Soilwork has always been, in my mind, the overlooked gem in the Swedish melodic death metal crown. That’s not to say that they haven’t been successful or critically lauded, but taking into consideration the talent on display and the skills contained within, they should be that much bigger. Their precision, dedication to the form, and creative chops are off the charts and the music is always, ALWAYS incredible.
Their 2019 album, Verkligheten, was a whirlwind of melody, aggression, and tumultuous emotion, possibly one of the finest releases in their stellar 24-year career. But, as always, how to top something so impressive? This new EP, A Whisp Of The Atlantic, is a band stretching their creative fingers, testing their abilities and proving to the world that they are more than just a metal band that is bound to colour within the lines of the form.
At 36 minutes, it’s more of an urgent full-length album than EP, but this is due to the ambitious nature of the title track, a 16-and-a-half minute giant that is easily the most ambitious song Soilwork has ever released. Prog without any histrionic noodling or wankery, it is a moving swell of music that pulls the listener from quiet, emotional passages through blast beat-driven electricity to ambient pools of ecstasy scored by horns and piano. And with all that’s going on in there, it doesn’t drag or waste space, and this is down to expert songwriting. This will be the song they talk about when the band is long gone, and deservedly so.
The following three tracks are known as “The Feverish Trilogy,” a 3-song cycle that works within the Soilwork framework and somehow still astounds with freshness. “Feverish” has one of the catchiest, most infectious choruses of the entire Soilwork discography (no mean feat, lemme tell you), and the song highlights their love of emotion-driven flights of drama and climax. “Desperado” is pure molten metal that could easily have sat comfortably on one of the band’s early, seminal records – a galloping riff and vocal melodies and harmonies make it an adrenaline-heightening injection of infectious happiness. The final piece of the Feverish puzzle is “Death Diviner,” a monument that takes as much inspiration from Pink Floyd as it does Iron Maiden, Metallica, and Dream Theater. The slide guitar adds an analogue, bluesy soul that totally takes the track to a different level altogether, and when you add in the hearty vocal spice that is Björn “Speed” Strid and that serious Thusgaard percussion, we’re talking goose flesh all ‘round.
The final track, and a shining gem of the collection, is the wonderfully titled “The Nothingness And The Devil.” There’s an old-school speed metal vibe to the proceedings that is contained warmly within a proggy, classy heavy metal cocoon, and it finishes the album on a proper high note.
The talent that Soilwork brings to the table is always top-notch, music that you can tell comes directly from the heart and that was meticulously composed and performed. A Whisp Of The Atlantic is a challenging, brave, and adventurous venture by a band that has always had their eyes on the future, and it deserves to be pored over and ingested, every last crumb. Yup, it’s just that damn good, and a fine, fine way to end a crazy year that has been awash with top-tier music releases. Run, don’t walk, to find this.
A Whisp Of The Atlantic Track Listing:
1. A Whisp Of The Atlantic
4. Death Diviner
5. The Nothingness And The Devil
Run Time: 36 minutes
Release Date: December 4, 2020
Record Label: Nuclear Blast Records