Review Summary: The loss of Peter Wichers and an attempt at a double album? All the pieces were in place for a total meltdown. Instead Soilwork have come back with their strongest, most consistent album to date.
Soilwork dodged a bullet. It had been years since they had released anything people were really excited about, and things appeared to be getting worse. First, they released Sworn to a Great Divide
without their founding guitarist, Peter Wichers, and seemed to prove they couldn’t do it without him. Then, as if to reinforce this notion, Peter Wichers returned for The Panic Broadcast
and gave the band a much-needed kick in the ass. On top of that, there was still the vocal minority lamenting the lack of melodic death metal since A Predator’s Portrait
. In a nutshell, Soilwork were going to fight an uphill battle on album number nine regardless of what they did. Adding insult to injury, Peter Wichers left again and word got out the band were going to attempt a double album. Fans wept for the eventual demise of a band they used to like, and critics giggled like schoolgirls waiting for the car crash… but it never came.
Soilwork released the song ‘Spectrum of Eternity’ and shocked almost everybody. This wasn’t Sworn to the Great Divide’s
neutered sound; it wasn’t even The Panic Broadcast’s
half-hearted attempts at recapturing the glory days. This was a ferocious track that shot right out of the gate with pounding drums, melodic leads, multiple tempos and excellent vocals. This track single-handedly reset people’s expectations for what Soilwork could accomplish without Peter Wichers, and the band have met (or exceeded) them. The Living Infinite
has turned out to be the best, most consistent album the band have ever put out, and it is definitely their most ambitious. They’ve taken the high-energy tempos and melodeath foundation of their earliest years and mixed it the modern sound of The Panic Broadcast
while injecting the entire formula with varying degrees of progressive influence.
This has allowed the unimaginable to happen: Soilwork have released a double album that somehow manages to be filler-free and diverse. Spread throughout its twenty-track length are songs that sound like they could have come directly from A Predator’s Portrait
while others pull directly from the band’s modern formula – and there also a blend of the two styles. The album’s first eight tracks burn through variations of those styles with ‘Let the First Wave Rise’ bringing back the melodeath roots with its breakneck tempo and keyboard-backed refrains while songs such as ‘Memories Confined’ are modern (but good) Soilwork right down to the strong chorus and moderate tempo. A double album full of these two styles blended to varying degrees could have probably dragged The Living Infinite
over the finish line, but the band had a trick up their sleeve. On the first eight tracks Soilwork had definitely been toying with a slightly more expanded style, but it was buried within the standard Soilwork sound; that changes on the subsequent track, ‘The Windswept Mercy’.
For those familiar with Devin Townsend’s Ocean Machine
release, ‘The Windswept Mercy’ is definitely in the same style but with the Soilwork treatment. The song introduces fans to a whole new side of the band and it does so flawlessly. ‘The Windswept Mercy’ has its heavy parts, its smooth main section and one of the band’s best choruses. This is also the track that marks a stylistic shift in the album. From here to the end, the band introduces an expanded sound that opens up a lot of the songs to a more progressive undercurrent. Don’t get me wrong, the latter half of the album definitely still sounds like Soilwork and there are still tracks that will have old fans banging their heads, but these tracks have to share time with the melodic, progressive-leaning of songs such as ‘Whispers and Lights’ and ‘Antidotes in Passing. Songs that feature a classy, moderately paced style that focuses on clean vocals, open spaces and strong choruses (again, Devin Townsend is a good frame of reference). This new direction comes at the perfect time in the album and allows the band to make it through the final twelve tracks with ease.
Who thought Soilwork could pull off a double album? Probably only the most optimistic among us believed it was possible, and it turns out they were right for once. The Living Infinite
finds Soilwork doing everything right. They’ve managed to merge the sound of their earliest albums with their modern direction without appearing contrived or forced. Some of these songs blend the styles and some of them are totally dedicated to one facet of the formula, but it totally works. They also managed to pull off the double album by being smart and not turning it into an exercise in redundancy. The Living Infinite
basically bludgeons the listener for eight tracks before smartly diversifying its sound with a more expansive, progressive set of ideas that pulls the album through the final twelve tracks. On The Living Infinite
, Soilwork have simultaneously stepped back to their past while maintaining their current sound, but they have also diversified their formula more than ever before – and they did so without a single filler track.