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Soilwork have always come off as tag-alongs in the Swedish melodeath scene, coming into the scene far too late to truly claim the level of originality possessed by the Gothenburg trio or any other Swedish band to come about in the early 90s, and generally coming off as dangerously close to pure In Flames emulation when at their best. Considering how drastically similar their latter day sound has tended to be to not only the post-melodeath In Flames sound of "Reroute To Remain" and beyond, but also the prominent American metalcore scene espoused by Trivium, Killswitch Engage and several others, any level of intrigue that the band possesses would only come about through a more refined version of standard practices. Unfortunately, "Sworn To A Great Divide" struggles to impress, coming off more as a tired rehash of an already contrived formula that saw its peak during the 2002-2004 period.
In a nutshell, this album comes off as a slightly more technically intricate answer to "Soundtrack To Your Escape", though with a bit less keyboard gimmickry and a slightly better vocal display. Stylistically, Björn Strid listens like a perfect clone of Anders Friden, but proves to be a bit more competent at harsh screaming and a bit more like an American metalcore whiner when doing purely clean vocals. There are times on more laid back numbers such as "Sick Her River" where amid the annoyingly stagnant guitar lines is a vocal display that wanders dangerously close to Matt Heafy territory. The guitar work during the solo sections tends to be a bit more competent that the notorious American metalcore sound and there is definitely more of an industrial tinge in the mode of recent In Flames that keeps things a bit more varied, but at times it literally sounds like Soilwork borrowed some material from "Ascendany", arguably the most annoying album to come out in 2005.
This album isn't completely bereft of a decent song, but it gets a bit difficult to differentiate the good from the mediocre given that the songwriting formula is extremely limited and formulaic. The closing song "20 More Miles" actually manages to pump out a decent chorus and proves to be among the better mid-tempo numbers to come out in this style of late, and the lone 2 high octane thrashers "The Pittsburg Syndrome" and "As The Sleeper Awakes" manage to throw out a few animated riffs that breath life into a largely tired and shallow collection of mid-tempo chugging. But for the most part, this album seems to try and balance a grooving approach with a mechanized atmospheric backdrop that functions decently for a song or two, but turns into a sleep-inducing borefest when dealing with this album as a whole. Most of the other songs on here literally run together so utterly that it's impossible to keep track of where in the album one actually is at any given moment.
Much like the lion's share of In Flames' mid and late 2000s material, this album is just another drop in an ever growin ocean of redundant, cookie-cutter modern metal that will hopefully fizzle out sooner rather than later given that it is literally approaching zero scarcity territory. People that truly eat up this sort of music would be better served by checking out Soilwork's latest album "The Living Infinity", which does a better job of mixing things up and stays relatively energetic. And those looking for a decent melodic death metal album are encouraged to check out this band's first 2 albums, which definitely avoid a lot of the annoying, modern pitfalls that is currently dominating much of the post-melodeath Gothenburg scene.
Soilwork is pretty much the laughing stock of any melodic death metal band. Metaphorically, he is the nerdy schoolboy that wants to be like the football jocks, but just can’t because he isn’t cool enough! Here is a tip for the nerd, learn to be cool. It’s actually possible, just mimic the people that succeed in doing so. If Dark Tranquillity can actually be good while being modern melodeath all the way, Insomnium’s newest release is already a fan favourite, In Flames still getting better reviews than you, surely you must be doing something wrong.
Here is the tip of the day. Actually be melodeath… Surely, you’d think they try in doing so, but all I hear is groove metal to the core. Actually, some metalcore, so make that groovecore. Notice how that is not melodic enough, nor death enough. If anything, not even metal enough. It pains me to listen to their songs again, but to put my exact thoughts on paper I need to listen to the pansy bullcrap that is called Exile. “Faithless On my way Defenceless From my heart, Won't you be” Not exactly the love song I was seeking for. Stop being so pretentious and learn that heaviness can actually be emotional too. If you succeed at that, you succeed at being Insomnium, I mean, awesome melodic death.
