Soilwork‘s consistency in recent years has been something to behold. After a brief dip in quality circa 2007’s Sworn To A Great Divide, followed by the second departure of guitarist Peter Wichers after 2010’s The Panic Broadcast, the Swedish metallers quickly recaptured their mojo and have remained on strong form. Perhaps it’s not the standout of this creative purple patch, but Övergivenheten (“the abandonment”) continues the momentum.
Now on album number 12, the sextet further refines and defines their sound with each record – the listener shouldn’t expect a quantum leap forward here. But the end result is an appealing continuation of their distinctive sound, an amalgam of melodic death metal, prog, traditional heavy metal and rock. It’s an approach that’s accessible, but certainly sufficiently heavy (“Electric Again,” “Is It in Your Darkness”) to keep blast-beat wary commercial audiences at bay. Acoustic flourishes are carefully inserted, while Sven Karlsson’s keys add color and occasional ambience, without feeling overbearing or forcing a sense of atmosphere.
Regarding the “rock” side of the equation, 2019’s Verkligheten was critcized by some for more prominently infusing elements reminiscent of AOR/classic rock offshoot project The Night Flight Orchestra, which also features Soilwork vocalist Björn ‘Speed’ Strid and guitarist David Andersson. Punters frustrated by this prospect will be riled up again by elements of songs like “Nous Sommes la Guerre” and “Death, I Hear You Calling,” to the extent where the two outfits may feel inextricably linked on occasion.
However, these elements have arguably freshened up Soilwork’s sound, and Strid belts out the melodies with such conviction that it proves engaging. Blessed with presence, charisma and a powerfully versatile voice that straddles clean and harsh vocals with class, he surely must be in the conversation by now whenever the topic of modern metal’s greatest singers is raised.
The album’s crisp and polished production is another element in their favor. Perhaps the hour-plus running time could have been revisited; a track or two in the second half could easily have been culled to boost the sense of immediacy. But there are select cuts that appear destined to be staples of the live set-lists; including the type of songs that will elicit venue-wide, arms-around-your-friends sing-a-longs at gigs.
The title track and “Harvest Spine” boast as many hooks as your grandfather’s tackle box. Elsewhere, “Vultures” is punishing, groove-laden melo-death, and infectious “Golgata” wouldn’t have sounded out of place on 2005 breakthrough Stabbing The Drama.
After a period littered with personnel changes, Soilwork’s current core possesses more chemistry than a periodic table. Övergivenheten may not become a landmark record for them, or a career best outing. But released within weeks of a series of high-profile metal LPs from their countrymen, Soilwork more than hold their own on Övergivenheten.
(released August 19, 2022 on Nuclear Blast)
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Watch Soilwork – “Dreams Of Nowhere” Video