Creating anything is hard, even if you’re a master of your craft. I don’t care if you’re Spielberg, Scorsese, Pixar, or Stephen King. You still need to take your raw, half-formed idea, and then use all of your skill, experience, judgment, and persistence to shape it into something that measures up to or surpasses your initial vision. Then comes the hard part – your audience is hopefully still as wowed and enamored by your new creation as they’ve been with everything that got you to that point in the first place. And if you’re really lucky, you do it again and again without a stumble.

Soilwork has made that look easy once again. The Living Infinite was a quantum leap forward for the band, and The Ride Majestic was equally as incredible. And now here’s Verkligheten (Swedish for ‘reality’), and it’s so good, you’d think it just emerged from the band’s hands, throat, and instruments fully-formed and flawless.

Take the first single “Arrival,” easily one of the fastest and most relentless things Soilwork has ever done, and a perfectly balanced exercise of excess and control. Shimmering notes ring through thunderous double-bass, guitar fragments twist and shine through the wreckage, and Speed attacks the verses with snarls and growls before soaring to a monster chorus. Cap it off with some synth-led grandeur in the bridge and then two glorious back-to-back solos and you’ve got one of Soilwork’s all-time best and brightest songs. 

The blazing speed continues later with “When the Universe Spoke,” and then if you want to hear something really fast, check out the second half of the album’s sole ‘ballad,’ “Full Moon Shoals.” It starts as a mid-tempo crooner like “Death in General” from The Ride Majestic or “Antidote in Passing” from The Living Infinite II, but it doesn’t stay that way for long. That supersonic speed, by the way, comes courtesy of Soilwork’s new drummer, 26-year old Bastian Thusgaard. Dirk Verbeuren was fantastic, and it will be interesting to see what he brings to Megadeth now, but this new guy is superhuman and Soilwork has definitely put him to excellent use.

As on the past three albums, the band is unafraid to change their approach from track to track, and yet it’s all 100% Soilwork. Sometimes you get propulsive, driving rhythms and aching, anthemic choruses, as on “The Ageless Whisper” or “Stålfågel,” with guest cleans and snarls from Arch Enemy‘s Alissa White-Gluz. Other tracks like “Bleeder/Despoiler” and “Witan” have big, swinging riffs, screamed verses, but their choruses are clean-sung and rousing. We get more guest roars on the muscular and melancholy “Needles and Kin” – yep, that’s Tomi Joutsen from Amorphis (hopefully he joins in on that song during their co-headlining European tour with Soilwork). Both “The Wolves are Back in Town” and “You Aquiver” are the most pop-friendly and accessible, while “The Nurturing Glance” is the best of both worlds. It combines hard rock groove and jamming piano with growls and melodeath – it’s basically Soilwork doing The Night Flight Orchestra (Speed’s other band), and I’d love a whole album just like it.  There’s not an off moment on all of Verkligheten, and the addictive melodies and frequent switch-ups keep things exciting and entertaining. 

In fact, in the 25 years since the dawn of melodic death metal (those first screaming sonatas by In Flames, At the Gates, and Dark Tranquillity), I don’t know of any other band who has taken the genre quite as far. Or who’s figured out how to deftly straddle the divide between underground extremity and mainstream melodic appeal without losing their identity in the process. And if you go by the aggressive, ambitious, and hugely satisfying collection of songs on this album, Soilwork has done so while somehow raising the intensity at the same time. 

Like I said. Masters of their craft.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Jordan Itkowitz
January 14th, 2019


  1. Commented by: Stiffy

    What a band. Very well written, sir.

  2. Commented by: Aaronius

    My preorder is supposedly in my mailbox today Can’t wait to hear this one. They really are the top of the heap in this particular genre.

  3. Commented by: Nick Taxidermy

    Speed fuckin’ killed it on the new Night Flight Orchestra. what a voice.

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