Swedish Melodeath purveyors Soilwork are a staple of the scene. Despite never having the commercial success of In Flames nor the critical acclaim that At The Gates garnered, the band is a reliable ever-present, delivering solid albums on a regular basis.
With Verkligheten (Nuclear Blast), the band’s eleventh album, Soilwork deliver another exactly what they’re good at; a mix of shredding riffs, machine gun drumming, and a penchant for bombastic clean vocals. Continue reading →
As Soilwork continues to press toward the January 11th, 2019 release of their new album Verkligheten via Nuclear Blast, the band continues to give fans unprecedented access with behind the scenes videos and conversations about the creative process. In an exclusive trailer for Ghost Cult, vocalist Björn “Speed” Strid and guitarist David Andersson share their thoughts on the new album, and how their personal growth between albums guided the outcome of Verkligheten.Continue reading →
Soilwork has released a new trailer for their upcoming album Verkligheten. In it, singer Björn “Speed” Strid and drummer Bastian Thusgaard talk about choosing a Swedish album title and the artwork for the upcoming new album, their 11th, due in January of 2019 via Nuclear Blast. Continue reading →
The Ghost Cult album roundup is back in town, for your vulgar delectation, though we’re taking a different approach this week and grouping together some of the less-“heavy” releases that are polluting our ears; it’s a walk on the lighter side of the Ghost Cult coin… Continue reading →
Reinventing its own sound especially after shuffling members can stifle a band. But for veteran Swedish metallers Soilwork, they have embraced this challenge head on and have created some of their best works working around the members on each release.
They recently completed their latest North American tour supporting Soulfly, and in support of The Ride Majestic, their tenth and latest album, and while frontman Bjorn “Speed” Strid talked about working with the incoming members on recent records, he also talked about whether the ideas and concepts of each release comes together quickly.
“I don’t think we discuss it that much. I think basically what happened is that we definitely found something new with The Living Infinite. We rediscovered ourselves as songwriters through the album. I’m happy about the Panic Broadcast as well, but I think we found something new with The Living Infinite and with David [Andersson] entering the band as well and playing together with Sylvain [Coudret]. I think it brought something interesting to the table. I think it really inspired us to write the new record because it was quite a project. It was almost like an experiment as well because we recorded 26 songs total. 20 ended up on the album. I think that was a great way for us to find ourselves again after everything happening with Peter [Wichers] quitting the band and then coming back again and then quitting again. I think it was a necessary thing to do in the end.”
“With this new album [The Ride Majestic], it was pretty easy. We just booked the studio and we felt very inspired. We could have toured twice as much as we did for The Living Infinite, but we ran into some troubles with our management at the time. So that killed it a little bit. It happens and there’s quite a number of bands that could relate to it.”
Soilwork, by Evil Robb Photography
“Basically we said let’s focus on making a new album instead, and channel all of our emotions through that album instead. That’s what we did and I think we have this mutual vision that we thought it would be somewhat darker. I guess the keyboards led in the darkness. That’s exactly what we did and going through everything, with personal tragedies with family members passing away during the actual recording, it actually made it pretty rough. I think the music became a big comfort and it happened so close to us. It was the close encounter with death and dealing with an album where a lot of lyrical content is dealing with a lot of expediential questions about life and death and those things. It definitely affected the approach to the recording and also a little bit, the songwriting as well.”
The Ride Majestic was produced by the band with David Castillo and Jens Bogren mixing the album. After working with a few different producers over the band’s history and even self producing a few along the way, Strid said having both options when working on records has helped them learn how to approach each release differently.
“I don’t even think about it. It just kind of happened that we started producing it ourselves. We never really decided ‘OK we are producing this record and that’s it.’ It just happened that way.”
“We tried out doing producer teams before with Devin Townsend and Fredrik [Nordstrom], which was a pretty interesting and chaotic project as well. It turned out really good.”
“I don’t mind having people having opinions. We’ve been working with really cool people for sure. David Castillo has worked with Fredrik Nordstrom and Daniel Bergstrand.”
The death theme became a common topic during the recording of The Ride Majestic. While much of the material was already written, personal tragedies began to affect each member of the band during the making of the album, which altered the dynamics of the album.
“Most of the songs were done already. It would have still turned out to be a pretty dark album. The songs became a more real soundtrack to what was really happening at the time. I think it affected us as to how we approached the actual recording.”
“For example, when I recorded the vocals, it was a pretty tough time. It felt very real and I could really relate to the melancholic sounds that run through the album, especially with the melodies. They are very Scandinavian and melancholic.”