But still, most songs are like this. The verse is either soft and completely ridden of anything exciting, or dominated by guitars that are dominated by the first fret of the E string. The chorus has a simple melody dominated by the vocals (which are terrible by the way). Sometimes there are some simple guitar melodies, but you don’t need 2 guitarists and a keyboardist to achieve that. It’s all purely for the modernisation. Having more than you need to. It helps with the production. Tight, but completely devoid of atmosphere. It’s comparable to that of Nocturnus (an old school death metal band) and any deathcore band. Soilwork represents the deathcore trend this time in this metaphor.
Perhaps there are some moments that don’t suck extremely bad. Not anything from the first 5 tracks though. Light Discovering Darkness has a cool guitar intro. It’s used again in the verse, but the whole groovecore songwriting destroys any atmosphere that could be there. The shouts… The obvious laid-back-ness, the forced so called melodies. Naw, not a recommended track. 20 More Miles is probably the closest to a recommended track, as it doesn’t suck that bad. Purely for that reason. But if anything, the songs are just as bad as the cover. Avoid with all cost, Really.
This review was originally written for http://www.MetalNeverLies.com
Over the past decade, we've all witnessed Soilwork get softer and softer with each release. Unfortunately, Sworn to a Great Divide (2007) follows that pattern. This CD is probably as close as a band can get to playing hard rock, while still being Metal. Is that a bad thing? Well, for some metalheads it is, but if you're willing to look past the new sound, then you will find some pretty enjoyable stuff on this album. With that being said:
The disc opens up with the title track. It has a good main riff, and if you're a longtime fan of the band, it might help break you into this new sound easier. Oh, I'll mention it now: One of the highlights of this album is Soilwork's new drummer, Dirk Verbeuren. He sounds great all through out the album, and is in my opinion, an improvement to the Soilwork line up. Speaking of line-ups, prior to this album, Soilwork went through a pretty major line-up change that resulted in them losing a killer guitarist/songwriter. Sad to say, but you might notice that the song writing is a bit lacking for this release. Mainly the lyrical content doesn't seem as strong, and the songs aren't really as varied as they were on Soilwork's earlier material. Some people are really bothered by this, but I'll say it now that even though it might be a step back from their earlier greatness, they still make good music.
What else is there to say? Well, “Exile” is the single for this album. It's pretty catchy, but pretty mainstream and one of the least Metal part of the CD. I like it, but not as much as the next song: “The Pittsburgh Syndrome.” “The Pittsburgh Syndrome” along with “As the Sleeper Awakes” and “Silent Bullet” are for now my favorites tracks from this CD. “Light Discovering Darkness” was pretty lame to me, but it's still listen able. I must say that the bonus track is pretty good too, especially the beginning of the song.
Well, that's about it. Soilwork is a quality band, I've seen them live and they're still all about the Metal. Hopefully they show it a little more with their next effort. Sworn to a Great Divide (2007) is a good CD, but it's definitely lacking in some areas and if you're a longtime fan of the band, you may be disappointed in what you here. Whatever happens, don't write this off as a bad CD. Give it a chance and you'll probably enjoy most of the songs.
And this is where it will probably all end...
I won't espouse the now-standard history lesson plentiful reviews begin with, as even casual metalheads should know of the SOILWORKers by now. A band that once had the chance to dominate the Gothenburg/Swedish death metal throne with original ideas and a happy-go-lucky performance...but as is now typical of modern Gothenburg (and other styles for that matter), the stylistic inspirations cease and a monotonous drudgery reigns as a supreme deity that moves the band's collective heads like so much ventriloquism gone horribly wrong. "Stabbing the Drama" was bad enough, but this was when the core claimed the metal.
This album would probably be a good album...if it was performed by UNEARTH (note the title). As a SOILWORK album, it's a serious letdown. I had a bad feeling when I learned of Peter Wichers' departure, that the music would suffer, and I'll be damned if I wasn't proven correct. What few saving graces are present are utilized by Ola Frenning, who thankfully kept the album from being a complete stylistic wasteland...though he does partake in the "stop-start" metalcore garbage riffing, he still has what it takes to craft tasty melodies that are border-line vintage SOILWORK, with tracks like "Breeding Thorns", the killer "The Pittsburgh Syndrome" and most of the title track are the redeemable values that keeps this from being a complete atrocity. That being said, the rest of the album is best left avoided, especially the lamentable "Sick Heart River" (I doubt I'm the only fan who is bothered by Sven Karlsson's inability to write well with SOILWORK)
So in the end, this is a good UNEARTH album but a sad excuse for a SOILWORK record. But as I usually predict, when a band nowadays hits their creative nadir, they bounce back with their next work which slays the previous (CRADLE OF FILTH, CHILDREN OF BODOM, and SLAYER being prime examples.)
