(In this post we present DGR’s take on the new double-album by Sweden’s Soilwork.)
When it was initially announced that Soilwork would be releasing a double album I think that a pretty good chunk of us metal blogging morons did a collective half groan at the prospect of that much Soilwork music hitting at the same time. With their last two albums – Sworn To A Great Divide and The Panic Broadcast – it seemed that the band had become the very paragon of consistency. You could put on either disc and catch a few pretty good songs, but most either felt as if they had been written entirely for the choral hook part or came off as interchangeable.
Not that this was some sort of awful atrocity, but you can see how there would be a sense of burnout in some quarters whenever the group’s name was brought up – especially since you can’t fault the band’s work ethic when it seems like a new Soilwork disc hits every two years like clockwork, no matter what changes happen within the band.
Imagine then our reaction when Soilwork released “Spectrum Of Eternity” as the lead-off song from The Living Infinite. It was exciting. Not only did the band sound rejuvenated, but there was some seriously heavy music going on there – something that previously had just been reserved to a small batch of songs like “Blind Eye Halo”. It was weird and refreshing as hell to do something that we hadn’t done in an incredibly long time, which was to move a Soilwork release high up on the most anticipated albums list.
Now that the album has come out I can comprehensively report that what the band teased at with “Spectrum Of Eternity” is in full effect here. On The Living Infinite Soilwork sound like a band full of life and with something to prove, combining all of their best elements as they’ve changed throughout the years into one great cohesive package.
Although the album purports to be a two-disc CD, the whole experience feels like anything but. Much of the album is made up of songs in the vein of tracks like “This Momentary Bliss” and the aforementioned lead-off track – three-and-a-half minute screechers filled with intense guitar and keyboard melodies that get in the ring, throw a few flurried punches, and get out just as quickly.
There’s probably more death-metal-styled blast-beat drumming throughout The Living Infinite than on the last three discs combined. You could be forgiven for being suspicious about what disc 2 would bring after discovering that the first disc of The Living Infinite is front-loaded with songs that go at a relentless pace. But the band keeps the momentum going throughout almost the entire album. One spin of the whole release only clocks in at about an hour and twenty-some-odd minutes – meaning that if you put it on and go about your day with the music just flooding out, you could easily find this thing going multiple times.
Soilwork haven’t eschewed their pop sensibilities in favor of a high-speed bombing run of metal though, as they use those weaponized elements to augment their ability to write a massive hook and sing-along section. Such songs are spread throughout the whole CD, songs that are crushingly heavy but quickly incorporate some catchy melodies from the guitars and keys, songs such as the title track “Living Infinite Part 1” or the huge chorus of the song “Vesta” (which also features an interesting acoustic opening).
Given that they do have twenty songs to play with, the band get experimental at times, and although those songs (such as “The Windswept Mercy”, which is clean-sung pretty much the whole way through and sounds more like a rock song with the occasional hint of melo-death) pop up here and there on the first half, the slower songs do appear a bit more often on disc two.
Since there is such a vast swath of material present, not all songs are going to work, but perhaps surprisingly there aren’t really any overtly awful songs. Songs that sound like they could have fit in well on previous releases (and actually stand out, given the overall quality present on the new album) do rear their heads. For example, “Rise Above The Sentiment” (for which the band made a music video) is one of the songs that seems like it is a more standard Soilwork tune, so your mileage may vary on that one. But such songs are usually blasted away by the next scorcher of a track. I have half a suspicion that songs like “Leech” and “Let The First Wave Arise” exist for that reason alone – to pick things up, to go fast again, and to keep the momentum high.
Album closer “Owls Predict, Oracles Stand Guard” is a slow moving colossus of a song, pretty much the exact opposite of how the album begins. It closes out the entire two-disc enterprise with a hypnotic and droning chorus that is pretty much the only real breathing room the album allows you, other than the almost completely instrumental tracks “Entering Aeons” and “Loyal Shadow”.
The new tag team of Sylvain Caudret and David Andersson are the real all-stars of The Living Infinite. The band get so much mileage out of their guitar work (augmented heavily by Sven Karlsson on keys) that they almost entirely overshadow the fact that pretty much everyone in the band brought their A-game to this album. If you love guitar, then it is highly recommended you check out this album because it packs a ton of soloing and riff work. Barely a segment goes by without some new melody lead being flung in your face.
Dirk Verbeuren sounds as monstrous as ever behind the kit, but he’s really been let loose this time around, going at about 100 MPH (which is like 140,000 Kph or something like that) for almost all of this album. Even Bjorn Strid – whose numerous vocal appearances outside of this band make him seem almost like the go-to guy for guest appearance – sounds especially lively. Quite a few of the catchy-as-hell chorus parts that I mentioned above are really brought forward by him, as he just rises above the whole band and overpowers them, as opposed to them stepping back and letting him take center stage. Not to even touch on his screaming, which is some of the best the guy has done in a very long time.
The Living Infinite exists as proof that when even a seasoned band is hungry and really wants it, they can create something incredible. Even with something as seemingly self-indulgent as a double album, especially from the likes of a band such as Soilwork, they can still impress and knock people completely on their ass. After a block of years when it seemed they were playing to the cheap seats, here they are inspired and ready to prove to people that they can put out a great album. They do so in spades with The Living Infinite.
I’m sure everyone will have their own abridged version of this album and every one of those will be different, but the full hour and twenty minutes of speed and metal that the band gets up to is well worth the complete listen. The Living Infinite is Soilwork at the best they’ve been in a long time and they absolutely kill it here. Combining so many elements from the various eras of their career, it almost becomes a “best of” recording without retreading older songs. I’m excited to say that The Living Infinite is a great album, and definitely recommended.