It is often said that music is cyclic and while some sub-genres have died off and seen a renaissance, Swedish melodic death metal has been a constant presence that rejuvenates itself and is forward thinking as to creativity – something that has been at the heart of Helsingborg sextet Soilwork. Formed in 1995 by vocalist Björn ‘Speed’ Strid and guitarist Peter Wichers, the band released their first album Steelbath Suicide in 1998 and then their next four albums were only a year apart without suffering any ‘quality over quantity’ issues. Soilwork’s 2005 album Stabbing The Drama was a pivotal moment; not only a brush with commercial success in the USA but Peter Wichers left the band. 2007 album The Sworn Divide was a thrashier experience but 2010’s follow up The Panic Broadcast saw the return of Wichers – only for the guitarist to leave again which led another pivotal moment. In 2011, Strid announced that Soilwork’s next record would be a double album with the vocalist stating that he was undeterred by the loss of a major song writing contributor wanted to challenge himself and confidently proved Strid’s point with the astounding The Living Infinite being released in 2013. While Soilwork has never not been creative, The Living Infinite felt like a new chapter in their evolution which continued in their 2019 album Verkligheten and the band even brought their inner Genesis out to play with their 2021 EP A Whsip Of The Atlantic and its gargantuan 16 minute title track which touched on new dimensions.
Soilwork is therefore in a confident position coming into their 12th album and that is certainly reflected in Övergivenheten with the wealth of creativity that bursts the album’s seams. It is worth mentioning that Övergivenheten has a running of just over an hour and had this been a band going through the motions then this would be a task of endurance. Fortunately, this is not the case for Soilwork and sure enough, there are earworms aplenty and some seriously monolithic sized choruses which when they do grab, the talons are well and truly out. The title track is a solid opener, it’s folk like acoustic lilt burst into life and carries some weight on the verses but hits out on the melody for the chorus. At nearly seven minutes, Nous Sommes La Guerre is a relatively mellow affair which picks up half way through. Electric Again kicks into life with more furious drumming courtesy of Bastian Thusgaard and Strid once again flexes his rough and clean vocal style to maximum effect between chorus and verse and there is almost duelling during the mid section between drums and guitars. Both Strid and guitarist David Andersson are members of the more AOR The Night Flight Orchestra and it is no surprise that the lines are somewhat blurred between both bands. Songs such as Vultures and that absolutely huge chorus or the mid tempo stomper Death, I Hear You Calling does bring in NFO’s influence and to great effect but it is the melding of synths and guitars and Strid’s considerable vocal prowess that brings it all together. Beyond the piano introduction, it may be This Godless Universe that eeks the older version of Soilwork with it’s barrage of drums that sits with that shimmer of Sven Karlsson’s keys and there is some swagger with Dreams Of Nowhere, it’s rhythmic dynamic will have audiences in the palms of their hands. The album closes with the seven minute On The Wings Of A Goddess/Through Flaming Sheets Of Rain feels like it is all of Soilwork in one song and really sees Övergivenheten bowing out in spectacular style.
Soilwork has remained one of the most consistent acts in heavy music and despite past line up changes the band – completed by Sylvain Coudret on guitars and Rasmus Ehrnborn on bass – is one hell of a tight unit with a solid song writing backbone. It does show that Soilwork was not in a rush to finish Övergivenheten – this is a record that has a lot of care and attention to detail and the production has it sounding utterly magnificent.. In a way, Övergivenheten – which translates as “abandoment” – is a ‘best of’ Soilwork, it is an album that brings all of the elements together, it is their past and the present combined and expertly delivered. For some, the running time may be something of a weakness but ultimately Soilwork is exercising their collective creative muscle and digging deep to explore and provide enticing and interesting soundscapes with engaging song writing without losing the soul of the band. For those that are really into the journey, Övergivenheten does not fail to deliver.
Övergivenheten is released on 19 August 2022 via Nuclear Blast Records