Possibly due to the success of Nine Inch Nails and Ministry, the mid-1990s saw a rise in popularity of industrial metal. Along with the likes of Fear Factory, Gravity Kills and Machines of Loving Grace, Swedish duo Misery Loves Co. enjoyed modest success following the release of their eponymous debut.
With their connection with Earache, a popular metal label, their music was featured on various promotional CDs throughout their brief career, which ran from 1993 until 2000, disbanding shortly after the release of their last album. The brainchild of vocalist Patrik Wirén and multi-instrumentalist Örjan Örnkloo, Misery Loves Co. released three diverse records, demonstrating their ability to cross genres and move with the changing tides of popular taste, although despite support from the metal press and tours alongside Clawfinger and Slayer, it all came to an abrupt end.
Misery Loves Co. was not Patrik Wirén’s first foray into the world of metal, having been performing in local bands since his teens. Initially his passion was for punk rock and KISS, but he soon became seduced by the growing thrash scene that began to emerge during the mid-1980s. His hometown of Uppsala in Sweden had a thriving live circuit at this time and even before leaving school he was playing with a punk band. The outfit would only remain together for around six months, resulting in a demo tape, but it would be during one of these shows that Wirén would come to the attention an aspiring thrash metal act called Midas Touch.
The group had formed two years earlier and by this point were looking for a new singer, when they noticed fifteen-year-old Wirén performing onstage. Despite being hungover, Wirén arrived at one of their rehearsals soon afterwards and successfully auditioned for the band. It wasn’t long before they were recording a demo, which then aroused interest from German label Noise Records, who by this time had worked with such metal acts as Kreator, Voivod and Celtic Frost.
In September 1988, Midas Touch made their way to Berlin to commence recording of an album at Sky Trak, the same studio where Coroner had recently completed work on their second album, Punishment for Decadence, with production handled by Roy M. Rowland, the man behind Sabbat‘s debut History of a Time to Come. Following the release of their album Presage of Disaster in 1989, Midas Touch enjoyed minor acclaim around Sweden and soon began writing material for a follow-up, although by the summer of 1990 the band had fallen apart. Along with bandmates Patrik Sporrong and Bosse Lundström, Wirén formed the short-lived High-Tech Junkies, resulting in a demo the following year. In 1993, while performing in a popular live venue in Uppsala called Barowiak, Wirén made the acquaintance of Örjan Örnkloo, who invited him to his studio to discuss a collaboration. As Wirén recalls, ‘He came up to me and said that he’d seen my band High-Tech Junkies and asked me if I wanted to try and write some songs with him in his studio.’
Around the time that Örnkloo formed Misery Loves Co. with Wirén he was also working on a project called H.A.L.O. with Graham Lewis, best known as the ex-bassist from British punk group Wire. Unlike Midas Touch, Misery Loves Co. was more than just a thrash group, incorporating elements from the industrial metal scene. This was a productive era for industrial, with such classics as Fear Factory‘s debut Soul of a New Machine, KMFDM‘s critically acclaimed Angst and Nine Inch Nails‘ influential EP Broken making a stir. Arguably the most sigificant was Ministry, who dabbled with different genres during the 1980s before finally finding their feet with 1989′s The Mind Is a Terrible Thing to Taste. Misery Loves Co. seemed to gain momentum almost immediately, with Wirén and Örnkloo finding one of their first songs, Sonic Attack, attracting attention from an important figure in the industry.
‘John Cloud, back then A&R at MNW, came down to the studio and heard one of the first songs we wrote,’ explains Wirén. ‘He thought it was great and asked if he could use it on a compilation he was putting together. When the compilation came out the song got very positive response and MNW decided to sign us.’ The compilation in question was called Extreme Close Up, a free supplement that accompanied Swedish music magazine Close-Up in 1993, and this in turn was followed by a three-track EP that emerged in January 1994 called Private Hell.
Misery Loves Co. was then signed with Earache Records, the label responsible for the early success of Napalm Death and Carcass, and over the next year they released another mini-album, Happy?, before commencing work on their full-length debut. ‘The album was recorded with different producers in different studios. Adam Kviman, Sankan, Stefan Glaumann…They were all involved,’ Wirén explains. ‘A couple of studios were in the centre of Stockholm and the one where we spent most time was in Vaxholm, outside of town. At the same time, I guess me and Örjan (especially Örjan) sometimes played the role of the producer.’
Their self-titled album was released in early 1995 and was almost universally praised by metal critics, while Misery Loves Co. found themselves touring with the likes of Warrior Soul and Paradise Lost and gaining considerable support from British metal magazine Kerrang! ‘My Mind Still Speaks was a big favourite among a lot of the people who bought the album,’ adds Wirén. ‘In that song we borrowed inspiration from all over the place and I think the result was pretty unique. I always loved the verses in Need Another One but never thought we got the chorus quite right.’ While Wirén and Örnkloo were the driving force behind Misery Loves Co. in the studio, the pair were accompanied by a backing group when performing live; Olle Dahlstedt on drums, Jim Edwards on guitar and Marre Ericksson on bass. As well as touring with various metal acts, the group also appeared at the Foundations Forum, a popular rock festival that took place in Los Angeles during the late 1980s and early ’90s.
