Published Jan 10, 2019Trends and fashions come and go, but Soilwork stay strong. The group have been a staple of the Swedish melodeath scene since their inception in 1994, and they remain untouched by the hiatuses, lineup and sound changes that have plagued the rest of their Nordic brethren. Verkligheten ("real" in Swedish) is the band's 11th album and appears to be another Scandinavian scream-fest. So imagine most fans' surprise when they open to an instrumental title track more indebted to Pink Floyd then Carcass. It's an interesting choice, one that shatters expectations and promises an exciting listen.
Things return to the status quo as Verkligheten progresses. There's definitely a more standard heavy/power metal strain throughout the album, shaking Soilwork out of their well-established rut. Amorphis singer Tomi Joutsen's cameo on "Needles and Kin" summarizes the change nicely. It's a move toward the unabashed epic vibe of Kamelot, Blind Guardian or Joutsen's own day job. The drums still clatter along like a horde of approaching Vikings, but the viciousness is not there. It's been replaced by dual guitar harmonies and full-throated cleans that will make you think this is a Soilwork/Iced Earth collaboration. Just listen to the dynamics of "Full Moon Shoals" or "The Nurturing Glance" for a taste of the new direction. Listeners who remember Strid's brief stint with Disarmonia Mundi will be in for some real ear candy.
Obviously, some fans will take issue with the softer direction, fearing an In Flames-style cop-out into alternative metal. But there's nothing to fear. "Arrival" and "When the Universe Spoke" maintain the razor sharp attack Soilwork have been known for. But the majority of the record's great tracks, including "The Ageless Whisper" and "Stålfågel" (with Canada's own Alissa White-Gluz), showcase the newer sound. Soilwork have been inching towards something like this for the last couple of releases, but rarely have they felt so unfettered.
Purist fans of the melodeath scene may bemoan the changes in their beloved scene. But Soilwork seem to have no time for them. They're looking into the future on this one. (Nuclear Blast)