I have to salute Soilwork on this one. It's a gutsy move to release a double album in 2013. Who does that these days? People don't have the attention span they used to, and it's not like Soilwork is a stoner/doom band that people get high and stare at a wall for four hours listening to. They're a thrashy melodic death metal band that has struggled to hit the nail on the head the last few albums, so to come forth with a double CD and to do so with an exclamation point, well, good on them.
Going back to Figure No. 5, Soilwork has been inconsistent. The general trend of Soilwork and their contemporaries in Sweden went towards a more radio-rock friendly sound with slower tempos, more clean singing, less overall aggression... a softening, if you will. Happens all the time with metal bands (see: Metallica 20 years ago}, but Soilwork at least tried to keep their edge. Drummer Dirk Verbeuren came on board with Stabbing the Drama and the clock went back to a more Natural Born Chaos sound. The next two records, while having some good songs and exploring a heavier sound, were still a bit disjointed. One song would be a blistering attack of shred and blast beats while another would sound like a pop-rock tune. The on-again, off-again relationship with Peter Wichers didn't seem to help things either. Finally, Wichers and Soilwork parted ways again, and touring guitarist David Andersson stepped in, and a mere months later, the ambitious double album The Living Infinite has arrived.
New blood can be reinvigorating. For Soilwork, who has a near 20-year legacy, renewal is essential. The great thing about this album besides being a double album that you don't want to skip any songs on, is that it is not a radical reinvention or departure from their style and it's not just a retread of their older material. This is the formula that they were trying to perfect ever since Verbeuren joined the band; the perfect fusion of thrash, melodic death metal, and heavy rock in small doses, and not in a song-by-song manner either, but a genuine melding of styles that creates something not quite heard before. The genius is that it still sounds like something Soilwork would do. That might not sound like a big deal but it can be very difficult to reboot your own sound without sounding like you're doing it.
The songwriting, the riffing, the singing, everything about The Living Infinite shows that the tank is far from empty. The consistency of these songs shows how well this lineup has bonded. While it may be one of those strange intuitions of mine, it sounds to me like they really enjoyed making this record. Sure, it's fast, heavy, and powerful, but there's also a confidence and a playful brilliance to it that can only come from a group who is excited and enthusiastic about what they're doing. Every one of the twenty songs shines through with a youthful exuberance that even young bands don't have. And yet, The Living Infinite also sounds like Soilwork has a chip on their shoulder, something to prove. There is a statement here. Not only is the band roaring back after it seemed they were on the decline, but they're doing so with a bold double album that defies the listener to fast forward through it. Today's attention span is ridiculously short and listening to new releases from bands, especially bands that have been around a long time, is more akin to speed dating. What better way to challenge that than to go completely against the prevailing trend?
A lesser band wouldn't have been able to pull this off, but most bands are not in Soilwork's league. The Living Infinite sets the new standard for modern Swedish metal. While their peers in other bands seem lost and uninspired, Soilwork's flame is burning brighter than ever, proving that you don't have to castrate yourself to evolve and mature and you don't have to play it safe and coast on your name, you just have to remember why you started playing music in the first place. The Living Infinite captures that perfectly and sustains it for over an hour and a half and doesn't let you go. There's no question- if you liked anything Soilwork has done, you will love this album. If you've never heard Soilwork before, this is a great time to start listening. If you wrote them off a few years ago, give this a chance, it will restore your faith in them. I can't recommend this enough.