The Ride Majestic is Soilwork's tenth album in their 20 year history. Last year's double album Beyond The Infinite was their first following the departure of founding member and chief songwriter Peter Wichers. After a somewhat staid period in the late noughties, that album was a return to the creative peaks of their earlier work while simultaneously pointing the way to new musical directions ahead. It has been acknowledged in some quarters as a career highlight.
The Ride Majestic is a single disc, with 11 relatively short songs; most are shy of five minutes, brief by the Swedes' own standards. Soilwork started out playing melodic death metal and during their time, metal has changed significantly. Nu metal, metalcore, emo, screamo, and various other sub-genres have risen and been assimilated, and all feature in some aspect of The Ride Majestic.
The title track that opens the album employs the amassed experience of the band to create an expansive, surging, and supremely catchy anthem. It's a statement of where the band are, how far they have come, and signposts where they are going on the album. It's remarkable that a band that have been around for so long can make music so vital. While many of their '90s death metal peers are covering the same ground they always have, Soilwork have managed to forge an album that sounds distinctly modern without sacrificing what made them noticeable in the first instance.
Bjorn “Speed” Strid cycles through death grunts, black metal screeching, grungy clean vocals, and Linkin Park-esque whinging seemingly effortlessly, and often in the same chorus. There are shades of Pantera, Devin Townsend and Anathema to the guitars. And while Soilwork always allow the light to shine through each number, the double bass drums, progressive riffing, and fretboard shredding are still instrumental, and drive tracks like 'Death in General' and 'Petrichor by Sulphur' to heights lesser metal bands leave unexplored.
Where many purveyors of extreme music use classical elements and acoustic/synth breakdowns merely to contrast with the extremity of their compositions, Soilwork use these atypical passages as intrinsic parts of their songs. They show that they are still capable of all-out attack on 'The Phantom', a throwback to their earlier work that could be used as an exemplary template for the myriad death metal wannabes that have come and gone over the last two decades.
Soilwork are approaching middle age now but they show no signs of mellowing. Instead they are maturing like a fine whiskey. The Ride Majestic goes down smoothly but still possesses a fierce kick. This is 100% proof that a vintage band can improve and evolve over time without watering down the dose. Take note, Metallica!