Review Summary: 20 years into their career and Soilwork still manage to excel.
You’re either someone who believes Soilwork have always been consistent and haven't truly released a poor album or you’re someone who can’t quite pinpoint in their career when they started exceeding expectations. Arguably, their ‘return to form’ traces back to 2013 when the band daringly decided to release “The Living Infinite”
. Amongst founding guitarist Peter Wichers’ many indecisive returns and departures, there was a feeling that Soilwork was merely repeating themselves with each subsequent album prior to “The Living Infinite”
. It was an album that challenged the band to challenge themselves. A double album, recorded after the departure of Wichers, at a time when everyone thought they were merely a nostalgia act; all the odds were against them. Revealed as a resounding success, it proved that Soilwork still had more than enough ideas and drive to seem as not only still relevant, but also still be the band that their loyal fanbase will always cherish; something that its successor, “The Ride Majestic”
, verified even further.
, Swedish for ‘reality’, now faces the unfortunate task of continuing the band’s current upward trajectory. Luckily, the leap that the Swede’s make is even larger than any they have made previously between albums. What distinguishes this vast progression is the small intricacies that subtly decorate their otherwise stereotypical sound. For, at face value, “Verkligheten”
appears as nothing more than another great Soilwork album and a logical successor to “The Ride Majestic”
. Songs such as “The Nurturing Glance” and “Witan” exhibit the typical mellifluous guitars and lofty vocals Soilwork’s audience has come to expect, however, the songs now have this tangible retro attitude gravitating around them. Once you notice this vintage façade, they crop up everywhere throughout the album. Stabbing NWOBHM guitars in “Full Moon Shoals”, swaggering rhythms in “Bleeder Despoiler” and the not so secretive homage to Thin Lizzy, titled: “The Wolves are Back in Town”. These are traditional Soilwork songs but have been influenced by the classic era of rock and roll where songs simply revolved around playing great riffs and anthemic vocals, much to their benefit.
Structurally, every song on the band’s 11th album is akin to one another as they each feature lively grooves, soaring choruses and a short melodious interlude before exploding with renewed power. Lyrically, there are nods towards the current state of the world and a longing for freedom from an otherwise bleak and formulaic reality that unless focused on particularly, will pass by unnoticed except during Bjorn “Speed” Strid’s climactic choruses. Nevertheless, this petty nit-picking is redundant when the songs themselves are so irresistibly catchy. Both aforementioned attributes apply to tracks such as “When the Universe Spoke” and “You Aquiver” but, honestly, no one is going to be marking down the former when they’re air-guitaring and air-drumming (at the same time if such a thing is possible) and everyone is too busy singing along to the chorus of the latter to moan about its simplistic structure. If the songs weren’t so good, then maybe these things would matter. Thankfully, any aspect of this album that might be considered negative is simply a triviality.
Regardless of diving headfirst into these retro territories, Soilwork has effectively progressed their sound rather than abandoning it by magnifying their newfound focus on operatic cleans, dazzling guitar hooks and frantic drumming. Overall, “Verkligheten”
is a wonderful way to start the new year and oversees the band unlocking a sense of potential that has been waiting patiently to be exploited for just shy of the past 10 years. That potential has enabled them to reinstate themselves as a fantastic melodic death metal band that shows no signs of tiring 20 years into their career, and it’s not often that a band this far into their career is capable of returning to their former glory. Looking right at you, In Flames.