Soilwork – The Ride Majestic (Nuclear Blast)Sunday, 23rd August 2015
So how do you follow up a critically well-received and innovative double-album? That is the question that had to plague Soilwork after the release of The Living Infinite. They had successfully proven that there was still plenty of gas left in the tank post-Wichers, and Infinite saw the band take some experimental leaps and bounds and saw some of their textbook formatting go out the window. Turns out all you have to do is take the best of what you did with a double-album and funnel it into the strongest 50-minutes that you’ve got (along with a few additional twists and turns of course).
If there is one thing that defines The Ride Majestic, it’s dynamics. Where The Living Infinite saw some glimpses of this, they had the time to flesh things out into different song-types with the double-album format (slow songs, fast songs, traditional Soilwork anthems, etc). The Ride Majestic dashes all of that and makes just about every song into a rollercoaster ride of a journey. Outside of the opening title track (which is an exceptional opener and a future live necessity), the tracks often don’t fit to one simple format. It’s a testament to the writing team (which was quite shared with this album) and worth investigating on its own. “Alight in the Aftermath” opens in a way that should effectively drop the jaw of any fan of A Predator’s Portrait. Drummer Dirk Verbeuren really gets to beat on the drums and this is one solid example – blasting away with plenty of interesting fills, only to ease off for a melodic chorus that never panders to the commercial. The album’s “ballad” (“Death in General”) sees Bjorn Strid really showing how far he has come with his clean vocals by putting them front and center during the verse. But then things speed up a bit and they add some heavy riffing into the mix along with some blastbeats later on. It really spices up the track, which is one of the album’s finest, and allows the chorus to have a meaningful, emotional impact. Even the slower/mid-tempo tracks, which Soilwork has had some troubles with in the past, are full of energy. Take “Whirl of Pain,” which utilizes some highly effective groove to become the true grower of the album, with additional listens veering into Sven Karlsson’s subtle keyboard work underneath.
Simply retreading The Living Infinite would make this album solid, but not inspiring. Instead, there are two major themes that keep Soilwork’s tenth (!) album enthralling from beginning to end. The first has been touched upon already, and this is aggression. Between Verbeuren’s pounding away at the kit, and some furious riffing and vocal work, this has to be the heaviest Soilwork in a while (while retaining their patented melodies of course). Catchy melodies envelope otherwise frantic riffing explosions, like the stunning track “The Phantom.” It feels like the band threw together a bit of (melodic) black metal riffing, Devin Towsend-esque cleans, and frenetic drumwork into a blender and said to just go with it. It’s nothing short of a magical mix that must be heard to be appreciated. “Enemies of Fidelity” also captures this, balancing the line between lovely, melodic riffing and heavier, more blistering tones in a way that should have older Soilwork fans smiling ear to ear. The guitar team of Coudret and Andersson should have many a band jealous with the work they’ve accomplished here.
The other theme is that of melancholy. If you do some research, you’ll note that The Ride Majestic was written at the same time as a number of tragedies that the band went through at that time and it feels more somber on a number of occasions than traditional Soilwork. Closer “Father and Son Watching the World Go Down” implements some almost doomy riffs that have some heavy weight attached to them – creating an excellent contrast between the melodic and epic lines of the chorus. “Petrichor By Sulfur” also has a sense of longing that develops within the chorus, outside of the crazed melodic riffing and burning speed of the verses. Even the otherwise ripping “The Ride Majestic (Aspire Angelic)” oozes this sense of melancholy within a epic formatting. And no, it’s not a remix of the title track, it simply shares the same name.
There’s not a skippable track on The Ride Majestic, though it may take a few spins to truly “get” whats going on compared to some of the band’s discography. It’s clear that Soilwork are still hungry and willing to prove themselves, even after ten albums and a legacy of high-water marks – The Ride Majestic might just be the strongest album they’ve done since The Chainheart Machine (still one of this writer’s favorite albums of all time). It’s exciting to hear such a veteran band come up with genuinely exciting material this far into their career and retain that spark of creativity. If The Living Infinite once more secured Soilwork’s claim to the melodic death metal throne, The Ride Majestic will see them seated on it for the definite future.