Album of the Week 13-2013: Soilwork – The Living Infinite

To me, Soilwork has always been a band that had a great formula, but it only worked for a few minutes. They wrote some brilliant songs throughout the years and ‘Natural Born Chaos’ was a fairly good album, but they never released anything that could hold my attention for the entire release. So since the regular albums already sound like some fat could be trimmed, a double album sounded like a bad idea. I was wrong. ‘The Living Infinite’ is the most consistent and dynamic piece of work the Swedish band – with Belgian drummer and French guitarist these days – has released thus far.

Quite a lot of people were uncertain of Soilwork’s future material, since founding guitarist Peter Wichers left the band for the second time. Wichers contributed greatly to the band’s songwriting in the past, but the band harldy suffers here. Vocalist Björn ‘Speed’ Strid wrote or co-wrote a suprisingly large amount of songs on this record and he has apparently held quality control in high regard. New guitarist David Andersson also did quite a lot of writing and keyboard player Sven Karlsson provided a few of the album’s most brilliant moments, so figuring the overall quality of the music, Wichers’ departure seems a bloodletting rather than a disappointment.

When viewing the two records as separate entities, I’d say that the second is somewhat superior over the first in terms of conceptual continuity. While the first contains the more accessible and brutal moments of ‘The Living Infinite’, the second record is really adventurous and quite ambitious by Soilwork’s measures. It covers a range of dynamics previously unheard of in Soilwork’s music in a coupe of stunning songs. Also, Strid’s clean vocals work better than on the first disc here; during some songs on the latter half of the first record, you can basically predict when he’s switching from harsh to clean. I haven’t gotten into the lyrics yet, but I have the feeling disc two is a concept record.

As for the songs, there are more brilliant ones on here than on two other Soilwork albums combined. Musically, it’s as varied as contemporary melodic Death Metal gets. From brutal (‘Leech’, ‘Let The First Wave Rise’) to supermelodic (‘This Momentary Bliss’) and from fast and short (‘Spectrum Of Eternity’) to surprisingly progressive (the amazing diptych of ‘Entering Aeons’ and ‘Long Live The Misanthrope’ that opens the second disc). What you like most will depend on your taste, but the undeniable highlights of the record are the two-part title track that is divided over the two discs – especially the brilliantly structured first part is mindblowing – and the breathtaking, dark masterpiece ‘Owls Predict: Oracles Stand Guard’ that closes the entire thing. ‘Parasite Blues’ opens with the album’s most memorable riff.

Performance-wise, Soilwork is better than ever. Of course they have Dirk Verbeuren, who is possibly the best drummer Metal has to offer at the moment. But Andersson and Verbeuren’s Scarve colleague Sylvain Courdret are without any doubt the best guitar duo the band has ever had. The way they complement each other bring both of these gentlemen to a higher level and the solos, while limited in number, are all impressive.

With ‘The Living Infinite’, Soilwork has finally fully utilized the potential they’ve had for many years. It seems like they’ve finally challenged all of their talents and it paid off. ‘The Living Infinite’ is a highlight in contemporary Metal and is worth a shot for any open minded fan of extreme Metal.

Recommended tracks: ‘Owls Predict: Oracles Stand Guard’, ‘The Living Infinite I’, ‘Long Live The Misanthrope’, ‘Spectrum Of Eternity’

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