Eyes Wide Open – An Interview With Kristofer Strandberg by EC

Sweden is simply the kings of the metal world. There are so many bands coming out of this small country that it is hard to even categorize them into sub-genres. The nation has been a hotbed of late with their hard rock and glam sound. Death metal has run rampant there for decades. Power and traditional metal is just as relevant in Sweden as it is in Germany or England. Popularity and prosperity harvests new bands, those young and hungry acts that are vying for their part of the stage and limelight. Bands like Eyes Wide Open. The young group have released their debut album entitled "Aftermath". Fans of modern melodic metal acts like In Flames and Engel should find plenty to be excited about. The band’s guitarist, Kristofer Strandberg, was kind enough to discuss the new album with me and how 2014 shapes up for Eyes Wide Open.

EC - Kristofer, just starting off with this new album "Aftermath". This is the band's debut full length. For new fans how do you describe the band and what little nugget of the genre universe would you consider yourselves in?

KS - Eyes Wide Open is a five piece metal band from Karlstad, Sweden. It's always hard to describe your sound, but I would say something like melodic metal. People try to put us in lots of different sub genres like "Modern Melodic Death Metal", "Melodeath", "Metalcore" and so on. So the easiest thing would probably be to just say metal!

EC - Personally I find that "Aftermath" is in the style of Swedish melodic death pioneers such as In Flames but also carrying the torch for newer acts like Engel and My Dear Addiction. I would go as far to say "Aftermath" could have bridged the gap of In Flames' "Colony" and "Reroute To Remain". Do you think that is a fair statement?

KS - Thank you! Yes, maybe. In Flames is one of my favorite bands, so these words sound great to my ears. Many people compare us to other Swedish metal bands, like some of the bands you mentioned. I can see what you mean by "bridging the gap". We all love In Flames older records, but also like their new ones, so it kind of makes sense that you, sound wise, put our album somewhere in between "Colony" and "Reroute To Remain". Thanks for that, by the way!

EC - With this debut album the band uses a host of different elements from strong melodies to clean vocals to aggressive tones. The mix is really important in keeping the plan diversified and interesting. What went into the band's approach for this record in terms of vocals and melodies and what influenced the decisions?

KS - With this album we really let Patrik choose his own path. Patrik is a guy with many different voices and I think that's one of the things that separates us from other bands and makes us unique. We also worked with an awesome producer, Rikard Löfgren, who really helped Patrik develop his vocals in new directions. If you listen to our EP and compare it to the album, you will see that we really have taken it up a notch this time and with it I really think we managed to show people what Eyes Wide Open is all about.

EC - How hard is it to still remain original and innovative in this crowded metal scene? We are in a world where "free" music is streaming via Pandora, Spotify, You Tube etc. Listeners hear a ton of bands and albums monthly. What has to happen to remain original Kristofer? What defines "originality" these days?

KS - It sure is hard. To be original, I think the music has to come from your heart and have a strong feeling for what you do and it has to show in every little bit of your music. You can't say, "Lets make a band who sounds like blah blah blah" and so on and think you are gonna be original. You have to dig deep down into yourself and find your own vibe and your own words, then turn them into music. That's when magic happens!

EC - There are so many accessible chorus parts to this record. I found myself singing the chorus of "New World Order" the other day making coffee. These songs just stick with you long after the track ends. How much emphasis was placed on commercial accessibility with the verses and chorus?

KS – Haha! That's great man! We heard that a lot about the track "New World Order". Lots of people seem to have hooked on that one. Actually we don't think in terms like "commercial accessibility" or "radio friendly" at all. We just make the music we love to play and listen to. I love fat riffs blended with strong melodies and punchy drums. So that's what I create.

"To be original, I think the music has to come from your heart and have a strong feeling for what you do and it has to show in every little bit of your music...You have to dig deep down into yourself and find your own vibe and your own words, then turn them into music. That's when magic happens! "

EC - For newer fans out there tell us a little bit about the band's history leading up to 2012's "Revelations" EP. Where did the band meet, how did it come together early on? What was the overall goals?

KS - The band was founded in spring/summer of 2011. Back then it was me, Erik (guitar) and Jesper (bas guitar) who wanted to start a new band. We had played in different bands before but felt that we weren't going anywhere. We wanted to create a band where all the members wanted the same thing; to make a living out of music. It's really hard to find people that want to sacrifice that much for music so we actually focused more on getting great people instead of multi-musicians and showoffs with egos the size of a small country. That may sound weird to some people, but when you think of it, playing in a band that wants to get somewhere isn't all about the music. It's about forming a brand and a company together. So you better get hooked up with nice people that you can work with instead of "the best musician ever" with a huge ego. Anyways, later on during the summer of 2011 we found Patrik (vocals) and Karl (drums) and the lineup was established. So we started recording our debut EP "Revelations" during the fall and released it in the beginning of January 2012.

EC - Okay that brings us up to "Revelations" from 2012. This four song EP introduced us to a storyline that the band is crafting regarding the end of the world. Tell us the overall concept behind "Revelations" and how it sets up "Aftermath". From there expand a little on where the story lies in "Aftermath" and where we go from here. Will there be more of this tale in the future?

