Soilwork – Verkligheten

Label: Nuclear Blast. Release date: 11 January 2019.

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I am delighted that one of my first reviews of 2019 is that of SOILWORK’s forthcoming album Verkligheten. This will be the band’s eleventh album and it feels like a long wait since their last release, 2015’s fantastic The Ride Majestic  (the longest gap between SOILWORK studio albums to date). One thing that SOILWORK fans and critics alike always comment on is how the Swedish melodic death metal group always evolve and release stellar albums even after two decades in the game. Even their rarities album Death Resonance had better material than some of their contemporaries (not naming names). But after such a long time between albums and with vocalist Björn Strid and guitarist David Andersson also playing in Swedish hard rock band THE NIGHT FLIGHT ORCHESTRA, does SOILWORK stand the test of time in 2019?

We’re introduced to the album by its title track opener, a slow-burning yet mesmerising instrumental which gets Verklighteten going at an unexpectedly slow pace. Thankfully second track Arrival blows the cobwebs away with its blistering, blackened intro. SOILWORK are back in business! It’s clear The Ride Majestic was a springboard for this stellar song. The big chorus is backed up full textures of sound. It’s glorious how energetic and alive this song sounds.

Bleeder Despoiler is the ultimate groovefest, like Stabbing the Drama 2.0, but it is Full Moon Shoals which provides the first surprise of the album. It is a lot more on the metallic side of SOILWORK than expected, but also with a big, cheesy chorus making it one of the band’s most poppiest offerings. Strid somehow gets away with it because his vocals are always top-notch.

The intro of fifth track The Nurturing Glance is richly melodic and the old school verse continues the metallic tinge to proceedings. As expected, there is another storming chorus but it is the melodic riffs which steal the show here. Having said this, When the Universe Spoke steals all the attention away. This is a song which is equal parts melodic and ferocious. It’s a fresh and heavy SOILWORK which provides a dense centre to Verkligheten. It was a good choice having this track in the middle of the album to prevent it sounding samey.

Unfortunately Stålfågel doesn’t keep the energy up with its classic metal infused melody. The Wolves Are Back in Town brings things back to more of an old school SOILWORK sound, but it is Witan which provides one of the more interesting tracks of the second half of Verkligheten. Witan has a subtle symphonic element to it which takes it to the next level, but the groove is irresistible.

After the forgettable The Ageless Whisper, SOILWORK deliver a corker of a tune with Needles and Kin. The instrumentation ramps up with this song, with the new drummer Bastian Thusgaard really coming to the fore here. Add some guest vocals by Tomi Joutsen from AMORPHIS and you’ve got a winner.

Last album The Ride Majestic ended on a spectacular finale, so I was expecting Verkligheten to also have an exhilarating conclusion. However, we are instead presented with You Aquiver, which despite its catchy melodies and charming riffs, doesn’t feel like a fitting closer for such a celebrated band. It leaves me wishing the album finished with the previous song. 

Verkligheten is still a really enjoyable album, but it loses momentum halfway through. Despite this, and to answer my question posed at the start, SOILWORK continue to prove doubters wrong. Yes they sound a bit mellower on this album, but they do not sound stale and past their sell by date just yet. They’re still churning out enough interesting ideas to remain relevant and if they can stay a head up above their peers there’s no reason why we couldn’t enjoy SOILWORK for two more decades.

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