Soilwork's latest release has been a disappointment. Collaboration with a Canadian artist has resulted in something sounding much more North American than North European.
Melodic death metal is a significant genre, at least in its best examples like Soilwork, In Flames or Dark Tranquillity. For its American relative and counterpart, metalcore, I... I really have no words. Let's say I avoid it like the plague. "Sworn to a Great Divide" is much more the latter than the former. Its lyrics are weak, compared to Soilwork's previous albums, and carry little or no significant meaning.
I really say too much about the music, since I couldn't stand to hear the songs enough times. The guitar tone the band was so overjoyed about turned out to be malformed and painful to the ears. I saw a video of their new drummer, Verbeuren, perform "The Pittsburgh Syndrome". I admit, the drum track was great. Strid's voice is still quite good for singing, although the screaming sounds a bit too decrepit and tired. For an album with such cover art, I would've expected something a bit more symphonic from the keyboard tracks. But that's not something that grows in Canada, is it? Overall, some have stated that it sounds like listening to the same song over and over. It's not like I could tell.
Overall, "Sworn to a Great Divide" isn't worth listening, especially for fans of the older albums.
Sweden's own Melodeath master's Soilwork return with their seventh full length album, which is also their sixth in the past seven years as well. Pretty impressive. But on to the review of the new album. With the highly publicized departure of lead guitarist and song writer Peter Wichers, few thought Soilwork would retain much of the sound they had developed. With this album they prove those naysayers wrong. In interviews "Speed" Strid has made it known that there is a Soilwork sound and it will never be bastardized, it is their sound and they don't go outside the formula which is good for the most part and I give them all the credit in the world for sticking to their guns even with all the criticism they have received since Figure Number Five made it's way to store shelves because bands who find their niche (or sound so to speak) in music tend to last while flavor of the month metalcore dies just like everything else. Also with this album, it is the first to feature new drummer Dirk Verbeuren (Scarve) who is one of the more sought after drummers for his technical yet brutal approach.
Kicking off the album is a pretty beefy song in the self titled track, where Verbeuren showcases why he is one of the most sought after heavy metal drummers nowadays. The Soilwork sound is there as they kick through the song and into the lead single, "Exile." "Exile" seems to be a more "mainstream" approach to their song writing, but nonetheless it is a really good and emotional song. "Breeding Thorns" and "Your Beloved Scapegoat" follow before the almost thrash metal offering of "The Pittsburgh Syndrome." The album slows down after that for the rest of the way, primarily focusing on more atmospheric and more melodic styling than faster approaches. It's really in the eye of the beholder so to speak on which is heavier. Some feel that slower is heavier while others think that faster is heavier. I believe the first part to be much truer atleast to me, as with the slower the song the more you can understand and connect with. After "Light Discovering Darkness" and "As the Sleeper Awakes" the album closes out with a few songs worth mention in "Silent Bullet," "Sick Heart River" and "20 More Miles." The final three songs are worth mentioning because of how well they do blend into each other, atleast in my opinion.
All in all this album is a pretty good, solid effort from a band who not only lost one of their main songwriter's and are barely getting their new drummer situated between working Soilwork and Scarve. It's not going to be my "Album of the Year" pick, but it is definitely worth the money to get and if you get the bonus edition with the live performance it's even better. Soilwork once again prove that they are their own entity among the metal world and bring you to their world for a 40 minute ride through singer Bjorn Strid's struggles. Even though they aren't the standard bearer for Melodic death metal anymore, this band still proves that they have what it takes to be a mainstay in the world of heavy metal and with this album, they solidify their place in an ever growing world of bland music and oversaturated genres.
