Soilwork has always been a band to do things their own way. With the Swedes having influences such as Meshuggah and Pantera and fusing those influences with the ‘Gothernberg sound’ even during their harder hitting early years, Soilwork were as much about melody as they were the power groove in the brand of melodic death metal. Soilwork’s discography is not one that can just be taken at face value, either. Sure, 2005’s Stabbing The Drama was something of a turning point and while there have been some line up changes, this is a band that has solidified and creatively has gone from strength to strength, stretching their wings to double albums with 2013’s stunning The Living Infinite while 2019’s Verkligheten was something of melo-death tour de force that had almost radio friendly elements. It is also testament to two Soilwork protagonists – vocalist Bjorn ‘Speed’ Strid and guitarist David Anderson – also members of the retro-smooth-progressive-hark-to-the-’70s-act The Night Flight Orchestra – a band on the rise in their own right. It is staggering that Strid and Anderson not only keep both bands going by scissoring the two with tours and albums and with no dip in quality.
In some respects, A Whsip Of The Atlantic should not really be a surprise. Soilwork has after all always aimed for the high mark with this record, the band has taken the option to vault right over it and has delivered a piece of work that is just sublime. A Whisp Of The Atlantic may not be anywhere near as long as their last album but it betters it in terms of creative breadth and ambition. An EP it may well be but it not one to be disregarded as some throwaway stop gap, to assume this would be a serious mistake and with a running time of 37 minutes there is more than enough to dig into.
The obvious key is the opening title track which clocks in at just over 16 minutes. Melo-death does prog? Guitarist David Anderson does indeed cite Genesis’ Supper’s Ready as an influence and while the concept of Whisp is a fantastical question, it is one steeped in reality with a tale of alienation. What would it be like if a visitor from elsewhere came to our world right now? Before even getting to the music, the scope of the concept within one song is worthy of a short intake of breath. Anderson sees the band as “underrated” and one that has still have something to prove as to what they are able do. Job done then because A Whisp Of The Atlantic is one hell of a way of delivering the notion, a bold statement and a bona fide gold plated risk taker that pays off in grand style. What makes this such a remarkable feat is that Soilwork has clearly thrown their very essence into their work to deliver both musically and conceptually and it is a piece of work that makes its mark instantly whilst showcasing the band’s future potential. It does help having a versatile vocal talent such as Strid, his croon built around the delicate piano which is of course the calm before the veritable storm. This is not a song though that just plays out the hard/soft dynamic, it is the unexpected that adds to the piece; a literal deep dive, even to the point of some jazzed up trumpet at the end where the song becomes a creative monolith in Soilwork’s discography. A Whisp Of The Atlantic does not just aim to slam together two styles in the hope that it works or attempts a long song that just noodles around nothing, it is a beautifully crafted piece that delivers on the guitars and the vocal melodies, has the jazzy horn aspects and then is ramped by the huge drumming presence of Bastian Thusgaard, the heart pounding intensity at the 13minute mark that practically takes off before bringing the whole piece full circle with its trippy jazzy end.
After such an auspicious beginning, the remainder of the EP may appear to be eclipsed by its lead track and the long creative shadow it casts but none of the remaining four tracks lack anything, they are no mere bystanders, bring more than enough in the terms of quality and knockout sounds. Feverish does overlay a silky synth over jagged ferocity whereas Desperado, Death Diviner and The Nothingness And The Devil seek to add more of a ‘classic’ sound and there is most definitely a glass wall between Soilwork and The Night Flight Orchestra, songs that field respites that are both gorgeous and so smooth that even silk feels like sandpaper in comparison. This is ultimately what Soilwork does best – the juxtaposition of melody and gruff harshness with superb delivery but one amplified by its exploration.
Five tracks this EP maybe but it is not possible to even say that it is quality over quantity with the title track being worth the entry price alone and at 16 minutes something that could be considered an indulgence. Soilwork has released an EP that knows what it wants, to show what the band can do but also deliver other songs that still delve into their collective talents and delivers so much in a relatively short time frame, forgoing what anyone would consider to be limits.
While existing fans will not be surprised at Soilwork delivering this record there is room for new believers. There may be many that has thought of dipping their toes into melodic-death metal or is just looking for something that really wants to push the boundaries and explore and to that end, A Whisp Of The Atlantic is one hell of a jumping off point; proof of Soilwork’s ability and potential and pure creative genius.