‘We started out as a studio project but the more we played live the more we got the hang of it. I think we were really strong on stage after a while,’ Wirén recalls. ‘We also did one off shows with bands like Slayer, Fear Factory, Teddybears and Peace, Love & Pitbulls, among others.’ After almost two years of promotion, Misery Loves Co. returned to the studio to record their sophomore record, Not Like Them. The result would be something far heavier and more aggressive than its predecessor, with Metal Hammer declaring it, ‘A crawling, lurching monstrosity that demonstrates a mastery of atmosphere and of gut-wrenching heaviness.’
The magazine would further promote the record by including one of its tracks, Feed the Creep, on a free CD that also included Life of Agony, Tura Satana and Pantera. ‘I was much more proud of Not Like Them. It just seemed like we’d found something more personal and I think the album has a lot more depth to it than the debut,’ admits Wirén, although he confesses that the second album lacked the energy of their first release.
The fans, however, embraced Not Like Them and Misery Loves Co. were back out on the road touring their new material, supporting Machine Head and earning the band a Swedish Grammy award. Fifteen years after its release and Wirén remains conflicted regarding Not Like Them; ‘After the first album we did a lot of touring and when we went into the studio we wanted to capture some of that live energy, using live drums, etc. So our drummer, Olle Dahlstedt (now in Entombed), joined us in the studio. But the album ended up being a bit of a compromise between live and programmed. Today I look upon it as one small step towards what we became with our third album. The title just seemed to fit perfect with the lyrics, with how I felt at the time, and yeah, perhaps the way we, as a band, always felt as outsiders.’ It would be a further three years before they returned with their third and final record, Your Vision Was Never Mine to Share, a darker-yet-more melodic offering that saw its title track being included on a free Rock Sound CD.
This new direction felt a natural progression to both Wirén and Örnkloo, taking inspiration from the likes of The Cure and Joy Division. After the album’s release in March 2000, the group embarked on a tour of the UK sponsored by Metal Hammer, yet despite the positivity surrounding it, Your Vision Was Never Mine to Share would prove to be their swan song and Misery Loves Co. split unexpectedly soon afterwards. ‘I think we came to an end out of boredom really. We had been doing it for quite some time and to record another album and then tour the same places once again just didn’t seem that inspirational,’ says Wirén of the group’s demise.
‘The decision was probably mine more than anyone else’s, but I’d still say that it was mine and Örjan’s little baby,’ he adds. Following the end of Misery Loves Co., Örnkloo turned to production and engineering with a host of metal acts like Duskfall, Raised Fist and Mörk Gryning, although his most successful collaboration would be with Swedish metallers In Flames, commencing in 2002 when he was hired to perform keyboards and programming on their sixth full-length album Reroute to Remain.
‘He has a very, very unique sound when it comes to samples, layers and loops and stuff,’ guitarist Björn Gelotte told The Metal Army last year. ‘He’s very industrial. When you mix that with our very melodic parts it creates some really cool dynamics. It adds a certain groove to the songs without making it fucking disco and boring, you know?’ Another group he regularly collaborated with was Dark Funeral, who also hailed from his native Sweden. His first involvement with their music came with their fourth record, Attera Totus Sanctus, in 2005, although over the years he also co-produced and mixed several of their live albums.
Among the other acts he has worked with over the last decade are Nine, Defleshed and Satariel. While Örnkloo turned his attention to production, Wirén continued to write and perform, forming Washoe alongside Dahlstedt and Entombed‘s then-guitarist Uffe Cederlund.
The group soon changed their name to Alpha Safari and released one album, 2004′s Commercial Suicide, before deciding to split after only a handful of dates.
Elsewhere, he appeared onstage with Man.Machine.Industry in 2010, while he also released a song entitled Stålverk on MySpace that he had written with Dahlstedt a few years earlier.
Aside from Alpha Safari, Wirén studied in Gothenburg in Sweden, before launching a career as a music journalist, writing columns for monthly Danish magazine GAFFA. The artists he has covered have not been strictly metal, as his ‘albums of the year’ polls have included Arcade Fire, Mogwai and PJ Harvey.
‘I’m working on something right now. A bit early to say anything about it right now though,’ teases Wirén on his plans for the future. It has been twelve years since Misery Loves Co.‘s last album and seventeen years since their first, and in that time the music industry – both taste and how it is consumed – has changed dramatically. With so many metal bands having reformed over recent years, how likely is a Misery Loves Co. reunion? ‘Reform? Hmm, I don’t know,’ Wirén concludes. ‘I like the idea of me and Örjan writing a few more songs together, and personally I would love to sing some of our older songs again. So, who knows?’