Interview: Soilwork vocalist “Speed” Strid talks about Peter Wilchers’ return to the band and flips the switch on “The Panic Broadcast”

When Soilwork guitarist Peter Wilchers decided to retire from touring and leave the band in 2005, vocalist Bjorn “Speed” Strid was determined to hold Soilwork together.

So Strid, who had co-founded Soilwork with Wilchers in 1996, hired guitarist Daniel Antonsson to fill Wilcher’s spot. While the band’s first album without Wilchers, “Sworn To A Great Divide” was worthy of respect, Strid felt there was a void in the band.

Meanwhile – even though Wilchers was in the U.S. and Strid lived in Sweden – the two began planning a side project. When Wilchers began sending demos of songs, however, Strid said he noticed a certain resemblance to Soilwork.

At that point, it was only natural that the two would discuss Wilchers’ return the band he helped found, Strid said.

“We did talk about having a band on the side, a studio project,” Strid said in a recent interview. “We started writing songs and he sent back one track that became ,’The Thrill,'” from Soilwork’s newest release, “The Panic Broadcast.”

That lead to discussions of ‘why don’t we do this together in Soilwork like we used to?'” Strid said.

Thankfully, they did – and “The Panic Broadcast” is welcome shot of adrenaline. Heavy and precise, yet melodic, the band’s new album shows why Soilwork has been studied, copied and plagiarized by hundreds of lesser followers of the “Swedish Melodic Death Metal” sound the band created.

On Aug. 11, Soilwork will play Headliners Music Hall in Louisville. Joining the band are Death Angel, Augury, Mutiny Within and Swashbuckle. The U.S. tour is only the beginning of the band’s journey across the globe to promote “The Panic Broadcast.”

Of course, constant touring was part of the reason Wilchers decided to leave Soilwork five years ago. Strid said the break was good for Wilchers, but said going on without him in the band never felt quite right.

“It was hard seeing him go, but after a while, we took it as a challenge,” Strid said. “I think we did great (with “Sworn To A Great Divide”), but when we started touring, I felt something was missing.

“It was pretty much our baby. We started the band back in ’96,” Strid said. “… I guess he needed to settle down and get some distance, since he’d lost the inspiration and the need to tour.”

With the band members spread across Europe and America, the complete band didn’t play the songs from “The Panic Broadcast” together until shortly before they began their current U.S. tour.

“It’s definitely going to be a challenge to play those songs live,” Strid said. “It’s a challenge on each album, because we always take it a step up.”

While every band says their most recent work is their best, Strid said he is especially pleased with “The Panic Broadcast.”

“It’s a really good summary of all of Soilwork’s career,” Strid said. “It’s all the albums. A lot of the playfulness of ‘Predator’s Portrait’ and ‘Natural Born Chaos’ is back and the songwriting is more mature.”

The album was also an opportunity for Strid to push his vocals in new directions. At times – especially on “Epitome” – Strid voice is darker and heavier with emotion. After listening to “Epitome,” Strid said he and others noticed an uncanny (and, for Strid, unconscious) vocal resemblance to Layne Stayley, the late vocalist of Alice In Chains.

“I’d never done vocals like that for Soilwork before,” Strid said. “It was a challenge; it feels wrong, but it’s right. It’s really druggy and trippy.”

Once the band finishes it’s U.S. tour, the reignited Soilwork will do stints in Japan, Austraila and Europe. Strid said the band is happy to be going back on the road.

“It’s going to be a great set,” Strid said. “With eight albums, it’s hard to pick a set list.”

You can purchase tickets for Soilwork’s Aug. 11 Louisville show at Ticketweb. To hear tracks from “The Panic Broadcast,” visit the band’s MySpace page here.

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