I’ve done several features on Enforcer for Scream Magazine, the last one, done around the time of the release of the last album, “Death By Fire”, turned out to be a pretty extensive interview, spread out over three pages in the February-issue back in 2013. Why am I mentioning this? Just because if you miss something in this brand new feature, it’s most likely because I’ve covered it before. So, the main focus here is “From Beyond”, the brand new album. Nevertheless, singer and nowadays also guitarist, Olof Wikstrand turned up pretty inspired for this chat, resulting in an article well worth reading for old and new fans of the Swedish quintet.
I’ve read somewhere that you wanted to continue the path you started with “Death By Fire”. In retrospect, do you view “Death By Fire” as a step away from what you did on “Into The Night” and “Diamonds”?
– I think we more found ourselves on “Death By Fire” than any time before. On the first two albums we tried to figure out what could make us unique and stand out. We had many different types of inspiration, and songs were very clearly inspired by this or that. On “Death By Fire” we wanted to focus more on ourselves, and I think we succeeded in many ways. That’s one of the reasons why I think “Death By Fire” was so far, at that time, the ultimate Enforcer-record. With “From Beyond” we wanted to take on where the last album finished and just develop in new directions. To take all aspects of our sound and exaggerate them even more, resulting in an album that is faster, heavier more diverse and it has a really great variety of songs.
You seemed very relaxed when we spoke last time about the cooperation with Nuclear Blast. Did you feel this cooperation managed to lift the band?
– I think it’s a very common misunderstanding within the entire business, that the record label is the one that pushes that band. In the end, it’s about the music. Good Music will eventually survive anyway. Of course Nuclear Blast help us a lot and are really, really quick on doing things, but in the end it’s all about the music. At least, that’s what matters!
Do you think it would be possible for a band like Enforcer to release your music completely by yourselves?
– We sort of self managed the band more or less up til last year, before we finally got a management last year. We simply wanted to take a step back when it comes to the business things. It takes too much focus away from the creative process and the music. Especially when things get on a bigger scale all the time. Maybe in the future, when we feel we have time to do it, but at this point we really want to focus on the music and let the business be run by people with knowledge about it.
Last time we spoke together, Olof told me he at times spent ten hours a day working on the band, and things are really busy around the release of a New album.
– Apart from doing lots of interviews, the past three days we’ve been recording some videos. In fact, we are shooting as we speak . It’s really much to do, answering emails, planning tours and so on. I used to enjoy this type of work, but lately we have tried to outsource as much as we can to be able to focus on what we actually do.
Apparently the songs on “From Beyond” were written after the tour in March 2014, was that a good time for you to find inspiration, or had you already written stuff while on tour?
– I think that if you are a creative person, like all the guys in the band are, you sort of write music constantly. At least that’s how it works for me, I hear music and melodies in my head all the time, I am just waiting for a chance to write them down. In March we started to collect all the ideas we had and arrange them into songs. We had a lot of material, so it was absolutely no problem. We also had a very strong idea of what we wanted to do this time.
How would you sum this idea?
– As I said in the beginning, we wanted to continue what we started with “Death By Fire”, to take out the turds and don’t feel limited in any way. To do whatever we felt was right. Too many modern heavy metal bands are too stuck up with just playing from the book and actually lose their creative process. It’s like: “We play heavy metal, and we can’t play this fast, or write lyrics about that”. The entire limiting thing was something we wanted to totally get rid of. Instead we wanted to be as open minded as possible, take all our inspirations, whatever they could be, that suited the atmosphere we wanted to create with the songs.
Asked if there is nothing he feels he can’t do on an Enforcer-album, Olof says that in his opinion, the biggest mistake you can do as a band, is to limit yourself by putting a label on your music, by calling it something. Because, if you do so, you also create expectations among the listeners. He also admits that people might have been right to call Enforcer a NWOBHM-copy band in the beginning, but they have now left much of that behind them, and found their own unique sound.
Talking about a unique sound, acts like Credo and Magnit from the old Soviet Union are mentioned in the press release that came with “From Beyond”. Does these sources of inspirations reflect the change or evolvement in your sound?
