Review: Soilwork – The Ride Majestic

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Does The Ride Majestic elevate Soilwork to a higher status? Or will they be flushed in the living infinite?

As a whole, Melodic Death Metal could have reach higher levels of respect from the critics and fans because the dramatic and abstract lyrical themes and musical constructions on the first offerings in the genre. Instead, more and more bands jumped into the train with a simpler formula of predictable songs structures with ‘catchy’ choruses, trying to compete with the burgeoning Metalcore front on the American continent. What we have now with this style is a clone generator genre with some legendary bands that could find their own voice and a few newcomers that try to carry the torch. We can even say that the overall spirit of the genre is somewhat dead.

Right now, Soilwork is one of the few survivors of the Swedish Melodic scene, a decadent music scenario that crumbled on its own cement because the inner slaying of their ethos and the flirts with the mainstream promises. The swedes, formed in 1995, present to us a new album called The Ride Majestic, their 10th full length made with sweat, blood and their unique sound of modern and melodic influences. But, believe me, this new record can be the definite manifesto of the band, an offering to the melodic-driven metal created with a hearty sincerity.

Behind are the years of the Stabbing the Drama era, which marked the ‘alternative’ Metal sound, with those heavily electronic constructed melodies and almost metalcore sound. Since their last double-record, titled The Living Infinite, the band have been kicking stages around the world and increasing their skills with new rotations on their personnel. Vocalist Bjorn “Speed” Strid remains as the only original member and main composer since in 2012, his partner, Peter Wichers, dropped off the Soilwork wagon. Also, The Living Infinite was a challenging project that helped the band to find a new voice with a more solid songwriting, one that is more organic and refined.

The Ride Majestic could be defined as grandiose, melancholic and expressive. Using riffs and impressive guitar solos, along layers of keyboards, the band polished the style of their last album and condensed it into a tight package of eleven songs, with a good flow in the internal narrative structure.

The first song, entitled after the album name, starts with an aquatic toned guitar line that explodes into a burst of emotive riffing. The drumming carry the waves with ease, and ‘Speed’ growls find the spaces between the hard staccato verses that cuts suddenly into a multiple layered chorus that doesn’t break the momentum of the material. The simpler song of this record open the gates for a new microcosms created by Soilwork with all the experience they had recording it.

Leaving behind the straight-forward formula, “Alight in the Aftermath” is a puzzle, made with relentless blast beats, starts/stops and flamboyant percussive resources. Dirk Verbeuren thrash around every piece with outstanding precision and the guitars put it again in good shape to be later executed once again by the drumming assassination. Growls and screams put the mark into this scenario; the band, together, work into a song that is chaotic yet enchanting, at the same time. One of the best cuts of the record.

“Death in General” and “Enemies in Fidelity” unveils the Coudret and Andersson guitar combo phrasing, riffing and soloing with a memorable face, one that works with passion and viciousness between the songs pace, one that helps ‘Speed’ to show one of his most impressive vocals until the date. Heavy and melodic, these two songs are excellent outtakes of their anthem and sing-along nature, one that reminds the first era of the band, but with renovated forces.

The second half of the record doesn’t stop the march, and revisit the mid-period style to twist that paradigm with the progressive nature of The Living Infinite. For example, “Petrichor by Sulphur” have a swampy riff as platform for the verses, with catchy choruses wrote with the Soilwork trademark; and “The Phantom” employs a fast tremolo almost-black-metal-ish riff along the mechanic thrash rhythm, decorated by the keyboards palettes. On the other hand, the swirling style of the “Aspire Angelic” version of The Ride Majestic is evidence that the band served all their creativity and effort into the songwriting.

Meanwhile, “Whirl of Pain”, “All Along Echoing Paths” and “Shining Lights” distills personality with the guitar voicings; and the closing track, aptly titled “Father and Son, Watching the World Go Down”, shows the band committed to the reflective theme of how the end comes along and surprises us because the frailty of our human nature.

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In my opinion, what was missing on the Soilwork style was that Scandinavian dynamic and distinct melodic flavor. In this record, they finally found it and they employ it as a tool to imprint more life to the metallic songs. The compositions breathe and shine with momentum breaks and scorching solos that make use of different scales and tempos to sweet or give decay when they need it. All of this is translated into a precise songwriting that is well executed in the chaotic-yet-cohesive progressive structures (and deconstructions). The Ride Majestic is a rollercoaster ride in which the landscape is destroyed and re-armed over and over; that is probably the better appeal of this record.

The band said in some interviews that the recording of the album was made in difficult times. Death of some of their relatives and the stress, the thoughts, the tears and perennial melancholy that those moments brings are tattooed in the ups and downs of the compositions. For the first time, Soilwork managed to encapsulate what the real Melodic Death Metal vibes means and shouted them to the wind with heartrending emotions all incorporated into their mix of modern and progressive sound; even when they aren’t the typical band of that genre. This record is not about the catchy hooks or flashy solos, it is about one band narrating the majestic ride that we call existence.

The Ride Majestic gets 4/5 flaming Toilets ov Hell.

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The Ride Majestic is out now via Nuclear Blast. You can order the record in CD, vinyl or digital here and here.

Photo: VIA

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