Soilwork takes two steps towards infinity

That’s one hell of a big splash for Soilwork. A double CD, no more and no less. When you make a double CD, you have at least a selection of relevant and coherent songs. When you make a double CD, there’s the risk to loose the listener’s attention in the end. When you make a double CD, it is a real creative declaration which must be assumed. A double CD is, therefore, very much awaited. And it’s been a while since our Swedish guys had not shown such ambitiousness, at least for form’s sake.

For all those who have been following them since the beginning, Soilwork are first and foremost known for a series of four remarkable albums: A Predator’s Portrait, Natural Born Chaos, Figure Number Five and Stabbing The Drama. Four hot records by which Soilwork literally built themselves, by experimenting different approaches. Every record distinguished itself from the other by its originality in terms of sound or musical orientation. Since, Soilwork seems to be in a status quo and doesn’t surprise much anymore, really. Sworn To A Great Divide isn’t a big change compared to what characterized and gave some nobility to its predecessors, even if it has this more polished, pop oriented side. This record just simply reuses and slightly modifies the codes that the band has set up before. The Panic Broadcast, renews with more diversity and spite, but nonetheless confirms that Soilwork have definitely found their comfort zone where they could continue to produce top-quality albums without being challenged.

This statement might probably be the direct consequence of the numerous line-up hazards that the band has suffered, like in particular Peter Witchers’ departure, who was Soilwork’s guitarist and main composer. The band had to cope with his absence when making Sworn To A Great Divide, which was finally composed by the other guitarist, Ola Frenning, who announced, just after the album’s release, that he was also leaving the band. A few months after, Peter Witchers unexpectedly made his come-back to finally leave the band once again last year, after only one record. All this fuss can really bring chaos into a band! Under these circumstances, it is quite normal to see the band seeking some stability and, first and foremost, feeling the need to prove that they are capable of consistency, no matter what happens.

Roughly speaking, Soilwork have managed to prove they could be consistent. Should we believe that it is now time for the European sextet (you have Swedish guys, one Belgian and one French in the band) to try to surpass themselves once again? In any case, this ambition radiates from The Living Infinite, a record which destiny has been largely thought of long before its release. As Soilwork’s singer Björn “Speed” Strid stated it to us, the idea of a double CD didn’t take shape during the composition process, but right at the beginning, like a challenge to take up. It’s the same thing with the album’s title, which can appear a bit pretentious. Under these circumstances, the result is inevitably determined by these “imposed features”.

Maybe anticipating a double CD remains the best way to make a convincing one, that goes further than a simple abundance of music. Anyhow, this is what a smart The Living Infinite tries to demonstrate. Both CDs have ten tracks and could be considered as two separate records. The first one starts with the epic and abrasive « Spectrum Of Eternity » : this title is a striking opener for the listener, just like « Late For The Kill, Early For The Slaughter » was for The Panic Broadcast, except that here the intention is focused on pompousness. Track 10 of the first CD is called « Whispers And Light » : it has a soothing verse, a glorious chorus, and a furious bridge: it has everything of a perfect end. Indeed, the album could have finished with this song, without being considered as incomplete. It is therefore a true and new journey that is offered by the second CD’s opening track, the slow and powerful instrumental “Entering Aeons”, leading musically, as an introduction, to “Long Live The Misanthrope”, which dark side echoes to the closing and frighteningly obscure « Owls Predict Oracle Stand Guard ».

Both CDs can live their separate ways but are nonetheless linked, as if they were responding each other, thanks in particular to “The Living Infinite I” and “The Living Infinite II”, placed in the middle of each CD. We’re not talking here of a song and its continuation but rather more of “fraternal twins” that emphasize the brotherly connection between both CDs. This connection is also marked by the depth – the symbolism of the ocean seems to have played a large part during the making of the album – of the existential subjects that are tackled. And there is also the melodies’ shared generosity, the impressive number of riffs in every song or the musicians’ virtuosity. In this respect, it is quite surprising to notice the ability of our fellow Sylvain Coudret and of the newcomer David Anderson to merge themselves into Soilwork’s heritage.

This heritage is exhaustively summed up in both albums – « instead of releasing a best-of, we’ve recorded a double album which sums up our whole career » agrees Björn “Speed” Strid – and this makes of The Living Infinite a particularly rich album. Soilwork’s singer lets his vocal range go: his powerful screams, his clear, melodic lines which still get into our heads, his typical death-metal growls and all the other tones that are present. A performance that reflects the diversity of The Living Infinite. This is demonstrated by outbursts of fury mixed with luminous choruses, by melancholy blended with exaltation, by some acoustic and analogue sounds (acoustic guitars, piano or Hammond organ) which polish massive and modern guitars and by this typically Swedish sensibility that regains the upper hand vs. “Stabbing The Drama”’s US influences.

Once the album’s diversity assimilated, the listener can be stimulated by some new stuff, regarding Soilwork’s sound, like, for example the eloquent examples of “Vesta”’s acoustic/western start, “Loyal Shadow”’s celestial character or the heavily and gloomily “Owls Predict Oracle Stand Guard” (where one can feel some Opeth or Gojira residues) that ends the album. The fact that this song closes the album may suggest that we can expect some future changes: the song’s fade-out feels, in a way, as a sort of “teaser”.

However, despite its generosity, its diversity, The Living Infinite doesn’t disrupt that much Soilwork’s codes. We’re talking here more of a deeper look into these codes, so as to push them further, higher and towards other directions: a double album allowed the band to do so. The challenge was here. It was a question of testing the band’s limits in terms of creative flow and the line-up’s solidity where every member put their minds to the composition’s process. This « warranty of diversity », as Björn “Speed” Strid calls it, is true. The challenge has been met and this proves now Soilwork’s total control over its music. It remains to be seen if this experience will stimulate the band not only to take up some other challenges in the future, but also to question themselves again more deeply as to bring their art even further.

Album The Living Infinite, out since March the 1st 2013 via Nuclear Blast Records

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