Interrogated by Phil Cooper
Hailing from Sweden, melodic extreme metal outfit Wormwood are on the cusp of releasing their third full length album. ‘Arkivet’ has had a slight delay to its originally scheduled release but there are currently two singles with videos available. The title track and ‘The Gentle Touch of Humanity’ have created a healthy buzz amongst the fanbase of the band. The fans are growing from far and wide drawn by the evocative melodies combined with frantic extreme metal rhythms that forms the core of Wormwood’s sound. Despite this widespread fanbase and two albums already available – ‘Ghostlands: Wounds From A Bleeding Earth’ and ‘Nattarvet’ – there are still many that are unaware of the unique and well-crafted style of the band. I got the opportunity to chat to guitarist and one of the main driving forces of the band Tobias Rydsheim, to shed more light on the guys.
I started by asking about the origins of the project…
[We] started out in 2013. The intention was to create a kind of black ‘n’ roll sound. I’m the only one left of that line up but we all came from different rock and metal backgrounds. We thought the blend of the dirty, punkish vibe of rock ‘n’ roll mixed with black metal was a great combination. After a few rehearsals and a couple of line-up changes, we decided to call ourselves Wormwood and develop from there. Our first EP does have some rock ‘n’ roll vibes to it but later on, when we started to work on the first full-length, by nature it contained more melody and soundscapes. So, we decided to move in that direction instead and work with more atmosphere. Now the third album is coming. We’re a Stockholm based band even though almost nobody lives in Stockholm anymore; we’re kind of spread-out in smaller towns and the countryside surrounding the Stockholm area.
So as you say, you’ve grown and developed along the way. You mentioned that you’ve been the consistent member since the early days. How does this lead to creativity, do you come up with the main ideas or are duties shared between you and Nine, the lead singer?
Well Nine is a great lyricist but he is not an instrumentalist. So, music wise, I am responsible for the majority of what it is Wormwood. I often write stuff and upload a demo to the guys and then we try it our in the rehearsal room. Everyone gets an opinion on it and we collaborate in the rehearsal room so everyone gets their touch on it. There’s one that the drummer and I worked on. The main foundation of the songs on every record so far, I’m the main composer.
So with that in mind, where do you take your inspiration from? You can hear throughout all three records there’s bits of classic heavy metal, rock’n’roll, obviously black metal and a bit of folk as well.
We have no rules in Wormwood with how to sound. That comes pretty naturally. I have my childhood heroes like Kiss and Iron Maiden and stuff. Maybe subconsciously I get inspired by other musicians but I’m not an active inspiration seeker in ither people’s music. If there was it would be outside the metal genre. My main inspirations, I may sound a bit cliché right now but I take a lot from nature and my surroundings. Abstract feelings and thoughts, just sort of vibes that I experience that I want to capture. When writing it’s not I’m sitting down and I’m going to write a hit song, I want to communicate an emotional state. I want to paint a picture but with my guitar to show and tell something, it’s not just vocalists and lyricists who have something to say I think as an instrumentalist even as a drummer you have something to say and to share and that’s what I’m trying to do. When I’m in a creative time and writing an album for example, in that period of time I don’t listen to much music at all. That’s a distraction for me. I may listen to the radio in the car but that’s more or less not music I hear by choice. That said, and we’ve talked about inspirations, subconsciously you will pick up stuff you’ve heard before and maybe these will come out in some way. But when it’s fresh in the memory, other people’s songs are a distraction. I don’t want to redo what others have done.
As you say you pick up on vibes and that bleeds through into the soundscapes you create, the organic growth of Wormwood with how the third album sounds different to the previous albums; is this a natural change or a conscious progression?
That’s a fair question, I’d say the answer is both yes and no. Both ‘Nattarvet’ and this new one, ‘Arkivet’, are concept albums in a way. Which requires two different overall vibes in a way. The previous one is set in the 1800s here in Sweden and the new one is set two years from now in the future. So, the ‘Nattarvet’ album has a more folky/forestry vibe to it. Whereas this new album sounds more, more modern in a sense. We have a few selected parts where we add more folky feeling to it which is to enhance the setting of the Scandinavian environment. Even though the content and themes are about something global. It focusses on Scandinavia within the wider setting of the fall of this planet and humanity. Back to the question, there is a natural evolution as we want to progress but there are things we want to keep from previous records. So, we keep things and throw out experiments that didn’t work. For me if somebody tells me write a thrash metal song, it’s not something a work with, it’ll be thrashy but it will sound like Wormwood. Same if I were to write a punk or reggae song it’s going to always have Wormwood blood in it.
