Few acts put the melody in melodic death metal like Soilwork. Current single ‘Full Moon Shoals’ has a chorus that buries itself in your head, and pairs it with the kind of riffs that will inspire bedroom air guitarists everywhere. Singer Bjorn ‘Speed’ Strid and guitarist David Andersson have been moonlighting with The Night Flight Orchestra. In an interview with Muso’s Guide, Strid said “I get to have the best of both worlds. Since I've started Night Flight, the other end has become more extreme and more intense, and even darker. I feel like I’m complete in many ways. I don’t feel like I need to be Lou Gramm from Foreigner and Tom Araya from Slayer in the same band anymore”.
That Lou Gramm influence is now coming out on Soilwork records. The pair have carried over the classic rock motifs of NFO into Verkligheten. Strid’s choruses are fist-in-the-air anthems and Andersson’s playing is his best yet. The achingly beautiful lead guitar on ‘The Nurturing Glance’ works on its own but comes to life when the band join in and he stomps on the distortion. He marries it all to a guitar tone reminiscent of Van Halen in their heyday.
Things don’t start off too promisingly. The title track sounds so overtly out of place that it works. It’s in the vein of Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Albatross’, and will probably be the music that plays as the band take their places on stage, but it sounds like the title theme for a Swedish remake of Bergerac. Next up is the first single to be released from the album. ‘Arrival’ was obviously selected as a showcase for new drummer, Bastian Thusgaard, but only serves to illustrate how unimportant drums are to Soilwork’s sound. The generic double bass thrumming may be technically proficient but it is interminably boring. This is death metal, not “done to death” metal. Typically for modern metal drummers, Thusgaard’s journeyman style means he can slot in to any band. It also means that his contribution is so resolutely boilerplate that it is absent of personality and inconsequential.
Thankfully, after the stuttering start, Verkligheten takes off with the Pantera-influenced groove of ‘Bleeder Despoiler’. The aforementioned ‘80s hard rock vibe is even more pronounced on ‘Stålfågel’. A keyboard intro leads in to a verse straight out of the Survivor songbook. It’s very different from Soilwork’s usual style but sounds all the more powerful for it. A mostly clean vocal style really makes this track stand out. The restraint and tension of the music is exhilarating. I’d be surprised if this isn’t released as a single.
Verkligheten isn’t a perfect album. There are a few duds on there but it has an astonishingly high hit rate, particularly for a death metal band. The surprise success of The Night Flight Orchestra may be a factor but, whatever the reasons may be, the Swedes have made a commercial metal album that is heavy on singable melodies and hummable riffs, and still managed to make it sound like Soilwork.
Verkligheten is available from Nuclear Blast here.