Soilwork, by Evil Robb Photography
Since the recording of 2013’s The Living Infinite, Strid lost his longtime writing partner and guitarist Peter Wichers for the second time from the band, and was getting used to writing with two new guitar players who had just joined the band then on a full-time basis. Getting acclimated to new chemistry became a challenge, and also helped Soilwork move forward as a band at the same time.
“I worked with Peter [Wichers] for such a long time. We started the band and I was so used to working with him and when David and Sylvain came in and they started throwing me some stuff…like whoa…what is this? So I really had to step outside of my comfort zone. That really made me develop as a singer as well, and also inspired me to pick up the guitar again. I used to write a lot of stuff. I wrote eight songs for The Living Infinite and on the new album I wrote four. It’s been very inspiring for me.”
“The songwriting has been looking pretty much the same. We write separately and sometimes meet up whenever me and Dave are sitting down and are going through some song ideas that we had. For the most part, we sit separately and put the songs together and bounce files back and forth. We’re used to that.”
“I think Soilwork needed this kind of member change. It was only natural at the end. It brought something new and I’m so proud of where we are today with the sound that we have and we found something interesting that I didn’t know that we had. It’s like we used an old cliché. It’s a new era.”
Soilwork, by Evil Robb Photography
Since the last album, the band also parted ways with longtime bassist Ola Flink and was replaced by longtime tech Markus Wibom.
“He’s an old friend of the band so it’s been a very natural transition. He’s been on tour with us before. He used to be a guitar tech on both our European tour and our North American tour in the mid 2000s. Everybody in the band knows him very well and everybody liked him. The only thing was we knew he played bass, guitar and keyboards. We just didn’t know how good he was on bass. We had to try that out. We knew his personality which was spot on perfect. He pulled it off really well. It’s been a really smooth transition.”
“I definitely miss [Ola] Flink but I also could see that he was pretty miserable at the end being on tour. He’s in a better place now. Markus [Wibom] is really excited. That’s exactly what we need.”
“There are no hard feelings. He came to the point where he was like ‘I don’t feel motivated to tour anymore and I want to have a normal life and a normal day job.’ Most of us come to that point. It’s also rough surviving financially and there’s no stability for the most part.”
Strid also talked about the band reaching its 20th anniversary as a band. While many bands are squeaking by and reaching an anniversary date, he is proud of the band’s accomplishments and where they stand as a band today.
“I’m really proud of us for still being…we’re still making sense and we’re a very energetic band. You can feel the energy running through the music and we’re not trying to recreate that album, whatever that might be – Stabbing The Drama or Natural Born Chaos. Those are like somewhat cult classics by now. It’s been very important for us to not try to recreate something and being able to develop our sound and still being able to surprise ourselves and our listeners in a very positive way. I think it’s a pretty cool thing that most fans have been able to develop with the music and the band. People know they can expect some surprises for each and every album.”
“I don’t really hear a lot of people bashing us for like ‘oh go back to Chainheart Machine or Stabbing.’ Most people are happy with where we’re at right now and they can still feel that it’s true to our roots but it’s also that we’ve evolved as well,” he said.
Soilwork, by Evil Robb Photography
With Soilwork’s influence upon the hard music scene overall, younger artists have shown their appreciation in many ways and YouTube videos have popped up with many variations of covers of their songs. Strid did admit he did occasionally view some of these and enjoys what he sees from these artists.
“It’s really cool to see. It’s kind of surreal when you look at it there’s somebody sitting in their bedroom or their dorms ripping through some songs from the old days or even now.”
“It takes about two days. If you have a new song, it’s like ‘uh ok…here’s the cover.’ It’s insane how many talented kids there are out there that can look at the songs and nail it.”
Being on tour and having ten albums worth of material, including a brand new release has made things a bit challenging when selecting a set list. Strid admitted that while it can be tough, they do have options on forming a strong set of songs.
“It is very hard, especially now that we’re doing a direct support tour. We have 45 minutes and that’s it and we’re promoting a new album. I think we’re going for a pretty intense set and taking the songs that work good live, has really cool dynamics, to get everything packed in there and that represents our whole career. It’s really hard to do. We have ten albums out.”
Soilwork, by Evil Robb Photography
Lastly, would Soilwork be open to doing ‘An Evening With…’ style show doing an entire album or two from beginning to end? While he had mixed feelings about it, Strid shared his thoughts on the matter.
“We have discussed it but I guess we’re stubborn like that. Whenever people are doing that, we don’t wanna do that. It’s just too predictable. I know it’s kind of silly.”
