Soilwork – Övergivenheten (Album Review)

Born a Swedish Melodic Death Metal outfit but now so much more, Soilwork delivered their twelfth album, Övergivenheten, on Friday, August 19, 2022, thanks to Nuclear Blast.

Formed in 1995, in Helsingborg, Sweden, Soilwork knows plenty about writing, recording, and touring the globe. From their 1998 debut, Steelbath Suicide, and throughout a body of work that has delivered 11 albums over the past 24 years—including 2002’s Natural Born Chaos, 2007’s Sworn to a Great Divide, and 2013’s The Living Infinite—the sextet has established a sound that has evolved far beyond their Melodic Death Metal roots. Intricately balancing the yin and yang of melody and brutality, they are known for their careful juxtaposition that emphasizes the extremes in their music.

Produced by Thomas “Plec” Johansson (Watain, The Night Flight Orchestra), the 14-song Övergivenheten remains true to this sound. Continuing to play with hard and soft, the six-piece—Vocalist Björn “Speed” Strid, Guitarists David Andersson and Sylvain Coudret, Drummer Bastian Thusgaard, Keyboardist Sven Karlsson, and brand new Bassist Rasmus Ehrnborn—take a lyrical jaunt through the darkness to excise personal demons, chase their passion, and come to terms with the fact that we will all return to the ash one day.

As with 2015’s The Ride Majestic and 2019’s Verkligheten, their latest maintains the trend of opening with the collection’s namesake track. In this case, that places the Classic Metal meets symphonic extravagance of “Övergivenheten” up first, building from a shimmering introduction into powerful choruses that highlight Strid’s exceptional vocal theatrics. It’s a descriptive that can be applied to much of the record, which weighs heavy with flashy guitars, brutal blast beats, and plenty of melodic endeavors, as well.

Nothing on Övergivenheten is shocking. From the frenetic extremes of “Electric Again” to shape-shifting “Vultures” to the labyrinthine guitars of “Golgata,” each song swims through the muck of life to present a band that has long since proven their Metal might. So, it is really no surprise that, while the more straight-up rockers (“Valley of Gloam,” “Death, I Hear You Calling,” “Harvest Spine”) deliver more melody into the mix, it’s the deepest cuts that tend to spotlight Soilwork at their finest.

Tracks like “Nous Sommes la Guerre,” with its sensual French, blazing guitars, and inner turmoil, as well as “On the Wings of a Goddess Through Flaming Sheets of Rain,” touch on something cinematic, coupling lofty, emotional moments with a sludgy barrage. As with each of the album’s offerings, lyrically, they toy with the concept of the demons in our lives, including overcoming the battle of self (“Is It In Your Darkness”) and facing our own mortality (“This Godless Universe”).

In this, Övergivenheten is a cohesive unit, perhaps dangerously so, though it does have stand-out moments worth noting. The powerfully worded chorus of “Dreams of Nowhere,” for one, found amid a track that sees Thusgaard drumming his heart out. Then there’s the undeniably catchy sing-along “Death, I Hear You Calling,” guaranteed to raise fists across the globe, as well as two instrumentals that offer well-earned moments of respite—“Morgongåva/Stormfågel,” pairing bluesy guitar with piano, and the similarly left-field “The Everlasting Flame.”

As intriguing as the pair of instrumentals may be, they are part of a bigger issue that dulls some of Övergivenheten’s sheen. Because just like the title “On the Wings of a Goddess Through Flaming Sheets of Rain,” the album is extraneously long. At 12 tracks and two instrumentals, and a total runtime of just over 65 minutes, it’s overwhelming. When paired with the intricacy of Andersson and Coudret’s mind-blowing guitar insanity, which is obviously highlighted in the mix, any listener who is not a diehard Soilwork fan is going to have a hard time swallowing this pill on their first go-round.

Yet, the fact that Soilwork is a phenomenal band is undeniable, as they have consistently delivered exceptional new material for the past 24 years. Unfortunately, though Övergivenheten sees the group toying with further diversity within their sound profile, despite every single exceptional note, it does not bring anything shockingly unique to their oeuvre of material. Which, for some, is apt to create an absurdly elongated exercise in the formulaic.

Ultimately, due to the band’s very obvious strengths, Övergivenheten is likely to polarize diehards on the question of where it rates within the band’s extensive catalog. Does it mark an exceptional moment in the band’s career or is it just another good album? Still deciding, Cryptic Rock gives Soilwork’s latest 4 out of 5 stars.

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