(We’ve previously published DGR’s review of Soilwork’s new album, but now Andy Synn and TheMadIsraeli are getting into the act, collaborating on the following review, as Andy explains in his introduction below.)
So… here’s the thing… with The Living Infinite being announced as a double-album, it seemed only right that the NCS review of the album be split between two people – mainly myself and TheMadIsraeli. But then life got in the way. Israel suffered a serious computer crash and lost a load of material, and I’ve been in the process of moving house… so we fell behind, and made slow progress… and then goddamn DGR ambushed us with his review!!!
So yes… we’re pissed… and yes, there will be a reckoning… but in the meantime we thought, why let all our hard work go to waste? TLI is a pretty big album, a pretty ambitious statement, so it’s only fair that you get a couple of different points of view.
So with that said, let me turn you over to my esteemed colleague for his take on Disc One:
Soilwork’s The Living Infinite is definitely their most ambitious work to date. For a band to be attempting a double album, especially at a point in their career that is rather delicate, is certainly one definition of “ambitious”.
Their last album, The Panic Broadcast, not only featured founding member Peter Wichers on the guitar and songwriting fronts again, it also saw the band returning to a way more aggressive sound that recaptured the fire of their first three albums. Now the band not only don’t have Wichers, again, but have delivered a double album that initially seemed too soon to be releasing material of such volume. Plus, I know a few people who’d scratch their heads over the idea of sitting through two full discs of Soilwork songs.
Soilwork, though, have not only put out their most ambitious work, they’ve succeeded in creating an album that stands as a monument to their accomplishments. It’s hard for me to think of an album in which a band has more effectively and soberly evaluated their own legacy.
Soilwork may no longer have all the elements of the line-up we knew and loved, but the new blood has done enough time in the band now that they totally get the Soilwork sound, intensity, and gravitas that the name has evoked over the years. This album honestly sounds as if they had never lost a founding member.
Disc One of The Living Infinite is all about the energy, the speed, and the hook. Every song on it is chock-full of melodies that are practically impossible to escape from once heard. Every riff has a well-balanced sense of technicality and succinctness, and the songs remain savage throughout while bringing appropriate emphasis to the band’s more modern inclinations. This really feels like an album that meshes Predators Portrait with Natural Born Chaos, and the result is exhilarating.
“Spectrum of Eternity” is quite possibly one of the best opening songs this band have ever written. The slow violin intro interrupted by the sudden napalm spray of blast beats, harmonized tremolo picking, and Speed Strid shrieking like a banshee, launching into the trademark Soilwork thrash with blues-swagger style — it grabs you by the throat for sure. The soaring melodies, the haymaker-impact grooves, and the intensity in between are at an overload level.
The follow-up of “Memories Confined” hits an oddly contrasting note, a bluesy groove tone focused more on melody and its ballad-esque chorus. Sticking one of the lighter songs on the album this early in the line-up is indeed odd but, it’s a great song and sets you up for the rest of Disc One nicely.
“This Momentary Bliss” may very well be one of the most infectious songs Soilwork have written in a long time, thanks not only to the catchy riffing and the melody made for memorability, but also to the way in which Strid plays with the vocal lines on the reoccurring parts. It really keeps things fresh, and the chorus is just awesome. It’s one of the most memorable melodies of the entire year thus far.
The rest of this particular disc pretty much works in two modes: you either have fast-as-fuck melodic thrash or you have slower, more experimental stuff meant to give the songs more air. Me being me, I prefer the fast-as-fuck songs, obviously. Songs such as “Let the First Wave Rise”, which recall the band in its former glory while smartly integrating their modern sound, are unstoppable forces.
Disc One of The Living Infinite is an overwhelmingly powerful argument for the idea that this band still isn’t burnt out or at its musical end yet — far from it. Disc One is definitely a collection of songs meant to show the doubters that Soilwork have been around as long as they have for a reason.
I’ll let my NCS mate Andy Synn take it from here.
Can you have too much of a good thing? My initial thoughts on learning Soilwork were to release a double album (an ambitious move to be sure, but even more so in the light of Peter Wicher’s departure) were certainly filled with trepidation. Could they really sustain a sense of freshness and life to what would effectively amount to one 20-song opus?
This fed into my first listen, as my initial thoughts were that the double record was ever so slightly over-stretched. Perhaps, I thought to myself, they would have been better served by releasing an album and an EP? Or – if they were being extremely drastic with the quality control – perhaps pare it down to just one single album of the very best material.
However, I had the opportunity to sit with the album for a while, and really get to know it. And I’ve come to the conclusion that there’s definitely enough quality material here to fill two very good (if occasionally uneven) albums… though an issue still remains with the formatting of the release.
Whereas the first disc of the album is a continuation and build from The Panic Broadcast – old-school Soilwork values with a new-school aesthetic – the second half contains material a little less focused and a little more… loose… in terms of experimentation, both with unexpected progressive vibes and the unearthing of classic elements, as well as a more prominent keyboard presence overall.
