Soilwork – “Verkligheten” (Nuclear Blast Records)
Battle Helm Rating
Oh wow, Björn ‘Speed’ Strid has really hit the mark this time – although you may need a few listens to take in all of this stupendous release, such is its depth! Formed in the mid 90s as part of Sweden’s melodic death scene, and certainly retaining an aspect of that in Strid’s deathly growls and hoarse vocals, Soilwork have since come a long way to becoming a modern metal band. Some 4 years in the making, “Verkligheten” (‘reality’) continues from both its predecessor albums, be it 2013’s “The Living Infinite” or “The Ride Majestic” in 2015 but equally involvement with The Night Flight Orchestra as really brought out the soul in Strid, so expect plenty of that along with bountiful amounts of prog tinged harmonies across the 12 amazing tracks here. Indeed, “Verkligheten” is a thoroughly uplifting album, charged throughout by melodic passion and positivity, and even when it takes a melancholic turn, you still feel good afterwards – unbelievable! Carried by the elite level composing which all the band, including new drummer Bastian Thusgaard (The Arcane Order) have participated in, the performances don’t just come together seamlessly, but in a natural flow that carries the uplifting energy from start to finish. It’s no better exemplified by the incredible guitar work of Sylvain Coudret and David Andersson, both as a team and individually in just about every aspect from their glittering melodies to their stirring solos, all the while trademarking the band’s Swedish sound – truly a pleasure to listen to! Following the tranquil intro to ‘When The Universe Spoke’, Thusgaard shows his measure through his thunderous blast beating amid Strid’s roars, yet all the while in the presence of his soulful tones amid beautiful and catchy melodies from those guitars when they’re not devilishly whirring death themselves – a truly breathtaking track. Of the mid tempo numbers, then ‘Witan’ stands out for me with its shimmering Scandi melodies and elevating vocal harmonies that pump in the positivity ceaselessly as the song just keeps going up and up, propelled by Strid’s soaring vocals and screams along with injections of double bass drumming by Thusgaard to send it into final orbit – fantastic. With a number of guests like Alissa White-Gluz and Dave Sheldon also gracing this 11th studio release, Tomi Joutsen (Amorphis) adds his vocals to ‘Needles And Kin’, playing tribute to the chopping style of old school Swe-deth, but now also featuring dexterous melodies, passionate singing and fast spiralling solos contrasting brilliantly with screams, guttural roars and Thusgaard’s stampeding drums. Wow, I mean, wow, few bands could pull this off with such style and catchiness while not detracting from the extreme soul of the sound, all brought to life vividly by Thomas ‘PLEC’ Johansson’s superb production. An incredible release to already begin the year, “Verkligheten” is just what you need to blow the winter blues away!