KS - Actually, the concept spans over three CD's where "Revelations" is, well, just that; the realization that our life on this planet is about to change drastically. It tells us the story of a man who alone has seen what will become and his fight to make people get their eyes wide open" (see what I did there?) and realize what's about to happen. Guess what? They didn't listen. And that's pretty much where the second CD, "Aftermath", takes off. At the beginning of the end. "Aftermath" tells the story of a neglected and mortally wounded world that finally strikes back. Call it an "act of God", "mother nature fighting the disease" or whatever you like. All in all the skies open, fire rains down on us, tsunamis strike the cities closer to the shoreline, earthquakes, sinkholes, drastic changes in climate, yeah, you get the general idea that everything ends. That's where it takes off. It then continues to tell us the story about "the end" and the following few weeks. What the "doomsday" was like and also what it's like living in what's left of the world, for the few who survived. The album concludes with the title track; "Aftermath" and, well...the lyrics says it all. Actually, they're pretty much a hint of what's gonna happen in the next album. "World, drained from all life, yet tonight we burn. From our own ashes we rise. We burn. Yes we burn. We are free, forever. We are free."

EC - In today's society there seems to be a pop culture emphasis on Armageddon or doomsday. We see zombie TV shows, movies, books and comics. We see the idea of nuclear war or holocaust play out time and time again. Why is the idea of a catastrophic event heightened now? Why do you feel there is so much interest in an "armageddon" or "doomsday" now?

KS - I think more and more people start to see what happens to our world. There's so much corruption and greed in the world and it just makes sense that film makers, musicians, authors and people like that write about it since "art" has always been a kind of therapy and an outlet for your deepest thoughts. Maybe there won't be an "armageddon" today or tomorrow, but if we continue to live the way we are doing right now, it's getting closer every day.

EC - What influenced your storytelling? Science Fiction, Horror, Action or maybe all three genres?

KS - I think it's more influenced by reality with a hint of science fiction since we write about a lot of things that haven't happened but might happen in the future.

EC - You guys chose Rikard Löfgren with Leon Music to produce the album. He has been a rather hot commodity of late producing new records for Mustasch, Deathstars and Enforcer. What does a producer with his experience bring to a young band like Eyes Wide Open? Was he instrumental in helping with some of the arrangements or melodies?

KS - Yes of course! Rikard is brilliant. We also worked with another producer from the same studio (Leon Music) named Gustav Ydenius. Gustav recorded all instruments and Rikard recorded vocals and did the mixing and mastering. Rikard also co-wrote material with us. The songwriting process usually works like this: Me and Erik make a demo of a song we have written. Then Karl, Jesper and Patrik will come and lay down their demo parts. Then in the studio we record the instruments for real and during that process the song almost always changes in a better direction with help from Gustav. Then we add other instruments, like piano and violins. Gustav actually wrote all the strings, based on our humming and "plonking" on guitars or whatever. After that Patrik records the vocals with Rikard. Rikard then comes up with some ideas on how to change phrases or melodies and if we like his ideas we change it. So it’s a long, but awesome, process and Rikard and Gustav have really been an important part in making "Aftermath" sound so good.

EC - "Aftermath" is released by Headbang Entertainment. How did that arrangement come about?

KS - Headbang Entertainment is actually our own label. We decided to go that way in this record. We got a lot of different labels that where interested in releasing the album but we honestly felt that the deals were pretty shitty so we did it our own way this time and it feels awesome actually.

EC - The album cover was created by Christoffer Gisselfeldt. How did he become involved? Did he have the cover concept or was this something you brought to him?

KS - Christoffer Gisselfeldt is a long time friend to Erik. So they a have done a lot of stuff together and we decided during the recording of "Revelations" that we wanted to use him as our album cover artist. We decided the concept together in the band and then Christoffer made the cover with some help from Erik. The cover for "Aftermath" was constructed in the same way.

EC - I know you guys have a short tour coming up soon. Tell me a little bit about the touring package and what bands are involved?

KS - Right now we are touring Sweden on our "The Aftermath Tour". It’s mostly club gigs with different local supporting acts every night. In about two weeks we are going to partake in a a competition called "Wacken Metal Battle" where we have a chance to win a gig at "Wacken Open Air". We are also booked for Hönefoss Rock Festival in Norway this summer and we are actually planing a European tour later this spring. So lots of stuff is going on at the moment!

EC - I've seen you sporting an In Flames shirt on social media sites. What is your favorite album from that band and why?

KS – Haha! Cool! That's a hard one. They have a lot of good albums but I think I'll have to go for "A Sense of Purpose" or "Whoracle" even though my favorite song is "My Sweet Shadow". The funny thing is that we have really different opinions about what In Flames album is the best. For instance Karl’s favorite is "Soundtrack To Your Escape" which happens to be the one Patrik likes the least.

EC - In terms of Swedish melodic death metal...in your opinion tell me what you think are the top five most important albums that have contributed to that genre since the early 90's and maybe why?

KS - 1. At the Gates - Slaughter of the Soul. Amazing album. D-beat deluxe! Have you heard they are going to release a new album this year?
2. In Flames - Reroute to Remain. An album that really changed the whole scene and made Swedish metal explode in the whole world.
3. Soilwork - Stabbing the Drama. My favorite album by Soilwork.
4. In Flames - Come Clarity. The album that probably made their career.
5. Eyes Wide Open - Aftermath. Making way for a new era in Swedish metal, haha.

EC - What were your favorite albums from last year and what records are you looking forward to this year?

KS - Actually, "Sempiternal" from Bring me the Horizon. I actually didn't like the band at all until I heard that record. It just mind fucked me and now I think they are awesome! Haha! This year I'm really looking forward to the new In Flames album.

Maximum Metal congratulates Kristofer and the rest of Eyes Wide Open on the new record. You can listen to it at Spotify and see videos and more info on the band’s site.


Kristofer StrandbergEric Compton5/16/2014

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