Verkligheten does little to distinguish itself from Soilwork‘s last few releases, but proves there’s still fun to be had with its familiar thrills.
Verkligheten is a Soilwork album. By that I don’t simply mean that it’s the latest (and eleventh!) album from the illustrious Swedish metal act – I mean that as something nearer a genre descriptor. From the triumphant choruses, to the predictable song structures and the astonishing vocal work to the precipitous drop in quality from the first half to the second, Verkligheten, for better or worse, feels precisely calibrated to scratch the same itches as previous Soilwork releases have.
That’s not to say Verkligheten is actually the same as its predecessors, though: this is a record with a lot more swing and swagger than Soilwork has had in nearly a decade. Whether it’s the march of the second single, “Full Moon Shoals”, or in the tight, staccato groove of “Stålfågel”, there’s a profound confidence to that commitment to mid-tempo here that’s all the more remarkable when you consider that Verkligheten is the first Soilwork album with drummer Bastian Thusgaard, more-than-capably filling the unfathomably large shoes of Dirk Verbeuren. The temptation to want to show fans that the band remains as fast and ferocious as ever after the departure of such a pivotal member must have been immense, but ultimately throttling back makes the bursts of speed hit twice as hard (blasty lead single “Arrival”, for example, is leagues more effective in the context of the album than it is when heard in a vacuum).
And speaking of speed (hey, I didn’t make a ‘Thusgaard doesn’t miss a beat’ crack up there, I think I’ve earned this segue), singer and Soilwork co-founder Björn ‘Speed’ Strid remains as towering a sonic presence as ever. It’s his unparalleled ability to dial in just the right amount of grit, emotion and power that keep even the album’s weakest songs like “Needles And Kin” from being outright boring.
Really though, the song that best encapsulates Verkligheten is, in my opinion, also the best song on the album: “The Nurturing Glance” is your standard-issue Soilwork tune (it’s gotta be, what, half of their songs now that start with the chorus harmony clean on guitar, before the rest of the band comes in?) by way of Van Halen, complete with a party-stomper rhythm, high-triad riffing, and even a guitar solo that sounds like it was recorded at the end of a hallway. If that sounds incongruous, well, it sort of is at first. But by the time the chorus repeats, it all clicks, and reveals the secret to Soilwork’s recent string of successes: change the skin, not the skeleton. “The Nurturing Glance” might sound different from other Soilwork tunes, just like Verkligheten might sound a little different from the ten albums that preceded it. But at the bottom, the song remains the same.
What that means, then, is that this entire review is just a clearing of the throat for a rather simple equation: If you’ve gotten a kick out of what Soilwork has been up to since The Living Infinite, it’s all but guaranteed that you’ll get a kick out of Verkligheten. If you’ve been less enamored with the band’s past few albums, I cannot imagine what about this latest release would change your mind. As a fan, I can’t help but think of this album as artistic stasis done right. A bit more adventurousness would have been nice in theory, I guess, but seeing as there’s nobody else who sounds quite like Soilwork… it’s hard to fault Soilwork for wanting to continue sounding exactly like themselves.