REVISITING THE CLASSICS: SOILWORK – “THE CHAINHEART MACHINE”
(After an extended hiatus, TheMadIsraeli revives the Revisiting the Classics series with a look back at an album from a band who are on the verge of dropping their latest bombshell.)
I figured this series needed to make a comeback some time ago; it was just getting the time to do it. It’s rather ironic that the album I decided to use for this revival was one I selected five or so months before The Living Infinite was even announced.
The Chainheart Machine represents old-school Soilwork at its absolute finest. The sharp, punctual, technical riffing, the frantic changes in tempo and time signature that occurred on some songs, the bewilderingly virtuoso-caliber shred of guitarist Peter Wichers, the epic melodies — this album has it fucking all if you ask me. All the instrumentation is impeccable; the mix for its time is just PERFECT for what was going on here (a dense, industrial tone — odd choice for melodeath); and I just fucking love it, back to front.
The thing that really makes this album is the songs as a whole. Let me explain.
Every riff, solo, transition, and twist is so carefully constructed and pieced together that it reeks of people who love their craft. Soilwork really nailed down a sound, an identity, and an ethic on this album, especially considering how amateurish Steelbath Suicide was, although it was nonetheless a solid album. Whether it was the adrenaline surging thrash of “Bulletbeast” or the epic gallop of “Spirits of the Future Sun” with its anthem-like central theme, The Chainheart Machine was Soilwork at their best.
Soilwork were also playing a take on melodic death metal that at the time was also quite a bit more complex than the norm. Arch Enemy came close; Darkane is the only band I can think of who were matching this. It’s not just that the riffs themselves were technical, but Peter Wichers and Ola Fenning engaged in some badass counterpoint sections laced with flow that really stuck out.
That’s not even mentioning the insane knack for dual guitar melodies these guys had. Peter Wichers’ solo and lead work on the first three Soilwork records were some of my favorite guitar playing ever. His solos are written with such drama. They didn’t function simply as a display of skill (which Wichers had out the ass in spades), he also told a story with his solos. He pushed the songs forward and made the solos part of the tapestry of the composition.
This album only seems to have been influential on those bands who would take the more extreme side of melody-focused metal. Bleeding Through names this album as one of their primary inspirations along with Slaughter of the Soul, and the influence is evident in a lot of more brutal, faster, and technical melodic death metal. It’s rather sad that this is so, because the music is vicious, yet absolutely compelling. Plus there is no clean singing on this album.
I suppose the magic captured here and on Predators Portrait is what made the inconsistency on The Panic Broadcast a depressing development despite Wichers taking the helm on the song writing. I just find The Chainheart Machine a classic to this day.
Yes! Really pleased this feature has been resurrected, more please! BT also cited Day of Suffering and even bloody Suffocation as primary influences (especially in the beginning).
I still don’t get the hate for The Panic Broadcast, but you did inspire me to bust out this classic again!
Don’t worry, I find his opinion on TPB utterly perplexing as well. Not a weak moment on there. Particularly following the incredibly boring STAGD and Stabbing The Drama’s extremely uneven song-writing.
I’m not alone in my TPB love. There’s some good songs STAGD and Stabbing The Drama, but the best songs on those albums don’t hold a candle to the best songs on TBP and they contain way more filler in general compared to TBP. I’d go NBC, Predator’s Portrait, and TPB as my top 3 soilwork albums at least until I hear The Living Infinite.
Really? I think there are songs on TPB that absolutely slay, but songs like The Akuma Afterglow just don’t do it for me at all.
Man, I blasted through a bunch of Soilwork albums recently and I somehow missed this one because I am an idiot. Guess I know what I’m doing today!
Also I really like Panic Broadcast, I thought it was a solid shot in the arm and just what the band needed. It may not be a PERFECT album but the one-two punch of Late for the Kill and Two Lives Worth of Reckoning right out the gate makes up for any missteps later in the album.
I’m probably in the minority, but I’ve always hated this album and looked down on it as Soilwork’s worst of early efforts. I loved Steelbath Suicide, though it was total At The Gates worship. They lost me completely with the referenced album above, but I became smitten with their opus, A Predator’s Portrait, where they finally found themselves and honed the core of their sound. NBC was much weaker, but still had a few shining moments. They lost me again completely after that….too poppy….too corporate.