Picking up on what you said there about the themes of the new album. With global warming and the fall of humanity. Is that something that as a band you feel strongly about? It’s also something that lends itself to the dystopian feel of BM.
Well personally, I read the news. The news is worrying. We’ve got a heat wave here in Sweden. We are not supposed to be a hot country, it’s supposed to freeze, now I can’t even breath. Check the news, it’s floods and devastation all over and pandemics. Yeah, it does fit an extreme metal genre, we’re not the first to tie this together. Although we didn’t want it to be some kind of devilish apocalypse, no ‘Mad Max’ sci-fi stuff. We wouldn’t it to be as close to a fictional reality. It’s not all facts but we wanted to present what we might expect if we keep walking this dirty road as we are doing. I can’t understand that there are people who deny the science that we are not doing good right now. But also, to underline this is my personal thoughts, as a band we are not political band, we do not belong to any belief.
With the album it’s not us spreading propaganda, this is us bringing some facts and fiction to the table. Pointing out that humanity isn’t too clever. All the climate issues have been on the news for a few years now, maybe subconsciously we have picked up on this and started to write conceptually material in 2019. Then the pandemic strike and I would say that the lyrical content fits in our time. It’s basically a product of our time. We didn’t choose that actively but it has worked out that way.
It does lend itself, very well to the extreme metal vibe. I think with the mix of tracks such as ‘Overgrowth’ and then latest release ‘Gentle Touch of Humanity’, the samplings in there match the fictious and reality which delivers an eye-opening album.
Yeah – and if we achieve that and one person opens their eyes, I think we won. Also, we’re just normal guys, we’re don’t claim to be saints. We’re part of humanity, it’s up to everybody to be at their best for nature. We don’t blame nature or animals, we’re very nature romantic band. We’re metal guys, we like the forest
Accompanying the album, you’re got the novella. That’s due to come out with the releases. Was that thought of beforehand, or were you approached from the author?
When we started with our thoughts with this album, we wanted to make it broader and bigger. So, we thought what we could do to achieve this and put in more art forms. I think Wormwood to me is not just a rock’n’roll band. We like to work with the videos and graphical stuff surrounding everything and concepts. We wanted to try and release something to read. Mikael Stromberg is the author he lives in the same town as me and we’ve got some common friends. I’ve known him for quite a few years, and he’s released loads of books in the horror genre. I contacted him and described what we wanted to do, and we had a few meetings. I wrote a template on this world we were creating and gave him free reign to write something in this template. We had other meetings with my other friend who created the videos, we wanted the video for ‘Archive’ to reflect the novel. It’s a thread from the song to the video to the book. They’re all connected.
So, it’s purposefully created idea to allow fans to get fully immersed in what you have created?
To fully understand the video, you need to read the book as there are so many questions missing in the video which the book will answer this will also lead to a better understanding of the record too.
As we spoke about briefly earlier, the pandemic. Has that affected recording and the bands’ ability to create? Has it been a trail to overcome for the writing and recording?
To put it like this, we did the recording, it didn’t really matter. The drummer could be the only one in the studio with the engineer and in the end, we decided to only record the drums in the studio. We then recorded everything else in my home studio. I produced the other guys and recorded myself. For the vocals, we used another friend’s studio who also mixed. That didn’t get affected by the pandemic. I wanted the production closer to me, the studio for the drums is two hours away, whereas where we mixed it is ten minutes away. I wanted to have more control on the full production. In a few aspects, maybe we could have done it another way, but I think it was the right choice because we had a better flow in the production, we could add stuff whenever we wanted. No time limits and we didn’t have to pay for the studio time.
What’s your approach to writing and recording. You mentioned that you’re the main composer. But is it a case of you come up with a riff or melody first and lyrics come second or does Nine have a backlog of lyrics that you go through and pick out bits to work with?
Sometimes I do write riffs that will get him inspired. Other times, he has this backlog of stuff that I can read and take inspiration from. Then at the end of the day we can arrange it, it’s 50/50. We have a very close collaboration and we often in the beginning of the process we send stuff back and forth. Even though we don’t live close, we’re always connected.
Moving out of the studio and recording side of things. We have had live shows for the last 18 months. How do you feel you can take the new album on the road? Would it be performed in it’s entirety as a concept or pick out certain bits to play live?
