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.
‘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.