– We have parts already on “Into The Night”, inspired by that kind of stuff. But as a music collector you always have a strong need to find new bands. That’s really important. Right now we felt these band could inspire us in finding the atmosphere we were looking for.
A band like Credo certainly didn’t limit themselves?
– That’s one of my favourite albums, and it certainly shows totally free thinking. I think both the Credo- as well as the Magnit album deserves ten out of ten points. My favorite of the two? Well, it goes back and forth. I had a period of at least two years when I listened to the Credo-album every day, but now its Magnit I listen to mostly.
It’s a bit strange because the Magnit is very easy to get, while the Credo is rather expensive. As silly as it seems, that might influence how some people rate them.
– Maybe, but if you compare the two of them, the Credo album is way more easy listening compared to the Magnit which has some really freaked out parts. Magnit is even more free thinking or unlimited compared to Credo, which is still kind of barque heavy metal based.
– In the United States, the metal, with some expections, was much more radio friendly, or even made for being played on the radio. I never visited the Soviet Union, but I doubt whether the same commercialism existed there. At least, the metal is more atmospheric, with a dark and heavy vibe, even if the lyrics sometimes are about really stupid things. There is a melancholy straight through most of the bands, and the way they use melodies, simple melodies without being cheerful in any way, is very effective. This is something that inspired us this time, making good melodies in a not cheerful way. We wanted to leave much of that attitude behind already on “Death By Fire”.
If you see “From Beyond” as a continuation of what you started with the last one, was there not anything you wanted to do differently?
– Actually we were really happy with “Death By Fire”, even two years after the release of the album. Since you can’t do the same album twice, we played what felt was right, with the same attitude we had in the past.
Working on the lyrics was perhaps a bit different, as “Death By Fire” was like a concept album, or at least it carried a red thread?
– Not really. I wouldn’t say that there was any red thread through the lyrics on the last album, it just became that way. On “From Beyond”, the lyrics are sort of the same. They mostly deal about the same kind of stuff as last time, perhaps a little more horror based. Apart from that there’s some afterlife kind of things, along with themes like destruction and world demise . You know, heavy music requires heavy lyrics!
You’ve said that “From Beyond” is faster, heavier, darker and more vicious than the last album. Are the latter two also reflected in the lyrics as well?
– The lyrics from the last album were also quite serious, more profound and darker, you might say. We continued to take that step fully on this new album, I would say. Musically as well, we have heavier riffs on this album than ever before.
I haven’t been able to read the lyrics, but you have a song called “Mask Of Red Death” on there, which is also a song title used before, with acts like Crimson Glory, Hades, Manilla Road and Stormwitch among the more well known ones. Okay, they all spelt “mask” as “masque”, but that’s not the point here. How do you approach something like that to try avoid repeating what’s been already done?
– We had absoloutely no idea other bands had done it, and to be honest, I couldn’t care less. The lyrics are loosely based upon the novel by Edgar Allan Poe, so its more the atmosphere of that sort of novel we wanted reflect in the lyrics. It was mostly the song title we needed to have, as it really suits what we’re doing right now.
Even though Joseph wrote the lyrics for “Mask Of Red Death”, Olof seems pretty certain when he says that it’s not really challenging trying to translate the feeling of a novel into music.
– It’s more a atmospherical – or attitude thing you want to recreate. At least, I have never been into telling stories with lyrics, I rather not be so direct and rather keep more things to the ones who read them to make their own opinion or their own ideas about things. Telling a story from A to B is really not interesting at all.
You mentioned the heavy riffs, this song has a few of those. What was the idea behind the music for the track?
– To create something that we never done before. This main riff in the song, was originally made by Jonas (Wikstrand, drums), who does some film music scoring. He wrote this riff for some movie, I can’t remember which, but it was not used for one reason or another. We said: “Let’s try to play it our way”. In the end, it turned out really, really heavy. The harmony, or the way we played it, resulted in a song that feels like nothing we’ve done before. We were freaked about doing that song, it felt like…I don’t know…like being born. Cause it was like something that we’ve never done before.
If you listen to the album there are songs you immediately recognize as Enforcer, while there are some tracks that are a bit different. Do you try to get a good mixture of those two types of songs?
– You can’t do the same things all over. If we were only inspired by the things we were inspired by in the beginning, things will just get worse and worse. Why make a new album, if its not gonna be better than the last one? That’s completely useless.
This thought that you have, about not limiting yourselves, is that something that comes with experience then?
– Well, yeah. This is our fourth record, and we’re getting more and more experience from writing songs and making albums all the time.
In the beginning, Enforcer was all about yourself, but as you’ve added influence from other people, do you feel it’s still the same band you started back then?
– Yes, in many ways. Enforcer is still based upon the same ideas or ideals I had back then. When I started this project in 2005, I saw it as some sort of anti-reaction to everything that was popular back then. There was absolutely no real metal around in the late nineties, just a handful of bands in the world playing real metal. For me it was about taking it to the limit from the beginning, do it like a total, self-defininig metal thing. I still have the same attitude, a total anti-trend attitude. I don’t even look at other bands a tiny bit, we just wanna go our way totally.
Olof confirms that he is mainly into the old stuff, but has no problems admitting there are plenty of cool new bands out there as well.
– It feels like our generation, or this late eighties generation, you know, guys born late in the eighties, has helped the rebirth of metal during the last ten years. At the same time, there are plenty of bands claiming to play heavy metal that are only poser, trend bands. But I guess that is what happens when something gets a little popular, you also get the weak people with you.
Some people might claim that you started a trend yourselves, with this type of music. Enforcer is often turning up as a reference band, I do it myself when I write reviews and stuff like that.
– It’s flattering in one way I guess, to create trends rather than following them. I would say that I don’t give a shit actually about other bands, I try to focus on what we do. I am a total opponent towards this new trends….this new wave of traditional fuckshit…I vomit in my own mouth when I hear that. That’s nothing we wanna be associated with.
– When we started this, Enforcer were totally alone in the entire world playing this type of orthodox metal music, and I still see it like that. Also, we don’t wanna be associated with all these weak, trend following bands, copy bands, the followers. Its not very attractive. These kind of bands only put everyone in a bad context.
But when I hear a really terrible band doing this kind of music, I am actually reminded of why I enjoy a band like Enforcer so much…
– Yeah, I see, but all people don’t react like that. Maybe it’s something about you Norwegians. People in Norway seem to have a really good attitude when it comes to metal generally. Its not a lot of people listening to it in your country, but the ones who are into metal, are into it for real. Its really good to come to Norway, even if we don’t pull so many people. It’s great to hang out with people with the right attitude.
I’ve seen you here a couple of times. I remember the gig in Oslo alongside Portrait and Armour, I guess it must have been in 2008. Any memories from that early gig?
– Being piss drunk. That was what happened to most of us during that time. In the beginning, playing live was more about getting drunk than actually perform well. That’s until you start seeing videos of yourself playing: “Fucking shit, this sounds bad”. I think we have developed much as a live band since then. But still, those were good times as well.
A lot of people into the kind of metal you perform, don’t want big changes, but at the same time, I gues you will always try to evolve, both as musicians and songwriters. Isn’t that some sort of paradox?
– Actually, I have absolutely no intention of being traditional. If you are inspired of something, you got to take that to a new level. Otherwise you will only be copying the old bands. Its absolutely no use of copying things that’s already been done. We let us inspire and take it to a completely new level, creating something new from what we’re inspired of. Just because we hate almost everything modern, doesn’t really make us a copying band. We just want to take on where everything went wrong, that’s where Enforcer come in.
You are doing it at a slower rate than a band like your country men In Solitude, who with one album changed their sound a lot. It seems you are taking smaller steps?
– We haven’t got any idea about going from point A to point B, where all the albums are a dot on the same line. We do what we feel is right. I am a orthodox metal fan, and can never get rid of the fact that this is what I wanna do. At the same time…well its hard to explain…I guess you know what I mean.