“In a way I would like to do it. Maybe do Natural Born Chaos in its entirety, but it’s a little bit of a different lineup today. I want to respect that as well and not just be too nostalgic as well. I’m sure there will be a time where we could do something like that, even if it’s one of our later albums or even the new one or The Living Infinite in its entirety. That would be cool too.”
Full disclosure: I’m a huge lover of the Melodic Death Metal genre, and I regard Soilwork as one of the scene’s finest exponents. Despite an ever-changing line-up (Bjorn “Speed” Strid is the only original member left) over a career spanning 20 years, every album has carefully developed and built on the strengths of its predecessors whilst remaining utterly true to the essential elements that characterise Soilwork’s body of work. Consistency is the hallmark of this band.
Astonishingly, they have managed this without ever sounding stale or falling into the common trap of self-plagiarism, and their 10th studio album, The Ride Majestic (Nuclear Blast), continues the slow and subtle evolution of the Soilwork sound that has been defining the progression of this band since The Chainheart Machine (Listenable).
Produced by Jens Bogren, who also helmed their last LP The Living Infinite (Nuclear Blast), it sounds fuller, richer and shinier than all that have gone before. The excellent first track, ‘The Ride Majestic’, is a familiar opener, leading in with a gentle intro before delivering an excellent melodic soup of thrash growls, staccato riffs, sweeping scales, massive chords, expansive clean chorus lines and a noodly guitar solo.
Signature Soilwork songs leave the listener feeling like they’ve just run a Tough Mudder in record time: ‘Alight in the Aftermath’ is absolutely one of those songs – classic. But wait what’s this? The passage at the end is a monstrous shout-fest reminiscent of the sorely-missed Strapping Young Lad. I can’t wait to hear this played live.
‘Death in General’ gives us an almost Clapton-like intro lick that serves as the main hook. Another song of the classic Soilwork cannon, it would not sound out of place on Natural Born Chaos (Nuclear Blast) while ‘Enemies in Fidelity’, features the apt lyric “You can count on my distinctive presence” – Speed ain’t lyin’ brother – sounds like a bonus track from Stabbing the Drama (Nuclear Blast).
The bemusingly-titled ‘Petrichor by Sulphur’ starts to distinguish the sound of the new album in earnest, showcasing new influences that are pushing the band into fresh sonic territory. There’s new guitar tones, new chord progressions and uncharacteristic vocal hooks. In particular, the mixing of the keyboards is different here – it’s been tucked behind the guitars in such a way as to add drive and depth to an already rich sound. Delicious.
I’d swear that Devin Townsend contributes guest vocals to ‘The Phantom’ in the Lad-As-Fuck chorus, but apparently it’s a fella called Pascal Poulsen, apparently from one of the bands called Odium (I’ve found 3 so far – the Canadian guys are awesome).
Along with the racing tunes, Soilwork have another trademark of having one or two joyful bridges or middle eights that just make you glad to be alive. ‘The Ride Majestic (Aspire Angelic)’ is that song. It also features another endearing Soilwork trope – there’s at least one song on each album with a clumsy timing change. It’s subtle, but definitely there.
Soilwork, photo by Hannah Verbeuren
‘Whirl of Pain’ is a clean nearly-ballad that lets us know we’re on the home straight. ‘All Along Echoing Paths’ (a swinging stomper) and ‘Shining Lights’ (another race with more delightfully fresh elements) lead us to the closing track of what has been a breathless and triumphant addition to the Soilwork legacy.
Featuring Nathan James Biggs of Sonic Syndicate on guest vocals, ‘Father and Son Watching the World Go Down’ sees us out with a sublime cacophony of proggy goodness which borrows heavily from the likes of Rush and Dream Theater.
In a career of great albums, the aptly named The Ride Majestic is truly outstanding.
Swedish metallers Soilwork will release their first live DVD/Blu-ray Live In The Heart Of Helsinki on March 13, 2015 via Nuclear Blast. The disc was recorded during their special show on March 21, 2014 at Circus Club in Helsinki, Finland and features guest appearances by Floor Jansen (Nightwish, Revamp) and Nathan J Biggs (Sonic Syndicate).
Commented SOILWORK frontman Björn “Speed” Strid: “There could’ve not been a better time than now [to release a live DVD], with 10 albums out and a very varied back catalogue to choose from.
“Our lineup now is 50 percent original members and 50 percent fresh blood, which makes it all more interesting. Especially since the newest members have brought so much to our sound and have continued to inspire us to write new and exciting music and also brought a newfound energy on stage. Now is definitely the time to see us. Trust me.”
