Review Summary: Not only is there a faint pulse, the proverbial heart is furiously pumping.
Soilwork are finally back (and better than ever). Gone are the days of the watered-down, lethargic version that had entirely forsaken their roots in the name of gaining notoriety among those fickle souls who haphazardly call themselves metal fans. One can only dwell in mediocrity so long before the necessity for change is finally recognized; with their 2013 release The Living Infinite
, the famed Swedes come guns blazing and reintroduce many of the elements that made them popular a decade and a half ago – more intricate guitar parts and faster rhythm sections. This monster of an album spans 2 discs, and its 20 original songs last an astonishing 84 minutes, 22 seconds.
The Living Infinite
Björn "Speed" Strid - Vocals
Sven Karlsson - Keyboards
Sylvain Coudret - Guitars
David Andersson - Guitars
Dirk Verbeuren - Drums
Ola Flink - Bass
Longtime guitarist Peter Wichers left the group in August to once again pursue other projects and was subsequently replaced by David Andersson; many felt this was the final nail in the coffin, but the change was actually a twist of fate that would breathe new life into the group. The guitar work of the Andersson/Coudret duo is brilliantly dynamic and easily tops that of any previous effort. Surprisingly, The Living Infinite
is a nearly nonstop auditory assault of riffs, riffs and more riffs. While this release is far from having the brutality of early records like The Chainheart Machine
and Steelbath Suicide
, it’s certainly fair to call it “heavy” as there are even BLAST BEATS scattered throughout. The majority of the material is melodic in nature still, but that said, there is obvious intent of regaining some of the glory from their heavier days.
The general versatility and assortment of styles used is almost shocking given what Soilwork has tended to do in the past. To highlight this point, “Vesta” commences with an Eastern-sounding steel string motif; “Parasite Blues” pays homage to Iron Maiden-esque simplicity; and the instrumental interlude “Loyal Shadow” even has a slight djent-feel to it. In whole, it’s quite unexpected. Too much variety in a record is often a negative because it can give the impression that there is lack of direction and unity, but Coudret and Andersson pull it off in remarkable fashion as they riff and solo themselves into oblivion.
Strid describes the lyrical content as dealing with existential questions (e.g. “what if life is a projection"”, “what if we co-exist somewhere else"”) ; Strid finds these philosophical dilemmas interesting and as he puts it, he can “walk around for hours and hours and hours thinking about them.” This inspiration also carries over into the musical realm for him because the vocals have a new found aura of authenticity that has been absent in recent years. Strid stated that there were absolutely no restrictions going into the record and that they wanted it to be “playful and have infectious melodies”; essentially, to take The Panic Broadcast
a step further. In some sense the album is quite paradoxical; it’s upbeat and full of energy, yet it never crosses the line into exuberance and glee. The lines between anger and positivity are often blurred.
The 84-minute run-time is surprisingly not a double-edged sword in this case. It’s nearly impossible to create a record of this length without having some filler rear its head, but the quality of the songwriting is high en totale, so the few boring moments don’t do too much damage. On the other hand, the length gives it character since it’s rare to see an LP of this sheer magnitude. With that said, there’s certainly enough quality material for a fillerless record so it makes me wonder why they opted for the extended 2-disc route instead of a shorter, more concise display of in-your-face metal. Regardless, that decision is hard to critique since dang-near everything is well-executed.
The production is also vastly better than 2010’s The Panic Broadcast
; the snare strikes resonate and have noticeably greater depth which gives an added sense of power that had ominously been missing in the compressed, flimsy-sounding releases of late. This modified production sound is clean and modern yet it isn’t over-produced either; it feels natural and comfortable for a contemporary metal record.
For the first time in a long time, Soilwork seem genuinely interested in writing again. More importantly, they’re finally giving fans what they want – something with a bit of the vintage Soilwork flare. The group’s 9th Studio album is an exercise in versatility that may best be described as a hybrid of Natural Born Chaos
and The Panic Broadcast
. Most will find this to be the best album Soilwork has released in at least a decade (or quite possibly ever). The diversity of this updated style, combined with the faster drum work and the undeniable skill they possess creates what is an overwhelmingly successful “comeback” album. In sum, Soilwork convincingly silence the critics, resurrect their stalled career and prove to the world that their chapter in metal history is not over yet. The Living Infinite
is poised to be one of the strongest albums of 2013.
Bjorn Strid’s favorite tracks:
“Infinite I” & “Long Live the Misanthrope”
-Superb guitar work.
-Minimal filler, which is shocking for an 84min. album.
-Great variety of styles and concepts for metal.
-Seamlessly combine anger and upbeat-ness in a manner that’s tough to pull-off.
-Still haven’t incorporated enough melodeath elements from their very early days (which is entirely a matter of taste, though).
-None of the songs stick out as true classics; the majority are all just very solid.