Nuclear Blast
rating icon 8.5 / 10

Track listing:

01. Övergivenheten
02. Nous Sommes La Guerre
03. Electric Again
04. Valleys of Gloam
05. Is It In Your Darkness
06. Vultures
07. Morgongåva / Stormfågel
08. Death, I Hear You Calling
09. This Godless Universe
10. Dreams of Nowhere
11. The Everlasting Flame
12. Golgata
13. Harvest Spine
14. On The Wings Of A Goddess / Through Flaming Sheets of Rain

Perennially unbothered by expectations, SOILWORK have enjoyed a fascinating and ever-changing musical life over the last quarter of a century. Not every album has hit the mark for every fan but compared to the creative trajectories of certain other big melodic death metal bands, Bjorn Strid's crew have always seemed to be pushing boldly forward. From ground-breaking melo-death milestones like "Steelbath Suicide" and "The Chainheart Machine", to the prog-tinged expansion of "Natural Born Chaos", the alt-metal futurism of "Figure Number Five" and the sprawling, twin-album triumph of "The Living Infinite", SOILWORK's catalogue is one of the broadest and strongest out there. Impressively, they are still audibly hell-bent on keeping the fervent evolution going. As hinted at on 2020's superb "A Whisp Of The Atlantic" EP, the Swedes are in a particularly imaginative mood at the moment. "Övergivenheten" – all 66 extravagant minutes of it – feels like the glittering prize at the end of a particularly intense burst of creativity.

Recalcitrant old-school devotees will probably still prefer SOILWORK to sound like they did in 1998, but today's incarnation of the band simply have infinite grand and great ideas to explore. Sonically immaculate, "Övergivenheten" still delivers plenty of brutality and merciless precision and is often heavier than any SOILWORK album since those revered early days. But the real revelation is that the band have hit a new hot songwriting streak, and virtually everything they attempt here turns to gold.

With the cheerful audacity to kick the album off with the sound of a banjo, SOILWORK are having a splendid time throughout their 12th full-length album. The opening title track is near-symphonic in its ambition, but also a stirring metallic call to arms; riff-heavy and armed with a colossal chorus hook. "Nous Sommes La Guerre" welds a pulsing, hard rock chassis to spinning, prog-metal wheels, with the specter of '80s art-pop shimmering in the background. "Electric Again" erupts at unfathomable speed and takes a mere four minutes to encapsulate everything that makes SOILWORK circa 2022 so irresistible. Similarly, "Dreams Of Nowhere" comes close to echoing the band's iconic early sound, but with a depth and dexterity that comes from 25 years of active, passionate service. The fact that Strid's voice has only gained authority over the years is a neat bonus, too.

As with all epic statements, "Övergivenheten" has its deeper cuts, too. "This Godless Universe" is an intense howl of torment and frustration, with an outrageous Strid vocal, a hint of blackened bile, and some deliciously proggy chord changes. "Vultures" offers the perfect chop-shop blend of streamlined melodic finesse and snarling, fists-up attack. Most dazzling of all, closing epic "On The Wings Of A Goddess / Through Flaming Sheets of Rain" is a straight-up progressive metal rampage, with shades of SAVATAGE and FATES WARNING making perfect sense alongside SOILWORK's evolved melo-death tropes. It provides an exhilarating conclusion to an album full of beautifully crafted songs, each one imbued with a real sense of adventure. A very obvious career peak for all concerned.

Author: Dom Lawson
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