Soilwork – Overgivenheten (Album Review)

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Superior ambition begets new horizons.

The ongoing relationship between the melodic death metal style originally spearheaded by the Gothenburg scene and their younger metalcore cousins on both sides of the Atlantic has been, if nothing else, a complex one. Ever since the early 2000s when elements of the latter began showing up in the output of In Flames, kick-starting what has come to be known as the melodic groove metal niche, fans of the traditional sounds of the former have largely come to see the resulting hybridization as a net negative. Nevertheless, with the advent of innovation there will always be the promise of a new breakthrough that both sides could get behind, a sort of stylistic sweet spot where the best elements of both would achieve a sort of synchronicity that even the hardnosed traditionalist couldn’t deny. The jury may still be out of if or when this will occur to an extent that those who long for the days of “The Jester Race” and “The Gallery” would be won over, but the latest studio offering out of Soilwork in “Overgivenheten” might well have something to say on the subject.

For those who have immersed themselves in all things melodeath, the many adjacent projects of Bjorn “Speed Strid, lead vocalist and mastermind of the outfit in question, have qualified him as a wildcard in modern metal circles. Particularly the ultra-melodic, AOR-steeped 80s throwback material of one of his many side-ventures in The Night Flight Orchestra could earn him the title of a metallic chameleon in the best sense. As such, the multiplicity of vocal personas that he brings to the table could easily rival the likes of Stu Block and Jari Maenpaa, which serves to only further augment the growing array of musical influences that have been creeping into Soilwork’s presentation since the early 2010s. Consequently, the more than an hour’s worth of material that rounds out this latest opus is the most ambitious and eclectic yet, and often times defies the boundaries of the melodeath/metalore paradigm that is generally attributed to their post-2003 sound. It’s not so much a progressive venture in the sense that one might label bands like Dream Theater or Ne Obliviscaris, but the elaborate collage of influences and technical chops on display here definitely puts it in comparable territory.

“Overgivenheten” Album Artwork

In comparable fashion to their massive 2013 double LP epic “The Living Infinite,” the structure of this album has a theatrical/conceptual quality to it, though this time it delivers an even more potent explosion of artistic brilliance in roughly half the time. The riveting opener and title anthem “Overgivenheten” functions as both a slow-building overture replete with atmospheric detail that blurs the lines between folksy acoustic charm and symphonic drama, as well as a driving metallic banger that brilliantly balances the traditional late 90s melodeath and mid-2000s metalcore styles once the first minute and a half elapses. Not a band to simply play upon a well-rounded balance of old and slightly newer, a couple of faster and nastier displays of aggression that play up the band’s common roots with the likes of At The Gates and Arch Enemy enter soon after between the mad-blasting “Electric Again”, and the thrash-happy “Is It In Your Darkness” respectively. Even seemingly slower entries like “This Godless Universe” that start off almost serene and incorporate a curious blend of piano and chamber music additives can’t help but pound the ground something fierce when the chips are down, and Bjorn’s vocal display manages to be both soaring and bestially raw in concordance with where the music leads.

Then again, one of the strengths of this album that sets it apart from the more straight-line albums that one would expect out of Dark Tranquillity or Arch Enemy is when the aforementioned aggressive blend of earlier influences gives way to something less typical. Sometimes these interludes amount to fleeting bursts of groovy rock bridges amid a sea of chaotic melodic death fury as on “Dreams Of Nowhere”, while at others the riff work out of 6-string slayers Sylvain Coudret and David Andersson gets so intricate that it seems like the entirety of prog-tinged crushers like “Golgata” and “Vultures” split the difference between multiple styles for their entire duration, to speak nothing for the curiously nuanced guitar solos featured in both. But where things truly take a walk off the proverbial map is the mid-paced, almost late-80s Queensryche-like stomp of “Death, I Hear You Calling”, which in addition to seeing some riff work that hints at Bjorn’s work with The Night Flight Orchestra spilling into Soilwork’s formula and a far less insane drum display out of Bastian Thusgaard, also sees Bjorn’s vocal work rival 80s Rob Halford.

Suffice it to say, Soilwork has hit it out of the park with this latest collection of genre-defying compositions, all the while still maintaining an accessible presentation that will appeal to a wide range of metal consumers. It marks the most focused amalgam of influences that has been put forth by this outfit since they began thinking outside of the traditional melodic death metal box, and it rivals the formative first three albums of their catalog that have been held in particularly high regard by those who stick to the pre-2002 version of the Gothenburg sound. It may not win over every purist that is still agitating for Bjorn and company to throw together another “The Chainheart Machine” or “A Predator’s Portrait,” but speaking as one who generally tends to prefer the old school sound to most of the metalcore that ended up supplanting it, this longtime metal head is thoroughly hooked. It faces some pretty stiff competition from solid material recently put out by Amon Amarth, Arch Enemy and The Halo Effect, but this is definitely in the running for one of the best offerings of 2022 and should definitely not be passed up by old school or new school head-bangers alike.

Order the “Overgivenheten” album HERE.

Released By: Nuclear Blast Records
Release Date: August 19th, 2022
Genre: Metal | Progressive Metal | Gothenburg Metal

“Overgivenheten” Track-listing:

 1. Övergivenheten
 2. Nous Sommes La Guerre
 3. Electric Again
 4. Valleys Of Gloam
 5. Is It In Your Darkness
 6. Vultures
 7. Morgongåva/Stormfågel
 8. Death, I Hear You Calling
 9. 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

SOILWORK are:

  • Björn “Speed” Strid / Vocals
  • David Andersson / Guitars
  • Sven Karlsson  / Keyboards
  • Sylvain Coudret  / Guitars
  • Bastian Thusgaard  / Drums
  • Rasmus Ehrnborn / Bass

9.0 Excellent

True to their ever-expanding arsenal of stylistic expressions, Swedish melodic death metal trailblazers turned eclectic proggers trustees Soilwork nail that elusive sweet spot between their former and current style on their latest studio excursion

  • Songwriting 9
  • Musicianship 9
  • Originality 9
  • Production 9
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