Album Review – Soilwork / Verkligheten (2019)

One of the biggest exponents of the Swedish Melodic Death Metal scene returns in full force with a fresh, groovy and addictive album of first-class heavy music.

Although most people consider Helsingborg-based metal masters Soilwork to play a fusion of Metalcore and Melodic Groove Metal nowadays instead of the Melodic Death Metal we got used to from their early albums, I personally still see them as one of the biggest exponents of the Swedish Melodic Death Metal scene, having influenced (and still inspiring) countless bands worldwide, like for example Trivium. And to prove how relevant and ass-kicking the band is after all these years on the road, frontman Björn “Speed” Strid and his henchmen David Andersson and Sylvain Coudret on the guitars, Sven Karlsson on the keyboards and newcomer Bastian Thusgaard on drums are releasing upon humanity the superb Verkligheten, the eleventh studio album in their undisputed career.

Verkligheten, which by the way is the Swedish word for “reality”, is not only the first Soilwork album to feature Bastian on drums as the replacement of longtime member Dirk Verbeuren (who left the band to join Megadeth a couple of years ago), but it also marks the longest gap between their studio albums to date, with their previous installment, The Ride Majestic, having been released nearly three and a half years earlier. Well, at least the wait was absolutely worth it, because if there’s one word that can be used to describe the music found in Verkligheten is “addictive”. You won’t skip any song from the album, and as soon as it’s over you’ll go back to the first track and listen to everything all over again, which in other words means we’re undoubtedly facing a very strong candidate to be elected one of the best albums of 2019.

The title-track Verkligheten, a Western movie-Tarantino-inspired instrumental intro, flows smoothly and serene, inviting us all to join Soilwork in the realm of Melodic Death Metal with the crushing Arrival, presenting some pulverizing elements from Black Metal added to their core musicality, in special the demonic blast beats by Bastian, all enhanced by its classic lyrics beautifully declaimed by Björn (“The sky reflects in my hands / You took my world ’cause you can / Is it just me or is the light / Oh read me, you dust ridden seer / And prepare for the night”). The album couldn’t have started in a more thrilling and vibrant way, I might say. Moving on with the music, speed and violence are replaced with heaviness and an enfolding melody in the headbanging Bleeder Despoiler, where both David and Sylvain are on absolute fire with their scorching riffs, not to mention how the background keys by Sven and Bastian’s rhythmic drums complement each other flawlessly, and the band keeps blowing our speakers with their very melodic and fierce music in Full Moon Shoals, where once again all instruments are thoroughly connected, resulting in a dense and visceral sound complemented by another shot of their pensive and poetic words (“Anyone would cure it with blindness / There were moments where I thought I could be / A man who’s aching for the hour of closure / Darkness clearly kept on covering my needs / But it’s not what it seems / It’s just an inner endless shriek”).

Blending the most slashing elements from Rock N’ Roll, Melodic Death Metal and even Industrial Metal, Soilwork offer us an amazing composition titled The Nurturing Glance, perfect for banging your head, singing along with the band or simply enjoying Björn’s flawless vocal performance accompanied by the precise beats by Bastian, whereas in When the Universe Spoke  a serene intro explodes into top-notch Melodic Death Metal infused with Metalcore and Groove Metal nuances, with both Björn’s clean vocals and harsh growls being potentialized by the strident riffs by the band’s guitar duo (as well as the insane drumming by Bastian). Futuristic waves ignite what feels like a hybrid between contemporary Arch Enemy and Soilwork entitled Stålfågel (or “steel bird” from Swedish), featuring the stunning Alissa White-Gluz from Arch Enemy as a guest vocalist. Björn and Alissa vigorously kick some serious ass together, while David and Sylvain hypnotize us with their riffs and solos in one of the top songs of the album without a shadow of a doubt, and putting the pedal to the metal this Swedish institution fires more of their razor-edged metal music in The Wolves Are Back in Town, showcasing headbanging beats, extremely melodic and sharp guitar lines, and yet another demolishing performance by Björn, spearheading his skillful horde like the true frontman he is.

Verkligheten Digipak CD Cover

Witan also presents a nice balance between harmonious and aggressive sounds, with Björn focusing slightly more on his clean vocals, flowing like a fast arrow until The Ageless Whisper comes ripping our hearts and minds in a solid display of modern-day Melodic Death Metal. Moreover, Bastian pounds his drums like there’s no tomorrow, while the band’s guitar duo continue to grind their axes with a lot of precision and energy. Then featuring guest vocals by Tomi Joutsen (Amorphis), Needles and Kin is classic Melodic Death Metal presenting a vibrant fusion of rage, electricity and harmony with the intricate beats by Bastian dictating its rhythm and pace, all boosted by David’s superb guitar solo, before the closing tune You Aquiver, with guest Dave Sheldon (Exes for Eyes, Annihilator) on the guitar, brings to our ears a good mix of their more ferocious side with the whimsical and ethereal sound of the keys by Sven, with best metal (and even non-metal) albums of 2019. Furthermore, what Mr. Björn “Speed” Strid & Co. did in their new album might not be a revolution in music (as some very demanding fans always expect from their favorite bands), but it’s indeed a solid statement that Melodic Death Metal is still alive and kicking, and that Soilwork will continue to be a reference in the genre no matter what happens to the band. Fortunately for us fans of heavy music, the band is far from calling it quits, which means we’ll certainly have the pleasure of enjoying more of their crisp and vibrant metal with their future releases, and if they’re just half as good as Verkligheten we’ll have a very good reason to celebrate and to keep banging our heads together with those Swedish metal icons.

Best moments of the album: Arrival, The Nurturing Glance, Stålfågel and The Wolves Are Back in Town.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2019 Nuclear Blast

Track listing
1. Verkligheten (instrumental) 1:44
2. Arrival 3:47
3. Bleeder Despoiler 3:36
4. Full Moon Shoals 4:46
5. The Nurturing Glance 5:24
6. When the Universe Spoke 5:22
7. Stålfågel (feat. Alissa White-Gluz) 4:25
8. The Wolves Are Back in Town 3:24
9. Witan 3:48
10. The Ageless Whisper 5:01
11. Needles and Kin (feat. Tomi Joutsen) 4:57
12. You Aquiver (feat. Dave Sheldon) 4:03

Band members
Björn “Speed” Strid – vocals
David Andersson – lead guitar
Sylvain Coudret – rhythm guitar
Sven Karlsson – keyboards
Bastian Thusgaard – drums

Guest musicians
Alissa White-Gluz – guest vocals on “Stålfågel”
Tomi Joutsen – guest vocals on “Needles and Kin”
Dave Sheldon – guitars on “You Aquiver”
Taylor Nordberg – bass (live)

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Album Review – Cloudscape / Voice of Reason (2016)

These awesome Swedish metallers provide us once again a well-balanced fusion of progressiveness, feeling, professionalism and an endless amount of our most beloved element, Heavy Metal.

Rating4

Cloudscape-voiceofreason-cover2400Just like their Scandinavian friends from Norway and Finland, it looks like it’s absolutely impossible to find a bad metal group from Sweden either. It doesn’t matter if it’s the most nefarious form of Black Metal or the most endearing and joyful Hard Rock you can think of, the quality of the music always goes beyond the boundaries of awesomeness. Thus, this is also the case in the high-octane Voice of Reason, the fifth studio album by Melodic Progressive Metal quintet Cloudscape, a band tailored for fans of icons like Dream Theater, Evergrey, Iron Maiden and Yngwie Malmsteen, among others.

Formed in 2001 in Helsingborg, Sweden, Cloudscape have already paved a solid path through the years, showcasing all their superior skills with each and every release and embellishing venues and festivals all over the world with their passion for metal. Now with Voice of Reason, which songwriting started back in 2013 and features another excellent artwork created by Mattias Norén from ProgArt Media (who has already worked with bands such as Kamelot, Evergrey and Sabaton), the band aims at entering new unexplored territories without losing their core essence, flirting with the sonority of their earlier albums. Well, let’s say that they reached their goal in a faultless manner.

The opening track A New Design already blends their classic sounding with modern metal music, with the vocals by Mike Andersson offering the listener melodic lines and hard-hitting aggression at the same time. In addition, its exciting chorus adds a more-than-welcome kick to this solid tune, turning it into one of the top moments of the album. Then, with an Iron Maiden-ish aura and hints of Hard Rock and Alternative Metal, we have the fresh and vibrant chant Futuristic Phsyco, where guitarists Patrik Svärd and Stefan Rosqvist, together with bassist Håkan Nyander, give a lesson in Progressive Metal with their unstoppable stringed weapons; followed by Don’t Close Your Eyes, another powerful song where its gentle but captivating keyboards shine amidst its heavy guitar riffs, not to mention its backing vocals doing a superb job supporting Mike’s performance.

CS-1As its name already says, All For Metal is pure classic Heavy Metal, with its riffs and drums transpiring electricity. Not only this is by far my favorite song of the album, but I simply love when a band pays that type of “tribute” to their roots and heroes without sounding cheesy. Moreover, it’s easy to visualize how incredible this tune might sound live with the crowd singing it together with the band. However, it’s time to slow things down a bit and get as progressive as possible in the 11-minute title-track Voice Of Reason, with the ambience getting stronger due to its keyboards and the heartwarming vocals by Mike, while drummer Fredrik Joakimsson makes sure the rhythm changes all the time avoiding any sort of staleness.

Thunders Of Extreme will please most fans of Scandinavian metal due to its classic guitar lines and uplifting lyrics, which combined will surely make you feel good while listening to it. Furthermore, this superb tune proves this band definitely knows how to craft catchy choruses, enhancing the impact of their already well-engendered compositions even more. Needle In The Eye is perhaps the most modern of all songs, as you can sense nuances of Alternative Metal thoroughly added to their powerful progressiveness, before the second-longest track of the album, In Silence We Scream, concludes the album majestically. Although it begins in a nice acoustic way with highlights to its emotional lyrics beautifully declaimed by Mike, it’s when the other instruments hit the music (consequently making it much heavier and denser) that things get a lot more ravishing and epic.

Tom sum up, those Swedish metallers were spot on with their comments about how Voice of Reason was going to sound like, providing the listener a well-balanced fusion of progressiveness, feeling, professionalism and an endless amount of our most beloved element, Heavy Metal. You can reach Cloudscape at their official Facebook page and YouTube channel, and get your copy of the album on iTunes, Amazon and several other locations. As you might have noticed already, Voice of Reason is what we can call the perfect album to start the year with a true metallic bang.

Best moments of the album: A New Design, All For Metal and Thunders Of Extreme.

Worst moments of the album: Needle In The Eye.

Released in 2016 Dead End Exit Records

Track listing
1. A New Design 5:43
2. Futuristic Phsyco 3:33
3. Don’t Close Your Eyes 4:45
4. All For Metal 5:25
5. Voice Of Reason 11:55
6. Thunders Of Extreme 4:23
7. Needle In The Eye 5:08
8. In Silence We Scream 9:30

Band members
Mike Andersson – vocals, keyboards
Patrik Svärd – guitar
Stefan Rosqvist – guitar
Håkan Nyander – bass
Fredrik Joakimsson – drums, backing vocals, keyboards