Thursday, 10 September 2015

Soilwork - 'The Ride Majestic' (Album Review)

By: Daniel Jackson

Album Type: Full-length
Date Released: 28/8/2015
Label: Nuclear Blast


Soilwork find themselves in a tough position because they seem to have reached a point where they clearly enjoy creating music that represents each of their two distinct eras, and they’re more than capable of producing quality music on either side of the spectrum. The handicap this album can’t overcome is that these two eras aren’t really capable of playing nicely together

‘The Ride Majestic’ CD//LP//DD track listing:

1. The Ride Majestic
2. Alight In The Aftermath
3. Death In General
4. Enemies In Fidelity
5. Petrichor By Sulphur
6. The Phantom
7. The Ride Majestic (Aspire Angelic)
8. Whirl Of Pain
9. All Along Echoing Paths
10. Shining Lights
11. Father And Son, Watching The World Go Down


Soilwork is:

Björn "Speed" Strid | Vocals
Dirk Verbeuren | Drums
Markus Wibom | Bass
Sylvain Coudret | Guitar
David Andersson | Guitar
Sven Karlsson | Keyboards



The Review:

In a previous life, Soilwork was a band that made an impact in the later stages of the 90s Gothenburg death metal explosion, given rise via bands like At The Gates and In Flames.  Soilwork differentiated themselves at the time through some unique chord choices for the style and a willingness to take chances with new sounds in a melodic death metal context. Over the last fifteen years, they’ve struggled with their identity to a point that you can’t really be sure which Soilwork you’re going to get. Soilwork has flirted with returns to that previous life in the past, but they’ve generally preferred to swim in more marketable waters over the last ten-plus years. With ‘The Ride Majestic’ we’re seemingly getting both of them at once, often shifting gears with the subtlety of a lead pipe to the face. The outcome makes for a really uneven listening experience.

The general format of the songs on offer is to start with, some sort of melodic death metal section , followed by a stark shift in the verse/chorus, featuring Björn "Speed" Strid doing his finest Howard Jones impression. Then, the song concludes with some variation of these two ill-fitting halves for the remainder. This isn’t a hard and fast rule, but the general feeling applies. They begin a song with something that might give lapsed fans who abandoned ship around ‘Figure Number Five’ something to sink their teeth into, only to pivot mid song into something bound to lose them altogether. The most striking example would likely be “Petrichor by Sulphur”, which soars early with nimble fretwork over a brisk thrash beat only to be harshly interrupted by a rhythmic verse that could have been on a Static-X or Drowning Pool album. For people who are fans of both styles, that’s probably something you wouldn’t bat an eye at, but for the rest of us, it’s jarring to the point that it encourages impatience with the rest of the material.

It’s worth pointing out that I’m not advocating for Soilwork to set themselves back fifteen years for the sake of becoming some Gothenburg nostalgia act. On the contrary, it feels like they’re much more interested and passionate about making mainstream metal albums than they are revisiting the past right now, and that’s fine. The problem is that with two halves they’re working on with ‘The Ride Majestic’ are likely to annoy fans of each half exclusively. Killswitch Engage fans are likely to appreciate an album like this because Killswitch Engage always dealt in both the melodic death metal element along with those metalcore choruses. Old Soilwork fans are likely to be alienated by the choruses, while fans who came into the fold in the mid 2000s are likely to be put off by blast beats and thrashy death metal riffing.

Soilwork find themselves in a tough position because they seem to have reached a point where they clearly enjoy creating music that represents each of their two distinct eras, and they’re more than capable of producing quality music on either side of the spectrum. The handicap this album can’t overcome is that these two eras aren’t really capable of playing nicely together. That makes ‘The Ride Majestic’ a spirited but stubborn attempt at a suicide mission.

You can pick up a digital copy here and a CD/LP copy here.

FFO: In Flames, Scar Symmetry, Killswitch Engage, Devildriver


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