Review by David Araneda
Release Date: 11th January 2019
Label: Nuclear Blast Records
03. Bleeder Despoiler
04. Full Moon Shoals
05. The Nurturing Glance
06. When the Universe Spoke
08. The Wolves Are Back in Town
10. The Ageless Whisper
11. Needles and Kin (feat. Tomi Joutsen)
12. You Aquiver
The Swedish melodeath masters SOILWORK has just released their eleventh studio album entitled “Verkligheten” (“The Reality” in Swedish) via Nuclear Blast Records. For the fans of this band it’s been almost three and a half years without hearing new material from the them since the release of “The Ride Majestic” in 2015, excluding the compilation album “Death Resonance” from 2016. During this time some of the members of the band have remained quite busy in other successful projects such as the melodic rock band THE NIGHT FLIGHT ORCHESTRA, who have released two studio albums in this period and will be perform in the next version of Wacken Open Air.
In addition, during this recess the drummer Dirk Verbeuren left the band after twelve years to join MEGADETH, with his young twenty-six-year-old apprentice Bastian Thusgaard coming as his replacement. Another change in the line-up of SOILWORK was the departure of bassist Markus Wibom, replaced by Taylor Nordberg. The rest of the line-up remains unchanged with Björn “Speed” Strid on vocals, Sylvain Coudret and David Andersson on guitars, along with Sven Karlsson on the keyboards. Taking into account the long gap between albums, the growing popularity of THE NIGHT FLIGHT ORCHESTRA and the changes in the line-up, the stakes on “Verkligheten” were quite high.
The album opens with a short but peculiar instrumental introduction called ‘Verkligheten’, marking a soft and subtle start for a record that will be full of surprises. The keyboard sound merges with the beginning of the first actual song. I’m talking about ‘Arrival’, the first single released last October as a lyric video. This track shows us SOILWORK in all its splendor, with a furious melodeath sound full of futuristic elements. The chorus is epic, mixing in an exceptional way the clean and harsh vocals of Speed. The guitar duo shreds at full speed and steals the show. A great start for this long-awaited album.
Then they strike again attack with ‘Bleeder Despoiler’, which begins in a promising way with an interesting guitar riff full of groove. However, by the time the chorus arrives the song becomes a bit too predictable and repetitive, making it one of the few tracks of the album that didn’t succeed to surprise me. ‘Full Moon Shoals’, on the other hand is a lot catchier, with an almost pop chorus in which Speed´s clean vocals predominate. The sound is closer to the metalcore, which is not my favorite metal subgenre, but in the case of SOILWORK sounds very authentic. Towards the end of the song they go nuts with a fast paced section and lots of growling.
‘The Nurturing Glance’ opens with clean guitars, developing into a melodic riff and then a hard rock bridge, culminating with a catchy trademark chorus. Both Coudret and Andersson are experts when it comes to mixing different styles of guitar playing in the same song. ‘When the Universe Spoke’ repeats the formula of intro with clean guitars, but in this case it explodes into an amazing blastbeast, full of melody but also very aggressive. It’s one of the best songs of the album in my opinion. Extra points to Bastian Thusgaard, who remains precise and synchronized with the rest of the band despite the great velocity.
‘Stålfågel’ (“Bird of Steel” in Swedish) is one of the most interesting songs on the album, as it drifts away from the classic SOILWORK sound and gets closer to what we are used to with THE NIGHT FLIGHT ORCHESTRA. It’s a track with a retro-futuristic atmosphere, from the eighties-like keyboard sound to its striking animated video clip. Sven Karlsson’s work on keyboards is truly inspired, creating a unique, epic and apotheotic atmosphere. As a curiosity, in the background we can hear a female guttural voice, and everything suggests that it would be Alissa White-Gluz (ARCH ENEMY), but at the moment this can’t be reliably verified online.
‘The Wolves Are Back in Town’ is a correct track but it suffers for its position in the album among more outstanding songs, remaining a little unnoticed. ‘Witan’ is a song that injects some fresh air into the record, mainly thanks to its infectious chorus, one of the most effective of the album. And that is a lot to say, since these Swedes tend to put extra-cheese in their choruses. ‘The Ageless Whisper’ begins with the soft message from a girl and a relaxed pace, only to detonate into an intense display of riffs, with plenty of changes of intensity in addition to a playful chorus, full of drama. The brief instrumental interlude with jazz-fusion bits is priceless.
‘Needles and Kin’ is another fast song, full of adrenaline and with the collaboration of Tomi Joutsen from AMORPHIS. In the growling contest the Finn takes the advantage with a deeper and more powerful voice, but Speed shines with his clean voices, an area that he has been able to explore without limitations in his parallel project. The regular version of the album ends with ‘You Aquiver’, a song with an almost danceable beat, very melodic and energetic. For those loyal, collector fans, the digipack and double vinyl versions also include the EP “Underworld”, which contains three unreleased songs (‘Summerburned and Winterblown’, ‘In This Master’s Tale’ and ‘The Undying Eye’), plus the original version of ‘Needles and Kin’.
In conclusion, “Verkligheten” is an extremely dynamic album, drifting naturally between countless musical genres. The variety of styles incorporated, the quality of the musicians involved, together with those catchy melodic choruses, make SOILWORK an extremely attractive band for those who keep their minds open to a musical experience beyond any expectations. Without reinventing the wheel, these Swedes have managed to mix the ingredients in the right way to come up with an entertaining album that will generate a lot of noise during this year. It probably will not be the favorite record for old-school or more traditional metal fans, but one would assume that they are not keeping track of this band anymore.
SOILWORK – “Verkligheten” videos: