REVIEW: SOILWORK – “The Ride Majestic”
Sairaj R Kamath
One thing that Soilwork have made clear in the past few weeks about the album is that it’s one of circumstance, mainly that of death and personal loss. Many of the band’s members lost loved ones during the making of ‘The Ride Majestic’, resulting in them pouring 110% of their skill and soul into the music this time around. This has resulted in an album which might be their most dynamic, confrontational, and yet contemplative one yet.
The album begins by treading familiar territory in “The Ride Majestic”, consisting of a melodic intro followed by their trademark blistering guitar work, brutal yet technical drumming, supportive bass guitar, and Bjorn Strid’s alternating harsh roars and soaring clean vocals. This is where the comfort zone ends though, as the subsequent tracks start to go all over the place in terms of dynamics. “Alight in the Aftermath” for example features more of Soilwork’s furious riffage, but also has a proggy, keyboard-rich interlude that is just a treat to listen to. The catchy “Death in General” is slightly more reminiscent of their sound in ‘The Panic Broadcast’, while the chorus in “Enemies in Fidelity” has Strid crooning over Dirk Verbeuren’s aggressive blast-beats; a fascinating contrast if any.
And from there, ‘The Ride Majestic’ just continues to expand the scope and diversity in its sound. Guitarists David Andersson and Sylvain Coudret are firing on all cylinders, with their requisite melodic guitar-play, blazing guitar solos and leads, and some huge, stomping riffs and rhythms, as evidenced in songs like “Petrichor By Sulphur” and “All Along Echoing Paths”. At the same time, their constant tempo shifts, interludes and meandering song structures along with Verbeuren and now ex-bassist Ola Flink give the whole album a wildly progressive feel. Keyboardist Sven Karlsson further amplifies this aural intensity with his almost-omnipresent keyboard lines and soundscapes, “Whirl of Pain” being the best example of this. Verbeuren on the drums is just as technical and relentless as ever, and as for Strid, he remains one of the very few long-standing vocalists in melodic death metal today who can strike that perfect balance between death growls and clean singing [see also, Mikael Stanne of Dark Tranquillity].
If I do have one small qualm with ‘The Ride Majestic’, it is its relative lack of groove, immediacy, and what I’d call the “recognition factor”. The thing is, every Soilwork album up to this point has had songs that fans could immediately identify from an opening riff, groove, or chorus. This has stretched all the way from classic songs “Like the Average Stalker”, through the band’s middling phase with tracks like “Nerve”, and all the way to their most recent output like “This Momentary Bliss”. With this new album’s stubborn refusal to stick to conventional song structures, many of its songs have a hard time establishing their great riffs and grooves before getting into the next interlude or guitar solo. Verbeuren himself occasionally sounds like he’s going a bit overboard with the fast tempos and blast-beats, instead of settling down into a good groove and spicing it up with some technical rhythms and fills like he has in the past. However, I think this is a small price to pay for an album this adventurous and musically rich.
In summation, Soilwork’s ‘The Ride Majestic’ is an album that definitely lives up to its hype. Soaring and euphoric in one minute and crushing and demonic the next, it might just represent a new era for Soilwork; one where they are for all intents and purposes a Swedish METAL band, for whom the sky’s the limit when it comes to instrumentation and melodies. It may not be as accessible as their previous efforts, but goddamn if it isn’t the majestic ride it promises to be.
Recommended Tracks: “Alight in the Aftermath”, “The Ride Majestic (Aspire Angelic)”, “All Along Echoing Paths”