Soilwork - Verkligheten
Nuclear Blast
Melodic Death Metal
12 songs (50:25)
Release year: 2019
Soilwork, Nuclear Blast
Reviewed by Goat
Major event

Looking back, it's hard not to think that I was a little harsh on Soilwork's last album, 2015's The Ride Majestic. Björn "Speed" Strid and co are trying to mix up their sound and keep it fresh, after all, and while I'd have liked to hear the Swedes going even further I may have put a little too much emphasis on what wasn't there instead of what was, a cardinal sin for reviewers and one I'm often guilty of. So mea culpa, not least because Soilwork have become one of my favourite bands and have been on a solid-to-excellent run over their last three albums. You can add Verkligheten to that run, translating as 'Reality' and the first non-English album or song title from the band since Steelbath Suicide's Centro de Predominio all the way back in 1998. They've made each album different too, memorable and distinct in a way that bands more respected with the underground such as Finland's Amorphis have failed to do - speaking personally, at least!

And Amorphis and that sort of prog-tinged melodic heavy metal or whatever it's called these days is just as fair a point of comparison for Soilwork as than the In Flames and Arch Enemys that usually seems to be the case. Sure, Soilwork have much less folk influence than the Finns and are further from prog, but ostensibly different tracks like groovy headbanger The Wolves Are Back in Town and the more melodic Stålfågel are not that far apart, both songs having heavier and lighter moments more complex than the usual soft/heavy rollercoaster that melodeath tends towards. Added to this is that the black metal-influenced moments of The Ride Majestic are used much less abruptly and feel less out of place, the band mostly throwing in moments of thrash or groove where they fit making the songwriting feel much smoother and the album as a whole flow better. Soilwork have had their own formula for a long time now but it's never felt as perfected as on Verkligheten.

This makes for an album that on initial listens has less standout moments than The Ride Majestic, but with familiarity is better. It gets off to a slow start with the title track, a whimsically prog-feeling instrumental that introduces the blasting Arrival well, one of the more aggressive tracks on the album with a heavy keyboard presence and plenty of clean singing between the harsh verses. Initially seeming like a fairly typical song for Soilwork, the greater use of soloing and melodic guitar passages hints at more influence from Strid's Night Flight Orchestra 80s rock side-project, something that pops up often throughout the album. The muscular tech-riffing of Bleeder Despoiler and Full Moon Shoals are interesting in their own rights but are well-incorporated into the songs even with the distinctly proggy melodic passage of the former and heavier death/thrash break in the latter, and there are the usual big choruses everywhere, not least in The Nurturing Glance which also has the album's best solo.

Ironically, a pair of guest spots really sum up the album and just how comfortable with their own identities Soilwork are, the first of which is Arch Enemy's Alissa White-Gluz on first single Stålfågel, adding a touch of heaviness to what is otherwise one of the more melodic tracks present. It's not an uninteresting song (I had marked it down as one of the album's weaker tracks until several listens later found it stuck in my head and refusing to leave) moving past its initial softness once the build to the chorus is done and allowing the vocals to show off, but it is interesting just how little White-Gluz adds, some indistinct backing screams nothing that Strid couldn't have handled. The second is Amorphis' Tomi Joutsen on Needles and Kin, probably the most death metal-feeling track present at first but soon levelling out into something in line with the rest of the album. As before, Joutsen is good but adds little other than some backing growls and singing, and Strid has more than proved his range across the album, particularly on nearby tracks Witan and You Aquiver. Why even bother to have either present at all, but to compare their sounds to Soilwork's and absorb them so seamlessly that without being told they were present you may not have even noticed? Soilwork has always had Arch Enemy's mixture of aggression and melody, and lately has increased the Amorphis-esque progressive elements to the point where the bands' respective sounds are equally complimentary and rival to each other. So well is the combination presented here that they're unequivocally my favourite of the three bands, offering classy and sophisticated melodic death that is both complex and catchy, and after having compared and contrasted Verkligheten to The Ride Majestic it's a relief to find out what I really want to hear from Soilwork is their solid blend of influences rather than anything too out-there. Another very good album from Soilwork that I'll keep coming back to, then.

Killing Songs :
Bleeder Despoiler, The Nurturing Glance, Witan, You Aquiver
Goat quoted 80 / 100
Other albums by Soilwork that we have reviewed:
Soilwork - A Whisp of the Atlantic (EP) reviewed by Goat and quoted no quote
Soilwork - Death Resonance reviewed by Goat and quoted no quote
Soilwork - The Ride Majestic reviewed by Goat and quoted 74 / 100
Soilwork - The Living Infinite reviewed by Goat and quoted 75 / 100
Soilwork - The Panic Broadcast reviewed by Goat and quoted 85 / 100
To see all 14 reviews click here
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