If you summed up Sworn To A Great Divide in one sentence it would be a best of compilation of all their cds combined. Sworn To A Great Divide adds the older elements of fast paced thrash and many melodic & dynamic structures in the songs with the newer elements of catchy choruses that are made up of Bjorn's top notch clean vocals. The main thing that Sworn To A Great Divide does not have from the older albums is the dominance of the melodic guitars containing the melodies because this has been replaced with Bjorn's vocal melodies.
A much added positive to this CD is the fact that the keyboards play much more of a role in the songs compared to their last release Stabbing The Drama. The keyboards really help in brining back the dynamics of older Soilwork. I've always loved Sven Karlsson's keyboard work and Sworn To A Great Divide is no exception. Some of Bjorn's best vocal work appear on this album and there are many melodic breaks in the guitar work compared to Stabbing The Drama. Dirk's thrashy drum style fits perfectly while the new addition of guitarist Daniel Antonsson makes the loss of Peter Wichers seem minor.
All and all this is one of Soilwork's best cd's due its variation in songs. Fast and heavy songs like The Pittsburgh Syndrome, Breeding Thorns, As The Sleeper Awakes and I,Vermin get you in the headbanging mood while songs like Exile, 20 More Miles and Silent Bullet contain amazingly catchy choruses that will get stuck in your head for days.
Soilwork’s latest album Sworn To A Great Divide has been getting a lot of hype as being “the long awaited return to the aggression and dynamics of Natural Born Chaos.” There were even rumors floating around that the band was going to use Natural Born Chaos II as the title of the album for a while. I can tell you right now that this album sounds absolutely nothing like Natural Born Chaos, but that doesn’t make it a bad album by any means.
If you’re wanting to compare this album to a previous Soilwork release, it would be much closer in style to Stabbing The Drama than anything else. There’s a lot of staccato verse riffs that lead into the signature Soilwork super catchy “pop” sounding choruses and most of the songs have the same mid tempo groove feel that the last couple albums have had. There are some faster and heavier songs on the album though, namely “The Pittsburgh Syndrome” which sounds more like a Terror 2000 song than a Soilwork song. The title track also has some more dynamic riffing and drumming at times, but don’t expect this album to sound like any of the bands older material. I will admit that there are some lead sections and riffs here and there that will remind you of their older more technical style, but these aren’t very frequent. If you don’t like the direction the band has been going since Natural Born Chaos, chances are you’re not going to like this album either.
One thing that really surprised me about the album is how it still sounds like a Soilwork album without Peter Wichers, the founder and mastermind behind most of the bands material. When Wichers left the band in 2005, I expected them to break up or totally change their style, but they did neither. It’s too early to tell what kind of influence guitarist Daniel Antonsson will have on the band’s style. There’s really nothing out of the ordinary here as far as the songs go which makes me think that Ola Frenning wrote most of the guitar parts for the album. The only spot that made me stop and think that I wasn’t listening to a Soilwork album was the intro of “Light Discovering Darkness.”
If there’s one glaring flaw with Sworn To A Great Divide, it would be the production. With the exception of Stabbing The Drama, Soilwork has always had great production on all of their past albums, especially Natural Born Chaos. That album just sounds so heavy and powerful. When you turn up the volume on that album you really get immersed in the music. That’s a huge reason why it was such a dynamic sounding album and Sworn To A Great Divide just doesn’t deliver in that regard. The guitar tone sounds very thin which makes the songs sound a lot weaker and less powerful than they could be. It’s really important to have a huge studio produced sound with this catchy “pop metal” style that the band plays now. If this album had the same type of production that Natural Born Chaos did, it would sound completely different.
If you go into this album expecting it to be Natural Born Chaos II, you’re going to be disappointed. If you just take it as the newest Soilwork album, I think fans of the band will definitely enjoy it. Songs like “Sworn To A Great Divide,” “Breeding Thorns,” “Your Beloved Scapegoat,” “I, Vermin,” and “20 More Miles” have the classic infectious sounding chorus sections that make you want to listen to the songs over and over again. Sworn To A Great Divide is far from the bands best work, but it’s a very solid and well done album. There’s nothing new or ground breaking here, but if you’re looking for some new melodic metal to listen to, this is a good place to start.