically and lyrically so much) for some time. Is your primary intention to evoke emotions in the listener and to make him or her thinking about the situation mankind is in right now?
As a songwriter I would say that make people feel something and trigger the emotions is always a thing that I strive for. I think all kind of artists do that but maybe they want to evoke or provoke different emotions. So yes of course the lyrical content also on this one is pretty accurate to our time and pretty strong between the lines. That's of course also something we want to put light on and make people think a little.
Before I will go into detail about the lyrics, maybe you can explain them a little bit?
Overall, it's about humanity and mankind's trouble with ourselves basically and how we are unable to treat nature and animals and even ourselves with dignity and respect which also maybe be our downfall in the end. We're pretty good to extinct ourselves as it seems (laughs). The songs are in this kind of destructive world so to speak, not every single song is about environmental stuff or anything like that, but everything is connected to the downfall of humanity in different ways. 'The Slow Drown' is more a personal downfall about Alzheimer's disease and dementia, that kind of disease to fade away within yourself but all the other songs are kind of the same concept. 'My Northern Heart' is also a little bit different because it's singing in reminiscence about the good old days. Of course, there were very many details in the lyrical content also but it's hard to point out every detail right now.
Your lyrics are mostly about the state our planet is in right now. How matching that the new world climate report was released today. Have you already read it?
I haven't read it all but I'm gonna read it later tonight when I get more time.
The content is quite shocking, I think. It's not like the climate change is happening somewhere far away but right at your front door. Can you notice it in Sweden, too?
Of course. The summer becomes hotter and hotter. This summer has been really bad with too extreme temperatures. Also, the winter – when I was a kid, we had loads of snow all over the winter but last winter wasn't that good and the winter before was non-existing. Of course, the climate change is a serious thing and I feel like people that still deny it are kind of stupid because it's in front of us. There is always this smart guy who says "ah, then we don't have to go abroad for vacation because we have hot weather here, that's nice" but it isn't nice.
No, it isn't. Maybe you have heard about the floods here in Germany where about 200 people died and not far away from my home all the spruce died. Once there was a huge forest and now it's like a landscape on the moon.
Yes, it's shocking and it's sick. In the Western World we're not used to so many problems as in Africa or Southern Asia because we are pretty wealthy countries but now it's start to happen that shit here also. No one can escape - it's not about money and we're all in the same boat. On the environmental topic, I think we can blame humanity for a lot because it's scientifically proven that like 80% or whatever what's going on is due to human activity.
'The Gentle Touch Of Humanity' matches perfectly to these news with the spoken words. Where did you get them all from? And how did you come to the idea to put such a long sample into a track?
Well, the idea was just a creative choice. I like to experiment and like to go a little bit outside the box and try things that are forbidden in the metal community. So that was more a musical that I wanted to try and the first version of it was even longer and even more boring. It was just a drone atmosphere in the background in the demo version and when I showed it to other people, everybody said "Is it supposed to be like this? This long? And I said "Yes". The reason for this is if you think it's boring, this is for you. It is so important and people who skip this part, it's for them. They show that they are ignorant if they don't listen to it. So, it was a little psychological trick in it but on the album version I chose to give it some more melody and I made it shorter. Not because of the people's opinions but we couldn't fit the whole album on vinyl (laughs) so we needed to do like that. The samples come from different news broadcasts, speeches and a little of this and that. The important thing here is not really who they are and in what context they speak, I would say the message and what they are saying is the important thing here. The climate change is obvious, and more and more facts underline this. What do you think about the people who still deny scientific facts and live in their own bubble?
You put the focus on the destruction of nature and the connected consequences with all this since the first album. Do you think you can achieve something with your music?
Our intention is not to take sides for a political party or any kind of believe system, that's not our mission here in the world. We are just a rock band. But these kinds of questions are personally for me and for the other guys in the band quite interesting and we talk about this stuff. We are very nature romantic and want to preserve nature, but we don't want to be in the forefront of any political movements because there are other people who can do that better, here in Sweden also, Greta Thunberg. That's not our cup of tea. But your question if people open their eyes in any kind of way, make people understand more from us than from the news, I don't know if that's possible but if one person wakes up thanks to us, I guess we have won. If we wanted to take action in a bigger kind of setting, we wouldn't have choose to put the extreme metal album because the audience is too limited. But I also think this is a time stamp of our time. We chose the lyrical content in the concept before the pandemic and the topic for environmental problems has been here for years. I think it's now the latest time, it's getting serious but I won't take credits that we wrote about all that shit before the pandemic, all the floods and fires but I think it's been a huge built-up over the last years that came out subconsciously. In the future, if shit goes down the drain totally, the archaeologists could dig up our records and point it out.
You define yourself as melodic black metal. Is it really black metal in the original meaning? I mean you don't sing about Satan, sacrifice and all these things….
This is coming from me, the main composer from Wormwood: Wormwood is NOT a black metal band, but we do share some similarities, maybe in some aesthetics and some techniques. We use blast beats and tremolo guitar picking but the die-hard black metal community wouldn't accept us as a black metal band because we are not like them. We are fans of black metal but everybody in the band has been listening for a huge part of our lives but I'm happy to separate myself a little from the black metal community even though I like it.
I asked because everywhere you're listed as melodic black metal and even in the promo it was said. What would you define your style of music then?
