Soilwork are that rarest of beasts; an extreme metal band that can actually write a good song. Ten albums into their career and one year on from the excellent The Ride Majestic comes a collection of rarities dating all the way back to 2005. This compilation is tracked in reverse chronological order and made up mostly of bonus tracks from Japanese releases, some of which have been remixed. Soilwork are enjoying a purple patch creatively, and on the live front they’ve been touring with Arch Enemy, Fear Factory and have an upcoming multiband tour with Kreator, Sepultura and Aborted. They are spoiling us with 15 songs totalling over an hour of material. But is this money for old rope or a worthwhile addition to the Soilwork canon?
Things don’t start out well. The two new tracks that open the album have the whiff of contractual obligation about them and are uninspiring, which makes what follows an even greater surprise. Soilwork have taken what could have been a bottom of the barrel, odds-and-sods collection and delivered a top drawer anthology of quality tunes with bits of thrash, speed metal, ‘70s hard rock, ‘80s glam metal, new wave, modern prog and metalcore mixed in. A dose of Thin Lizzy here, a dollop of Megadeth there, and reduced it all into a hearty death metal stew to warm your cockles. The five-track Beyond The Infinite EP is worth the purchase price on its own. ‘My Nerves, Your Everyday Tool’ is as near to pop music as extreme metal has ever gotten.
‘When Sound Collides’ is like a Led Zeppelin song played through a thrash filter with shades of Appetite For Destruction-era Guns N Roses. ‘Forever Lost In Vain’ is only four minutes long but has so many different sections and ideas that it feels like it should be twice that. Bjorn ‘Speed’ Strid’s clean singing is paired with some new wave riffing to great effect and when he unleashes his growl it fits the tone and tempo of the tune perfectly. It’s a song so well executed that even the guitar solo will have you humming along. The Sworn A Great Divide bonus tracks really benefit from their remixing. ‘Overclocking’ and ‘Martyr’ put the melodic back into melodic death metal. ‘Martyr’ in particular is reminiscent of Paradise Lost - Draconian Times pomp.
2005's Stabbing The Drama nearly broke the band in the USA but they never quite made it into the metal A-list and it seemed that the band had lost their way a bit in the late noughties, but double album The Living Infinite and last year's The Ride Majestic put such concerns to rest. This wasn't just a return to form but the sound of a band stepping up a level. In that context releasing a rarities album covering that period from 2005-2015 might seem capricious but Death Resonance is a triumph. It's a reclamation project for the band and shows that even when they appeared to be floundering they were still producing excellent tunes.
That success has come at a cost. Guitarist and founding member Peter Wichers and bassist Ola Flink have departed in recent years while drummer Dirk Verbeuren has been pinched by Megadeth. Verbeuren is a big loss. His intricate drum patterns are an important part of Soilwork’s sound. They are not a band that play fast for the sake of it but when they do, they do so with a calculated precision.
A compilation like this could suffer from the disparate nature of the tracklisting but Death Resonance thrives on the variety and dynamism of the individual songs and the very disparity of the tunes is what makes it great. Their last couple of releases have been loosely connected concept albums and, freed from the restraints of conceptualisation, Soilwork let rip some killer riffs, foot stomping rhythms and head-banging beats, liberally scattering innovative riffage hither and yon. At a time when extreme metal looked as if it had nothing else to offer, along come Soilwork offering something new by giving us something old. It says a lot for the collected songs here that the new songs are probably the least interesting. If you didn't know this was an anthology you could easily accept it as a standalone album.