Double albums. In order to justify their being, they'd best be damned special. Otherwise, they're to be held in contempt as cash cow fodder. There are only so many double albums out there worth their salt and if BARONESS turned a few heads last year with "Yellow and Green", this year, SOILWORK just might've one-upped them on their new double shot, "The Living Infinite".
In every sense, this extensive, often splintering metal extravaganza sounds like it's going for broke. SOILWORK, once again minus Peter Wichers, unleashes a massive monster destined to rank as one of their biggest triumphs. Flying through a deuce set primarily on ignition, "The Living Infinite" sends SOILWORK fans a fierce, proud and masterful two-fister.
As fast as this album operates, when SOILWORK intercuts the near-relentless speed of "The Living Infinite" with straightforward and melodic numbers like "The Windswept Mercy", "Antidotes in Passing" and "Whispers and Lights", there's still a dense and powerful projection behind the conjugality between grandeur and aggression. Pretty as "Whispers and Lights" chimes for nearly two-thirds of its course, expect a couple of brackish blast beat sequences and wracking death throes to unhinge the song's delicate flow. Then "Rise Above the Sentiment" pushes the envelope with a devilishly infectious collision between hope-inspiring harmony and magma-filled landslides of torment.
Elaborated with chamber fugue and piano measures on the intro to the screechy fast "Spectrum of Eternity", the name of SOILWORK's game on this album is to deliver more subversive and top layer intricacies than ever before. There's overt beauty amidst the gusting brutality of "Spectrum of Eternity", "This Momentary Bliss", "Leech", "Tongue", "Long Live the Misanthrope" and "Let the First Wave Rise". Huffed with storm-batten chord progressions ("Realm of the Wasted" is incredible with its tunefully arranged note swarms) and maintaining more concentrated thrust than a porn lord, "The Living Infinite" throttles like SOILWORK's very careers depended on it.
Bjorn "Speed" Strid hits the pinnacle of his vocal talents with a captivating blend of unhinged wailing and crooning that strikes the median between alpha and borderline omega. Always on top of his game, this is the most comfortable he's ever sounded with all of his ranges. He even peels off a punishing caterwaul at the end of "Let the First Wave Rise". New guitarist David Andersson takes over for Peter Wichers alongside Sylvain Coudret and their synchronicity is instantaneous. Their Bachian tag solo on "Long Live the Misanthrope", for instance, is gorgeous. Whether or not the departure of Wichers was a necessary evil, the entire troupe of SOILWORK obviously seized fifth gear with all six pairs of fists clenched in unison on the shift.
SOILWORK consistently tricks their listeners with varying modes of thrash, grind, power rock, metalcore (the decent elements, that is) and occasional dunks into the death metal cauldron to achieve a rare result of consistently engaging music spread over so long a course. "The Living Infinite" wastes no opportunities to entertain and to rattle SOILWORK's audience nearly senseless with superlative songwriting that should make metalheads of every generation proud.
Sharply written and hummable tracks like "Drowning With Silence" and the fabulous instrumental "Loyal Shadow" that appear later in the second disc logically could've been placed at the beginning of the first one, and yet they serve their placement best by retaining the album's momentum. "Antidotes in Passing" slows the mayhem down just enough with improbable pseudo pop that becomes more of an addiction than a remedy. Its tricky dynamic keeps the album interesting and flavorful, knowing that the next track, "Leech" is going to stoke the album back on hyperspeed through the restless triplicates and crushing rolls of Dirk Verbeuren.
Having driven as smart a course as anyone could through the first decade of the new millennium, SOILWORK brings all of their guns, new and old, into 2013, and pull off a ballsy stunt. "The Living Infinite" is more than a happening for metal this year. It's a freaking event.
- Ray Van Horn, Jr.