Soilwork – Verkligheten

Swedish Melodeath purveyors Soilwork are a staple of the scene. Despite never having the commercial success of In Flames nor the critical acclaim that At The Gates garnered, the band is a reliable ever-present, delivering solid albums on a regular basis.

With Verkligheten (Nuclear Blast), the band’s eleventh album, Soilwork deliver another exactly what they’re good at; a mix of shredding riffs, machine gun drumming, and a penchant for bombastic clean vocals.

According to the press release, Verkligheten is the Swedish word for ‘reality’, and reflects “the entity that we’re all trying to escape from.” Main-stay vocalist Björn “Speed” Strid says the album “is our attempt to try and go somewhere else, to express all those things that are born in between hypnagogic states and frenzies of hyperrealism.”

Whatever that is meant to mean, in reality, it sounds like they’ve added an extra couple of layers of melodic sheen to a sound that had already been polished to perfection over the years. Bombastic opener ‘Arrival’ is a statement of intent; an impressive combo of blasting drums (courtesy of new sticksman Bastian Thusgaard), soaring vocals, and a relentless flurry of guitar harmonies.

It’s a bold move to open with such a strong song, but the standard rarely drops from there. ‘Bleeder Despoiler’, ‘Full Moon Shoals’, the title track, and pretty much every other track boast a crunching riff, Speed singing his heart out on the choruses, and at least a couple of heady elements.

There are moments when it feels like the verses are only there to break up the massive clean choruses – anyone who enjoyed recent Killswitch Engage or Trivium albums will likely find plenty to like here – but it’s those big hooks that make the songs.

Nothing is perfect, however, and long-time fans may lament the lack of new tricks compared to previous album. And at fifty minutes, the album could have done with being a bit shorter or showing a bit more variety along the way. But this is nit-picking at details on a really solid album where Soilwork are firing on all cylinders for sure. The best moments are where the melodic and the shredding guitars really combine. The relentless assault of ‘When The Universe Spoke’, the groove of ‘The Wolves Are Back In Town’ (despite the slightly cringy song title), and the epic ‘Ageless Whisper’ are highlights in an album not short of classy moments.

Verkligheten marks a great start to the year. And with In Flames latest singles sounding well off the pace and no At The Gates album due for a while, could 2019 finally be Soilwork’s chance to take the Melodeath crown?

8 / 10