Blessed Are The Obsessed: Walking With Strangers – ‘Hardships’ Review + Interview

Sweden has been getting a great wrap on this blog lately. And you can’t blame me after you check out this one band Walking With Strangers. Already with an 2 EPs under their belt and a horde of industry folk how on their heels, they’ve recently released Hardships. So, I thought i’d better pull this one apart for you guys so you could see the awesomeness that is Walking With Strangers.

As soon as first track Legends kicks in, it becomes very clear that this band doesn’t fuck around. With in seconds, the song has broken out into a brutal groove that, rather than petering out, only seems to become varying degrees of absolute brutality through out the whole song. And whilst this track shows the bands virtuous musical abilities, I get the vibe that they are still holding back. But don’t panic, as the album continues, they unleash.

Roots bring to the album a technical sound that would make Misery Signals blush. Roots has a lot more of a ‘produced’ feel to it, something not so prominent in Legends but amounts to a very classy, unique sound. After a couple of seconds to catch your breath, Heart kicks in, once again the band gets straight to business with swelling vocals and re-capitulating instruments followed by potentially the greatest vocal stutter effect…ever. Again the band reveals more talent and in the previous two tracks, worthy of note is the very professional second breakdown over an atmospheric melodic lead guitar, oh and gang vocals! We all love them.

Watch:Walking With Strangers – Dead Hands

It’s one thing to be brutal and to maintain it for an entire album, though what sets Hardships apart from its competition is the woven in epic ambiance normally fading in towards the end of the tracks. This leads me to These Walls pt. 1 where the band shows it understands that less can be more and rocks out to a totally minimal groove. Glichy, synthy and massively produced it shows that at least one member of this band is seriously gifted with the ability to transcend genres. Though as soon as Never takes over, once again its straight back to business. Taking a more Parkway Drive-esque direction Never seems to meander from slow to fast and done very tastefully, with epic drops and a brilliant climax.

As the album draws close to an end These Walls Pt. 2 sees the band taking a moment to show off, had you not yet already become aware of their scary ability. Violins, breakdowns and a djenty theme it easily takes best track for me. And alas, it comes. The final track Set Your Mind. With most band in this genre the last track is often quiet a chore for listeners but after the previous 9 tracks, you listen intently and see what else the band has up its sleeve, though just as your getting into it…it stops! Concluding with almost a white noise fade out to a eerie and creepy as fuck vocal sample – going to show that Walking With Out Strangers are indeed show man, up until the last second.

I was also fortunate enough to catch up with Bass player Christian, what a rare human!

Blessed Are The Obsessed: What’s your name and what is your role in the band?

Christian Höijer: Christian Höijer and I play bass guitar.

BATO: How did Walking With Strangers first begin?

CH: I’m actually not a founding member, but from what the others have retold it for me it all started back in 2004. Back then no one knew how to play anything. Pontus had just learned to play guitar and Anton overheard him one day playing in a room after school. Like i said back then they knew nothing about anything, so I guess it sounded like shit for a long time. But they kept doing it. As time went by it was in 2007 that Walking with strangers released the first EP “Turning point”. But it wasn’t before Buried dead & done was recorded that things was starting to happen. Leading us to sign with Agency group and later our first record deal with Snapping Fingers Snapping Necks where we released the Buried EP.

BATO: You have recently released ‘Hardships’ which is an amazing album both instrumentally and production wise, can you give us a bit of a run down of the album?

CH: When we first started to write the album we had no idea in what way we where going to go. We knew we wanted it a bit more ‘techy’ than the Buried EP but not as ‘techy’ as Dead hands (We released Dead hands as a single earlier this year). We had a massive creativity problem in the beginning and I think we where a bit to picky as well. If a riff didn’t sound perfect from the start we threw it away. In the end when we started to feel that this album was going to take so much longer to write than we first thought it all just came at once kind of. We went back into our old Guitar Pro files and found that we had some really good stuff there. By that time we where really behind our schedule and we’re suppose to start recording the album within a week. We started recording the album and at the same time Ciffe [Lennartsson] (guitar) wrote on the songs as soon as he got some time over. And in the end we are really happy with the turn out.

About the production of the album we chose to re-amp the album. We didn’t find any studio in Sweden that we felt would get our sound the way we wanted (except Studio freedman but they where booked). So we started to look overseas for studios that could re-amp. That’s when we mailed Joshua Wickman at Dreadcore Productions, I don’t know if he had heard of us before but he loved what we had done before and he was up for it. In the end we have no regrets doing this, but shit when we recorded the album. If there is one thing you can count on, it is that when technology is involved if something can go wrong it will go wrong. Although we all learnt a lot by doing it this way and I think we will do it the same way next time around as well since it’s so much cheaper than actually record the album in the studio and pay studio time for something that we now can do at home.

BATO: Who were your main influences when writing and recording ‘Hardships’?

CH: Ciffe would probably the best one to answer this since he wrote the most part of the album. I know he worked hard not to get to influenced by other bands since both he and the rest of us wanted it to sound new in a genre that has so many other bands doing so much great music. It’s really hard not to be “just another band” in this genre, hopefully people will think that we have added something to our music that makes it a bit special, we think we’ve made it but then again we are a bit to involved to be a good judge of that.

BATO: In your opinion, how does it differ from your previous EP?

CH: The biggest difference is that on the album we wanted to write a song instead of a riff. We wanted to make the riffs and melodies flow together better, i guess the EP is a bit rawer in that way. Sometimes I feel that the EP can get a bit messy, I wasn’t apart of the EP writing but from what I’ve heard of the other guy’s they just wrote and somehow it just turned out good. This time we knew what we where doing at least.

BATO: How did your fans like ‘Hardships’?

CH: So far I’ve only seen one or two people saying they was expecting something more, so mostly positive reactions! So yeah i guess that sums it up.

BATO: What’s been the best experience so far for you guys?

CH: Metaltown! Without a doubt. Metaltown is on of the biggest metal festival in Sweden. We filled up the tent we played in with 3500 people and yeah people just went ape shit. When we went of the stage I met Brandon (Bleeding Through) who was suppose to play after us at the same stage, asking me if we where big or something since he had never heard of us but we hade such a crowd. For me that was really big at that time since Bleeding Through been one of my favorite band’s for a long time!

I think we have a lot to thank for that show as well. Before we did that show we had never done a tour 1 year after that show we had manage to do 4 tours and some more major Swedish festivals and signed with Panic and action. Metaltown was probably the breaking point for when shit was starting to happen for us for real.

BATO: If you could play any festival in the world what would it be?

CH: Woodstock, Rock am ring, Big day out, Groezrock, Hellfest so many great festivals out there I could make the list so much longer but yeah no body enjoys reading about me name dropping festivals.

BATO: What can we expect from Walking With Strangers in 2012?

CH: A lot! We will probably hit Sweden hard early next year with some shows! Got some more Scandinavian shows on the way in as well before we will smash some festivals during the summer. I don’t want to say too much but we will start writing some new tunes as well.

BATO: When can we expect to see you guys down under?

CH: When Pontus (Guitar) and Robin (Vocals) get’s over their fear of spiders, bugs and all the other crazy shit you people got down there! Yeah, I’m talking about the Kangaroos and Angus Young.

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