We don’t feel like we’re done with the ‘Nattarvet’ songs yet. So, we’d probably look to tour with a best of Wormwood setlist. I think we need to do that as we’ve got so many places to go before we can be conceptual live. We are rehearsing now and we know it’s going to open up more and more. It’s almost two years of not being on the road, two gig seasons. We have in December two shows that aren’t cancelled; fingers crossed they will happen and again in February but they’re just here in Sweden. So, I’m looking forward to next year, we’ve been in contact with some new guys that want to book us all over Europe. So, we will see. We can’t really choose now, are we expecting a new wave of disease. Time will tell but we a re ready and eager to come out and play.
Thinking on that, and potentially playing for people that won’t have heard you. What would you suggest is a good starting point for someone who hasn’t heard Wormwood before, a particular album or song?
I would say go on YouTube and check out our videos and then check out the full catalogue.
There’s a good spread of your sound over the three albums, myself and a few others, came across ‘The Isolationist’ as an introduction which is a shift form your first album.
Yeah, a lot of people celebrate that song. I’m proud of that one, that’s something that I want to add to our live show more than we do now. But it is a long song, so sometimes you have to kill your darlings.
We’ve mentioned a few times that you’re a Stockholm based band although not all living there, but coming from Sweden as a whole a country with a healthy musical pedigree certainly with metal. Is that something you consciously think of, that there’s a lot to live up to coming from that cultural scene?
I would say, that I love being on the stage, but if I could choose, I would not stand on the stage in Scandinavia. Playing in Norway, Sweden and Finland is kind of boring. Everybody in the crowd is in a metal band, all been there done that. That drummer sucks and they played a wrong note. When you go to other countries, they give more soul to the band and more enthusiastic about the music. The metal scene in Scandinavia is big and healthy, but the fanbase isn’t that big because everyone in the scene is in a band. People are pretty lazy, they don’t go that far to see a band, there’s a band in town again but let’s stay home. I hope it’ll be better now after the pandemic and people appreciate the live scene more. But I don’t think we have to prove anything to nobody, we a re a metal band but I don’t consider myself from the necro-cult. I don’t care about that anymore; when I was 15 stuff like that was more important. To be accepted, to wear the most obscure shirts and whatever. But now, I’m more relaxed with my relationship to the scene. We’re doing our thing, if people like it we’re happy if they hate us who cares.
You mentioned the cultures there, would you say that Wormwood fits in with a Pidgeon hole label? Do you see yourselves as fitting in with identity like that?
It’s hard and depends on who I’m talking to. If I’m talking to someone who knows music, I might say we have a foundation in BM but we blend folk and atmosphere. To someone else I might just say we’re a melodic extreme metal band. I’m a little afraid to use the term black metal as a label because to be true black metal band you need to be a true black metal band but then people will complain. You’re not a true black metal band and my response is I know. To other people I just say I’m in a rock band. I think it’s hard to label us because we have so much stuff that is forbidden in black metal and maybe forbidden in general metal. We play music isn’t that enough!
Online you guys have a had a good social media presence. Documenting the process of the new album through Instagram. For you have you found social media a useful tool to connect with your fanbase.
Yeah sure. We have people writing messages to us everyday more or less. I don’t think we would be half the size if we didn’t give a shit about social media. Some bands avoid it, but for me if you don’t exist on social media as a band then you don’t exist as a band. Then it’s up to you if you want your band to exist or not. Just being a local band playing local pub or if you want to get out there. It is a useful tool; we could use it better than currently, but it is what it is. I think we should use it more but we can’t be on our phones and computers all the time.
What do you see the future holding for Wormwood going forward? We’ve discussed the plans for returning to live shows. What’s the long-term plan?
Tobias – We’ll start out with the live shows. We’re getting bigger festivals to play, and I want to make it bigger. Put more detail and effort into the stage shows, lights and effects. I always wanted to put more into that. Now when we’re playing bigger stages it’s just a 15-minute change over and you have to plug in your own guitar. With the future, I hope we will grow, and economy will grow so we can put on bigger shows. Still got ideas for a future album which we’re discussing right now and we’ll see how that ends up. During the fall and winter, I’ll be writing a lot of material and then we will see when we can go out and tour again. We have a few countries that want us to play that we haven’t been to before, so we have our bucket list to finish which will take years. I’d also like to experiment more with the video releases, that interests me. More effort making bigger videos, make everything bigger and hopefully better too. Just like everybody else!
You said there, a bucket list of countries to tour, is there a bucket list of bands you’d like to share a stage with?
Can I say Iron Maiden? To be realistic, there isn’t really, I don’t really have any idols anymore. I want to share a stage with bigger bands that welcome us on tour. Reach out to more people…
- All content © Über Rock. Not to be reproduced in part or in whole without the express written permission of Über Rock.