Instrumental intro track “Entering Aeons” has a welcome, old-school, Steelbath-era vibe that feeds into the stuttering rhythms and sweeping melodies of “Long Live The Misanthrope”, which channels a space-bridge between A Predator’s Portrait (with its scintillating, technical guitar runs) and Natural Born Chaos (with its ethereal atmospheric undercurrents). That said, the chorus is relatively underwhelming, surprisingly so, for a band famous for crafting such impressive hooks.
Thankfully, “Drowning With Silence” is a more complete, and more patient, number, with a much more melancholy vibe, along with a heavier reliance on swelling groove, which really takes its time to build a better overall feel, while the soothing, sublime opening to first stand-out “Antidotes in Passing” showcases Soilwork at their most melodically gifted, with a striking, progressive approach to song-writing, anchored by Dirk Verbeuren’s emphatic drumming skills.
Thrashy powerhouse “Leech” supplements its barrage of killer riffs and tumultuous drums with a stupendously infectious, celestial chorus, and is the second stand-out track from the disc, its blasting energy accented by shimmering keyboard layers and laser-guided guitar work.
“The Living Infinite Part II” starts off disturbingly similar to the opening theme from MASH (seriously!) but develops slowly into a colossus of spiky riffs, thunderous drums, and ferocious, emotive vocals, wrapped up in a cloak of lush, gorgeous ambience. It’s perhaps the progressive centerpiece of the second disc, another impressive stand-out, and encapsulates the feeling that the band here are operating in a much looser and more open fashion.
Again a throwback to the band’s earliest releases, “Loyal Shadow” is the disc’s second instrumental, and while relatively short, it builds up a nice head of steam and identity for itself, leading into the album’s first single “Rise Above The Sentiment”.
Though a tad predictable in structure, the fact that this track is the most stereotypically “Soilwork” song on Disc Two is a testament to how the band have clearly endeavored to mix things up and keep things interesting over the course of the lengthy double-album format.
The disc closes with a pair of impressive stand-out tracks. First is “Parasite Blues”, a particularly unusual song that is still definitively Soilwork in nature, with a very memorable lead refrain and a heaving, guitar tone that gives it a stomping, weighty heaviness. The chorus is utterly captivating, but doesn’t overshadow the rest of the song, which positively wallows in a bluesy darkness, perforated by some absolutely blinding lead guitar work.
Final track “Owls Predict, Oracles Stand Guard” sums up the second disc perfectly, while also managing to be a far proggier and less direct number than their usual fare. Featuring lyrics written (for the first time) by bassist Ola Flink, it’s a doomier, more obtuse number of slow, heavy guitars and desolate vocals, shot through with rich veins of keyboard-driven melody, which focusses on building a dark atmosphere, culminating in a surprisingly heavy second half in which the guitars and drums lock into a choppy, bullish groove of restrained power.
Out of the two discs, I’d definitely say Disc Two might be less likely to stand on its own, considering it takes what seem like some actual risks with the band’s sound – as opposed to Disc One, where the feeling is more of a natural build. A couple of relatively weaker numbers (“…Misanthrope” and “…Sentiment”) and a pairing of instrumental tracks make the second disc flow very differently from the first, but a brace of stronger, and more unusual, material really make the whole affair stand out and stand-apart.
The quality of the first ten songs of this album as a whole is astounding, reminding me of why I loved this band to begin with. It’s an old band with a somehow new and absolutely brimming energy that I didn’t anticipate at all. I’ll be frank in admitting that I had low expectations for this album. The fact that it didn’t fall short but instead turned out to be an astounding piece of work is a sheer shock to me.
Overall feelings? I’m impressed, very much so, although personally I would have released this as two separate albums, with a bit of time and mental distance between them. Then again, there’s an argument that the two discs balance each other out, the first being the more immediate, the second being the slow-burner that offers some twists to the formula.
Could the band have cut it down to just one album? In my opinion, probably yes, and it may have been their very best as a result. But still, something would have been lost.
So take onboard the fact that The Living Infinite isn’t just another Soilwork album, as, particularly in the light of Peter Wicher’s second departure from the band, it’s more of a statement of intent and a milestone of creativity. It may not be perfect, but it’s an honest showcase of Soilwork and who they are at this moment, a snapshot in time of a band whose reinvigorated creativity right now overflows the limitations of the single-album format.
I have to say, I just love the NCS reviews. Particularly Andy’s work is a good example; in no way I want to detract from TMIs efforts, but to force-feed a sentence with eleven(!) commas (“Thankfully, […]”) while maintaining readability is a truly astounding feat to accomplish.
Shit, I didn’t notice that. That IS a lot of commas…
I usually try to break down Andy’s paragraph-long sentences into more digestible bites, driving off the commas with a bullwhip and replacing them with a period or two. But attacking that sentence would have been like gunning for an endangered species. Just couldn’t do it.
You leave your periods off my reviews.
At first I was overwhelmed by the immensity of 2 full-lengths, but I listened to each separately for a while before blending the listening experience and I must say I am thoroughly engrossed in all the material. At first you look to weed out some of the tracks but to me each has a place on this album. To me disc 2 has captured my attention a little more. I absolutely love the closer, “Owls Predict, Oracles Stand Guard,” as the ending has a doomy Amon Amarth melodic stomp that hooks me. In the future I hope they continue making double albums as it’s given the opportunity to experiment and spread their wings.