The DVD was produced by Jouni Markkanen and directed by Ville Lipiäinen, who also worked on the most recent NIGHTWISH DVD, “Showtime, Storytime”. Live In The Heart Of Helsinki will be made available as DVD/2CD and Blu-ray/2CD and will contain the following tracks:
DVD/Blu-ray/CD: 01. This Momentary Bliss 02. Like The Average Stalker 03. Overload 04. Weapon Of Vanity 05. Spectrum Of Eternity 06. Follow The Hollow 07. Parasite Blues 08. Distortion Sleep 09. Bastard Chain 10. Let This River Flow (feat. Floor Jansen) 11. Long Live The Misanthrope 12. Tongue CD 2 13. Nerve 14. The Chainheart Machine 15. The Living Infinite I 16. Rise Above The Sentiment 17. Late For The Kill, Early For The Slaughter 18. Rejection Role 19. Black Star Deceiver (feat. Nathan J. Biggs) 20. As The Sleeper Awakes 21. Sadistic Lullabye 22. As We Speak 23. Stabbing The Drama DVD/Blu-ray bonus material: Documentaries: 01. Spectrum Of Eternity: A Brief History Of Soilwork 02. Behind The Scenes Of The Living Infinite Drumcam Videos: 01. Long Live The Misanthrope 02. Rise Above The Sentiment 03. Spectrum Of Eternity 04. Tongue
Firmly embedded in the melodic metal camp rubbing shoulders with the likes of All That Remains and Soilwork, Sonic Syndicate have built a career banging out derivative pap which callously lifts ideas from the leading lights of the genre. Opener ‘Day Of The Dead’ sum’s this up perfectly with its overly familiar heavy verse/melodic chorus approach. It’s that tried and tested “scream for the guys, sing for the girls” mantra which has allowed so much dross to masquerade as decent metal in the post-Killswitch Engage era.
Previous platter, 2010’s shambolic We Rule The Night was a step too far for many fans, abandoning the heavier elements for soulless sounds drenched in synthesisers and bad Nu Metal riffs. This fifth opus shows the Swedes trying desperately to claw back some credibility but they do so by aping their influences in so earnest a manner. Sonic Syndicate (Nuclear Blast) is at once a highly calculated release which is delivered in a lackadaisical “will this do?” fashion.
“I crave you but I fuckin’ hate you too” Nathan J. Biggs whines insincerely on the sickly sweet opener. Harking back to the “woe is me” self-pitying crap that should be left back in the 90s, such trite lyrics make Biggs sound like a frustrated school boy and only further diminish the quality of the songwriting.
An exception to this rule is ‘Before You Finally Break’ which greatly benefits from the appearance of Soilwork front man Björn “Speed” Strid although you have to wonder if he was tricked into thinking he was contributing to a session for his own band considering how much SS take from Strid’s crew.
Even more unpalatable is semi-ballad ‘So Addicted’, a dull as ditch-water slice of radio metal which begs to be accepted when a good clean headshot would put this lame duck out of its misery.
Failing miserably to recapture the aggression of their earlier works Sonic Syndicate is a cynical album full of weak, saccharine radio-rock which they attempt to bolster with generic Metalcore breakdowns and harsh vocals and is a deeply unsatisfying listening experience which will quickly be forgotten.
For me, Montreal Canada’s Endast came out of nowhere. With their third release Thrive, it’s clear they know what they’re doing. With the assistance of Bjorn Strid of Soilwork and Jon Howard of Threat Signal co-producing, this is a sonic powerhouse of Canadian metal.
Bassist Ryan Miller’s tone is infectious all throughout this recording. He shines heavily on the first of two instrumentals ‘Letting Go’ and ‘No Fate But What We Make’. The guitar team of Pepe Poliguin and Chris Arsenian deliver the most haunted instrumentals I’ve heard in a while. Its just nice and creepy, it’s perfect. You can hear them feed off each other on ‘Suck It Up’ and ‘Your Best Stories Are Victories’.
James Arsenian’s blue-collar lyrics are very relatable and he’s easily understood. He has a more hardcore style approach to his vocals that fits great with the music. Bjorn also lends his pipes to the groove filled ‘Oceans of Regrets’. Drummer Steve Harlall does a masterful job on this album. No overplaying here, he just has this nice little moments of drummy goodness sprinkled over songs like ‘Brotherhood’ and ‘Breath the Bullet In’.
I don’t know whats in the water in Canada but keep on drinking it! They don’t really sound like anyone. They are their own animal that deserves to be heard.