That's a hard question. It totally depends on the person I am talking to. If I talk to a person that I know have a lot of knowledge in metal music I would say we play some kind of extreme metal with influences from black metal and folky tunes and bla bla because we have a lot of influences in our songs but for people who know a little about music but not metal in general, I will say we're a Swedish metal band. We're kind of melodic but we scream (laughs). But to people outside the music world, I'd just tell them I'm in a rock band and that's it.
Focusing on the music, I think that this album isn't such an easy listening album than the predecessors because it is very complex. Would you agree with me?
I can totally agree that it's not music for everyone. I think if you're new into this kind of music, you have to give it a few tries listening to the full album in its hole a few times. Musically I think it's not that super complex; I did by choice a lot of simple drumbeats and clear melodies because I like to experiment with that super basic stuff and spice it up with more detailed complex work that needs a lot of precision. We're not a band that strives for playing fastest, hardest or heaviest stuff but of course this kind of music may be a little hard to grasp at first.
I have also the impression that you put more non-metal elements into it on "Arkivet" than before. Of course, you have this wonderful traditional folklore but also some parts that remind me of Pink Floyd. Was it intentional?
To start with our previous album "Nattarvet" that was also a concept album which was set in Sweden in the late 1800s, so to make fitting music for that it needed more folky tunes. We have used them since our first rehearsal basically but in different degrees of how much. We still have it left to make the listener feel that this story is set in Sweden or in Scandinavia. But about your question, I guess you're right. In Wormwood we don't really have this rules that it has to be metal enough or whatever. We put together what we think, and I got a great vibe into it. We don't try to sound like Pink Floyd or Metallica or Mayhem. We just make music; the product is just as it is.
Of course, the typical black metal riffs we don't miss on. I am quite often reminded of older Borknagar and Naglfar. What are your major influences?
This answer may sound a little hippie (laughs). For me personally, when I write music, I don't really have any musical influences at all. Not consciously chosen influences. When I write music, I try to use my guitar as a pencil like I'm drawing something and the influences may be from nature and everyday life and abstract thoughts, emotions, feelings, whatever that may go on in my head and I want to paint it with music. But of course, we're listening to all kind of rock music, like old school punk rock to extreme gurgling super-duper death metal. So, everything in between they are somewhere in the back of my head and if they pop out in a riff it's a happy accident I don't chose to do. When I'm in a period when I write a lot of music, I don't listen to music at all. I don't listen to music that much anymore because I think it's much more fun to write it. And I don't have so much time listening to a full record and if I got the time, I would write music myself instead.
Nevertheless, what is your favorite album you'd never like to miss?
This is "Seventh Son Of The Seventh Son" by Iron Maiden – that's the best record I've heard in all genres of music. I got it when I was 8, 9 or 10, something around that and I promise I listened to that full record every single night for years when I was a teenager. I know the album quite well and I never get tired of it; I don't listen to it every day anymore but now and then I put it on.
Do you have any plans for the next months concerning concerts? After some weeks of hope now the big disillusion comes with the new increasing numbers of COVID infections. I wanted to go to the Vader / Slaughter Messiah concert yesterday, but it was cancelled a few weeks before.
All the bigger festivals we were booked for last year were postponed to this year and from this year to next year. The smaller venues and events haven't been in contact with us and I fear that they went bankrupt, at least a few of them. We got two dates here in Sweden in December which hasn't been cancelled yet, so we wish the best. In February, too and I hope that we'll be back to normal then. But who knows…in the meantime during the fall we will rehearse for a new live set list and make sure that we're back again because we spent a lot of time last year in the studio and me sitting at home writing new stuff? We have been filming a lot and a lot of other stuff around the music so in September we will start to rehearse again. I'm looking forward to going on stage again, I really missed that, early flights and being dead zombie brain-tired and then get drunk, get a hangover and get back home again (laughs).
What are your hopes for the new album?
My hope is that it gets spread a lot so that we can grow as a band and get more and bigger and better bookings to be able to perform bigger shows. Of course, that people will like it would be cool. We recorded us and now it's not up to us anymore, now it belongs to the fans, what they will do with it.
Finally, my last question – do you think that Greta Thunberg would be a cool Wormwood fan?
Well, I think she could agree on some stuff that we put out, but I don't think that we are her kind of music. And if she would invite us to perform (laughs) I personally would have nothing against that. But that's a band discussion we need to do. But I don't think she would like us; she is way of too serious and too smart to listen to this kind of music (laughs).
Do you have some last words?
Spread the Wormwood music to all of your friends, stay Rock n' Roll and have a great time doing it. See you on tour hopefully!
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- Pantheon - Empire In Ruin - Feb 01
- Act Of Impalement - Infernal Ordinance - Feb 02
- Skratte - Akt II: Des Wolfes Klagen - Feb 03
- Palace Of Worms - Cabal - Feb 03
- Memoriam - Rise To Power - Feb 03
- Mithridatum - Harrowing - Feb 03
- Godiva - Hubris - Feb 03
- A Diadem Of Dead Stars - Emerald Sunsets - Feb 03
- Black Water Sunset - Engraved Spectral Aeons - Feb 03
- Scáth Na Déithe - Virulent Providence - Feb 03
- Bodyfarm - Ultimate Abomination - Feb 06
- Häxanu - Totenpass - Feb 07
- Moonthoth - Uroczysko - Feb 07
- Crimson River - Here’s To The End… Again - Feb 10
- Atomwinter - Sakrileg - Feb 10
- Funereality - Til Death - Feb 10
- Terrestrial Hospice - Caviary To The General - Feb 10
- Withermoon - A Testament To Our Will - Feb 10
- Frozen Dawn - The Decline Of The Enlightened Gods - Feb 10