Since forming in 1995, Soilwork have forged quite an impressive name for themselves, steadily releasing critically acclaimed albums and exploring their sound in fantastic and unique ways. Under the surface however, the band have suffered through endless line-up changes and personal strife, or as the band themselves like to put it simply: Hell. Somehow this has only given strength to the adaptability and musical creativity of founding member and front-man Björn “Speed” Strid. Soilwork’s sound has changed dramatically over the last two decades or so, but thanks to Strid’s enduring influence, their essence has remained a bright and unique spark in the Metal scene.
The Swedish melodic Death Metallers have been somewhat quiet over the last three years since their fury-steeped release of ‘The Ride Majestic’ in late 2015. Since then they have released a compilation album of B-sides under the menacing name of ‘Death Resonance’ in 2016, but have remained silent until recently.
This year, Soilwork have come out of the shadows to release a stunning new album called ‘Verkligheten.’ The title itself inspires curiosity for those who are unable to speak Swedish, with the meaning of the world relating to the concept of reality. Counterintuitive to the album title, the band chose to lyrically delve deep into the spaces between reality; to seek an escape from the pain and fear of existence. With a new drummer called Bastian Thusgaard, David Andersson and Sylvain Coudret on guitars and Björn “Speed” Strid on vocals, Soilwork are sounding pretty good despite their collective fears about age and impending death. Out on the 11th of January, ‘Verkligheten’ is a record that you won’t want to miss out on hearing.
Right from the first notes of the gentle opening title track Verkligheten, this album captures your attention while still giving nothing away about what the rest of the album will sound like; but that mystery doesn’t take long to solve.
Having already been released as a single, Arrival is no surprise but its placement on the tracklist is perfect. It really does signify the bludgeoning “Arrival” of Soilwork, with furious blast beats melding with emotive melodies to set the bar high for the tracks to follow. Bleeder Despoiler rips just as hard as Arrival, but with a moodier vibe that gives the song more weight and intensity of its own.
Full Moon Shoals, also a single that already has its own music video, is both a departure and a progression of their sound. Sharp and technical riffs help to bring a fresh energy to their sound while Strid constructs a compelling chorus with his usual blend of beauty and brutality.
When the Universe Spoke boasts a belying otherwordly intro that makes the following faster-than-ever blast beats feel like a punch in the face. Thusgaard’s drumming reaches a new level on this track; his relentless speed and intelligent technicality muscles out this track beautifully.
Stålfågel is in a league of it’s own; this is the first time that Soilwork have even come close to venturing into Power Metal territory, and damn is it satisfying to hear. Chuggy yet complicated guitars backed by solid drumming come together to support Strid’s soaring vocals as the song progresses from punchy verses and intensely emotional choruses to an absolutely stunning solo courtesy of Andersson on guitar. This song is nothing like anything Soilwork have created, but seeing the band try their hand with a new style was both intriguing and well executed.
Witan, The Nurturing Glance and The Wolves are Back in Town are tracks that hold a surprising amount of hostility and Death Metal influence, hitting hard in the verses with aggressive vocals and harsh guitars, before the band follow their well-used recipe once more to break into an epic soundscape during the chorus.
The Ageless Whisper is full of ferocity, contrasted by a curious sadness that pervades the chorus in opposition of the aggression delivered by the rest of the song.
Needles and Kin is a track that features Tomi Joutsen from Amorphis as the band steps up the intensity once more with impossibly fast drumming the song hard behind the combined vocals of Joutsen and Strid. This song doesn’t quite feel as predictably structured as the previous tracks, instead focusing on creating a weighty beast of a track.
You Aquiver delivers a galvanising mood that feels triumphant and confident, and somehow just a little different from the rest of the album. This song focuses less on creating an emotionally charged mood and more on developing a more pumped-up feeling to finish the album on a high note.
Listening to each song on its own lends the tracks their own strength, however as an album, it is clear that Soilwork are fond of following their tried-and-true song structure: aggressive verses and epic, melodic choruses with a satisfying hook thrown in at the end. While this recipe works perfectly with their sound, it does start to feel a little repetitive toward the end of ‘Verkligheten.’ Despite this single flaw, Soilwork have still managed to masterfully write every song so that it sounds distinctly different from the last; while the band are happy to stick with a method that works, they are not afraid to explore and push the limits of their capabilities.
This album has everything a Soilwork fan could want. There are songs that sound new, songs that sound like classic Soilwork and then there are just straight-up bangers. After 20 years, the Swedish masters are still rocking harder than ever. ‘Verklighten’ is out now, so don’t waste any more time reading this review.
Get yourself a copy or stream/download the album here!
Plus, if you want to see the new album live in action, get yourself tickets to their Australian tour in November here!