The song “From Beyond”, the title song on the album, was also on bass player Tobias Lindqvists Terminal-release, but with lyrics in Slovenian and “Slovo” as the title. Was the song always intended to be an Enforcer-track or was it an idea you got along the road?
– Actually, it was never intended to be an Enforcer song, but all the guys in the band were completely amazed by that song, and agreed on the fact that we had to steal it. There was no question about it! We spent some time persuading Tobias to let it become an Enforcer song and in the end, I think we pulled it of quite well. I don’t want to spoil anything for Terminal, but our version sounds great. The lyrics are completely new, but of course Terminal’s version sounds special for you and me when it’s a language we don’t understand. It also give the listener much more space for his own fantasy. That kind of atmosphere is really hard to recreate when you sing in English, but apart from that, we tried to recreate the song really, really close to the orginal Terminal-version.
What was it about the original version that you loved so much?
– The simplicity of the song, its really simple and direct. Sometimes you tend to make things a little bit too hard for yourself, then its great with a song with three riffs, as a contrast. It was like a smash hit!
Do you think this song could have been written for Enforcer?
– We were talking about doing something like that. But then we were like: Why should we do something like this when we got…
Olof admits that the song is a bit different from what you usually get from Enforcer, but at the same time, he Points out that it has many of the ingredients you expect from the band, being both metal, “real” and ballsy. The song also ended up as the title song of the album. Was that more of a coincidence, or what?
– Actually we had the title “From Beyond” as the album title even before we had any songs read, and we were looking for a title for this particular song and decided to go for “From Beyond”.
You told me last time we spoke that you also back then exaggerated 100 percent, the same thing as you say about your approach. Do you think this will be a contest with yourself for each new album?
– Yeah, of course! It’s absolutely no use of making another album, if you cant do something better than you already did. You are never as good as your last effort! That is just how it is, as simple as that. And as all bands, we move forward all the time. We have to develop.
What do you do to avoid repeating yourselves?
– Its quite easy actually. We are all so interested in music, and always very eager to find new bands, new inspiration, just go on and on. I have an insatiable need for finding new music all the time. As long as you got that, you are inspired and creative, no problem. The time when you stop listening to music, stop getting inspired, you are done as an artist in my opinion. Way too many bands have went into the trap of trying to copy themselves too much. Its really important to always be inspired and never do music just because the sake of doing new music. There is absolutely no need of being fast and loosing quality. Everyhing you do has to be better than what you did before.
So you are not shutting out other stuff completely, as you seem to be actively drawing influences from other stuff?
– Yeah, at the same time I am sort of finding our own style, under the roof of Enforcer. I guess I am somewhere in the middle. We love to do something that is very unique for us, but at the same time we are always inspired by other bands and other music.
Cause you also said, you don’t look at what other bands are doing…
– Especially not contemporary bands.
When we spoke some years ago, you stressed the fact that the last album was meant to be listened to in its entirety. I guess it’s important this time as well?
– I would say its even more important. Every song stands on its own legs, but at the same time they all play a part of a bigger entirety. You always develop and always find things from past album that you want to do again, and things you don’t want to do again. It comes with experience.
You think in terms of a vinyl release when you put together the running order of an album, would that mean the instrumental is the opener of the B-side again?
– Yeah, as always. In fact, we were really close to not having an instrumental this time, but in the end we went for it once again. “Hungry They Will Come” is probably my favourite of the instrumentals we have done so far.
Last time we spoke together Olof, mentioned the fact that the band once recorded a cover of a Jonah Quizz’-track. After confirming that the song in question was “Attack”, I ask him if the thought of doing a cover album with obscure metal songs have crossed the minds of the four musicians…
– No, not an entire album, but we have recorded lots of stuff during the years. We have been talking very briefly about releasing some B-side stuff. We’re still in 2015 and we mark our ten years anniversary, so we have to see if we can do something connected to this. Apart from the Nagazaki-cover from the B-side of the “Mesmerized By Fire”-single, we have also done covers of Venom, and I believe also a Misfits-cover at one point. In the beginning we also did a Savage-song (“Let It Loose”) which was also performed live a couple of times.
All photos: Kristian Ekeblom