Well, it’s Soilwork, that’s for sure. This is a band that, as one of the forefathers of melo-death, has found a formula, and, by George, they’re sticking with it. Verkligheten hardly breaks any molds. With few exceptions, the track list sticks to predictable, simple riffing that smacks of early 2000s metalcore as well as to the band’s usual screamy verse/clean chorus structures. The few attempts to evolve their sound, including guest vocalists and a few retro riffs fail to keep Verkligheten from sounding like recycled (composted?) Soilwork.
To be clear, I’m not saying the music isn’t good. If you are one of those “metal” fans who hasn’t discovered the internet yet, and your exposure is limited to Nu metal on the radio, Verkligheten may rock your whole world. These guys are masters of production, especially at layering vocal tracks, and “Speed” Strid is genuinely one of the more talented and innovative screamers in metal. That being said, this album just feels uninspired.
The title track, which opens the album, is a short instrumental that channels early Pink Floyd. I haven’t quite heard Soilwork do that before. Could this be a lead-in to a completely original, progressive concept album? No. Track two, “Arrival” feels like a leftover from Living Infinite that just has enough energy to be service as an opener. It’s a good song, but nothing more.
The rest of the album honestly could be mixed and matched in any order, and it wouldn’t matter. There is no narrative arc, musically or thematically. “Bleeder Despoiler,” “The Wolves are Back in Town,” “Witan” and others are full of stale riffs, refusing to abandon the withering corpse of metalcore. Let it go, man.
“Full Moon Shoals” is definitely attempting to channel Judas Priest or Iron Maiden. It’s very…leathery. The riffs are boring, simple, and dated. The lyrics are juvanile, and masquerade as edgy when they are simple angsty. “It’s just an inner endless shriek.”
The lyrics in “The Nurturing Glance” are even worse, though they did teach me the word “eschalon.” They remind me of my high school poetry. The early stuff. “Luminous deity. Perilous djinn. Sacrificed unity. Servants of sin ” Ugh. Now, I admit that my Swedish is much weaker than their English, but still—You been at it for a while.
The clear standout on the album is “When the Universe Spoke.” It’s truly a good song. Not quite to the level of “Sick Heart River” or “Let This River Flow,” but good. Come to think of it, they should just put “river” in the title of all their songs and they would all be winners.
“When the Universe Spoke” opens with a simple melodic interlude, which is then repeated amidst a barrage of blast-beats. The song has nice energy, and I like the juxtaposition of the different vocal styles. However, I couldn’t help but notice that a lot of the lyrics are combinations of adjectives and nouns that could easily be names of Magic: the Gathering cards: “Uncompromised loss,” “Temporal riptide,” “Cancerous growth,” “Immortal continuum,” “Subconscious design,” “Scavenger of galaxies,” etc.
“Stålfågel” is the single off the album. It’s a simple power ballad with repetitive, chuggy riffing. The music video looks like steam-punk GI Joe done in Flash. I think it may be my least favorite song on the album, though “The Wolves are Back in Town” is a contender on name alone. I think some of the cheekiness of Night Flight Orchestra might be creeping into the song writing, and not for the better.
The final two tracks on the album, “Needles and Kin” and “You Aquiver,” feature vocals from Tomi Joutsen and Dave Sheldon. I appreciate the addition of classic death metal vocals against Speed’s, but it’s not enough to make the tracks memorable.
Harsh Analysis aside, if you are a true fan of Soilwork, you will find this album to be adequately enjoyable. It’s on par with most of their catalog. I feel that my tastes are evolving faster than a lot of my favorite bands are, and that’s okay.
Overall, Verkligheten brings you more of Soilwork’s recent sound, with a few throwbacks to earlier metalcore. The lyrics are largely just vehicles for Speed Strid’s signature vocals, and the song structures we’ve come to expect remain intact. This one won’t blow any minds, but if you just need some groovy metal to get you through, Verkligheten will do.
FAVORITE TRACK: “When the Universe Spoke”
RELEASE DATE: 1/11/19
FOR FANS OF: In Flames, Dark Tranquility