Pay attention now if you’re into progressive metal! Sweden’s Wolverine has worked its way to the pinnacle of the genre since it formed and started out playing melodically influenced Death Metal in 1995. Tough they didn’t stick around in the Death Metal department, they do return on occasion to borrow some musical elements, most notably some growls. We, at The Baboon, featured their track Towards Loss in early July.
I managed to get a hold of drummer and founding member Marcus Losbjer and talked to him about the band’s style, their song writing strategy, the critical nature of the band and their upcoming album Communication Lost.
Q: Marcus, thanks for this interview first of all. We appreciate it! You set out in 1995 playing Death Metal, but by the time you released your first EP, your style had changed into a progressive rock/metal flavor. Wasn’t the choice to start with Death Metal in the first place sort of like a default choice, after all you’re Swedes and Sweden is bursting with Death Metal?
A: Well I suppose you get through different phases in life. I have gone through several of those phases. I got fascinated with Kiss when I was about five years old. After that I gradually listened to heavier stuff as time went by. From Kiss I went on to W.A.S.P. and Iron Maiden, after that I got into faster stuff, like Helloween and Annihilator. Having gone that road, the step into Death and black metal wasn’t that big. I started wearing pentagrams, upside down crosses and such.
It was at this time I and Stefan started the band. Stefan on the other hand really liked softer kind of stuff as well, like Richard Marx. So we had this idea to combine Morbid Angel and Richard Marx: Death Metal with soft melodic parts. Of course, the recipe didn’t really work, or at least, we couldn’t make it work!
Eventually, as you’re getting better at playing your instrument, you want to explore your own boundaries. We started experimenting with odd time signatures and stuff like that. Everything started evolving into something that people would probably call progressive metal. After that, we continued evolving and when we passed the “technical phase” we started thinking more from a musical standpoint. We thought more about what was best for the song and not best for the individual. I guess we started thinking more about the music from Cold Light of Monday (2003) onward.
Q: Morbid Angel + Richard Marx… You Should’ve Know Better! (Pun intended.) Anyway, is that musical viewpoint still helping all of the band’s individuals to distill enough fun out of musicianship? Or is “fun” and “personal development” something not directly related you think?
A: I think it’s a matter of playing whatever you think is good and feels right. If I speak for myself I think it’s fun playing a song if I like it, no matter how challenging the song is to play. I think having fun is a kind of personal development.
Q: Do you think your “what’s best for the song” approach actually leads to better songs? How do you personally define “better” from a musical point of view?
A: Of course everything is a matter of taste here. There are as many flavors as there are people, and of course what’s best for the song leads to better songs. It’s here your personal flavor decides what’s best for the song, that’s the benefit if you are the creator! A good song grows on you, touches you and stands the test of time!
Q: Your songs are very structurally different from the ordinary. No fixed intro-(chorus-verse)x3-outro schemes. I take it you then don’t start with a single verse riff, write a few more riffs around that and wrap ‘em all up into yet another song? How do you write and build up your songs?
A: Haha, really? I think we have very fixed structures. One structure that always seems to come back in our writing is: intro-verse-interlude-verse-chorus-verse-solo-chorus-chorus. That’s the “Wolverine recipe”. Of course there are all kinds of variations on that. Usually when I write a song I come up with a melody or a groove, start building on that and try to get a structure with a good “flow”. After all that I try to come up with lyrics.
Q: Essentially that’s really the approach I described then, isn’t it? Do you ever start with a message or mood you want to transgress with the song or how do you eventually get this into a particular song?
A: If you’re writing songs for a concept, you usually have this idea of what you want to tell, then I suppose you start with the mood.
Q: Are any of your songs written in such a way?
A: On Cold Light of Monday we had several of those. The instrumental Tightrope is an example of us trying to visualize a first-time drug-trip. With Tied with Sin we had the intention to portray a ride in an ambulance when being in an unconscious state.
Q: All your albums so far (released in 2001, 2003 and 2006) have been very well received by the press. How have you kept the recipe interesting over time? How have you developed as a band that keeps people and press interested?
A: I don’t know. We always write music for ourselves, from the heart. We have been very fortunate that critics like the same things we do!
Q: The last album you released, Still, has already been out for four years and you are currently working on a little something called Communication Lost. What kept you busy in the past four years?
A: The last four years have been a struggle. It has probably been the toughest creative limbo in my life. Writing songs has been a real pain and there have been many personal issues in the band. Just the fact that the five people in the band are total opposites and every note or lyric you write has to go through a five-people thick filter before being definite. Wolverine is a very time and energy consuming band! Another fact is that you want to be able to release something better than before, it’s tougher every time!
Q: Well, that five-people thick filter must be something many bands struggle with. But of course I don’t know if you guys are perhaps extra critical towards each other’s work. How happy is everybody now with what’s already there of Communication Lost?
A: We are really thrilled about the new material and we can’t wait to hear and see how people will react to it. The songs might be a bit more challenging to get into than on Still, but hopefully they will stand the test of time and grow.
Q: How are Communication Lost’s songs more challenging musically? Have you adopted new techniques or styles that are debit to this?
A: In my mind they are more complex than on Still, but not complex in a technical way. We have tried to work more with electronic elements and effects to create an atmosphere in a way we haven’t done before. Who knows, I might be totally wrong about it being more challenging than Still. In the end, it’s all in the eye of the beholder.
Q: What can we expect of Communication Lost and when do you plan it to be released?
A: What you can expect is a new Wolverine-sounding album which, in my mind, feels like the natural evolution and continuation of Still. Maybe slightly darker than before. We hope to have it released before the end of the year.
Helping people get deaf since 2009