Review Summary: Soilwork set a nigh-impossible goal for themselves, yet fulfill their ambitions with consummate ease.
There’s no other way to say it: This Swedish Sextet – who have spectacularly fallen from grace since their early successes at the turn of the new millennium – have presented by all accounts, a truly colossal album. Now such a description is open to interpretation, and it doesn’t necessary entail that the album will be successful at satisfying Soilwork’s artistic vision. Because you see, The Living Infinite
is a double album clocking in at an monstrous 84 minutes, a daunting timeframe to adequately sate with music that is both vibrant enough to keep the listener interested and cohesive enough to maintain a sense of direction.
What makes the album that much more of an artistic uphill struggle, is that Soilwork’s output has never really been accused of being ‘progressive’ in any sense, and neither can this. By electing to merely refine their formula and double the content that draws from said formula, the band has set a task that should be virtually impossible to complete without a hiccup or twelve. The scope of Soilwork’s ambitions with their latest album cannot be understated. But what is ultimately the most awe-inspiring thing about the album, is that the Swedes have managed to pull it off with complete sublimeness. The Living Infinite
is even more of a triumph in that it isn’t that drastic a stylistic departure from Soilwork’s recent output. The NWOBHM influences are still there, but are much more potent than on anything these guys have put out in the last decade. Iron Maiden-like, punchy riffs underpin the predominantly harsh sung verses, while the subtle metalcore elements add a modern, accessible edge. In contrast to the typically more aggressive verses, melodic and soaring riffs are more often than not the backbone of the catchy, cleanly sung choruses.
They’ve managed to also incorporate some impressive hooks amongst the chaos without making the album sound fragmented. While the choruses are obviously the crux of each individual track, the superb interplay between the other material results in something consistently enjoyable for the entire 84 minute runtime. The vocal performance is very energetic and very impressive, with a balanced devotion to both clean and harsh vocals. Each of the techniques is utilised to their full effect, and Bjorn Strid manages to pull of the clean/harsh gimmick with remarkable authenticity. Though his cleans are laden with layers and studio magic, they are actually vey tasteful in their delivery and execution. His harsh vocal range is impressive, but he screams and shouts with respect to boundaries. For the most part, Bjorn’s harsh vocal delivery sits comfortably as a medium-high range rasp, occasionally dipping or heightening in tone during key moments of the songs. The real strength of this record comes from the lack of filler, a notable achievement considering its gargantuan length. Yes, it does have its weaker moments. “Let the First Wave Rise” has some awkward clean sections that don’t quite mesh together with the rest of the song, and the pacing of “Drowning With Silence” could’ve been handled a tad better, but to expect any fewer missteps on a 20-song double album is silly.
What is even more impressive is that while there are a few soft intros and a couple of bridges scattered across the album, it is virtually unrelenting in its assault on your senses. At no point will you find multi-minute ambient/progressive passages or boring samples to break it up, meaning the album is ultimately carried by its meticulous pacing. The major strongpoint of the album is its cohesiveness. While the tracks themselves are unique enough to set themselves apart from each other, they also retain a sense of belonging. No track really feels out of place or carelessly thrown in as either a cash grab or a change of pace. The only instrumental on the entire double-album is towards the end of the second disc in the form of “Loyal Shadow”. The track itself is quite brief though, just a tad over two and a half minutes in length. Thus it would be difficult to accuse Soilwork of attempting to just fill in the gaps, especially as the instrumental leads so effortlessly into “Rise Above the Sentient”, one of the album’s many highlights.
The Living Infinite
is not only an excellent all-round offering from these resurgent Swedes, but the best album of their career by a convincing margin. It’s not every day you come across an album so intent on maintaining its hard edge, yet so resilient that it rarely wears on your patience – especially considering the thing is almost an hour and half long! Soilwork have completely defied expectations and produced not only the best record of their career, but a strong contender for album of the year.
The Living Infinite I & II
Whispers and Lights
Long Live the Misanthrope
Rise Above The Sentient
Owl Predict, Oracles Stand Guard