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Refreshing collaborations - 80%

kluseba, July 25th, 2019
Written based on this version: 2019, CD, Nuclear Blast America

On its eleventh studio record Verkligheten which translates to Reality, Swedish melodic death metal quintet Soilwork once again delivers a solid mixture of melancholy and aggression.

The record however starts with a mismatch. The instrumental opener ''Verkligheten'' builds up an eerie, mysterious and psychedelic atmosphere but ''Arrival'' cuts this promising progression short with dumb blast beat passages and blistering riffs. Working with contrasts only works when they complement one another and not when they contradict one another.

Things improve quickly however and a first highlight comes around with ''Full Moon Shoals'' that mixes floating melodies, hypnotizing vocal lines and gloomy mid-paced riffs with a fast middle section, at times unchained growls and an emotionally uplifting chorus. All these elements take their time to unfold carefully and complement one another cleverly in five most entertaining minutes that offer more diversity than other bands include on entire records. This song exemplifies the contrasts Soilwork represents and is one of the band's greatest tracks.

Previously released single ''Stålfågel'' which translates to Steel Bird cautiously flirts with minimal electronic vibes and modern guitar riffs. The melodic lead vocals leading up to an epic chorus truly make you feel as if you were flying like the bird the song talks about. Guest vocals are provided by Arch Enemy's Alissa White-Gluz who is usually known for her harsh vocals, points of view and attitude. In this song, she proves that she actually has very enjoyable clean vocals that back up lead vocalist Björn Strid in a cinematic, epic and liberating way. This collaboration comes along as an unexpectedly positive surprise.

''Needles and Kin'' features another collaboration as it comes along with liberating harsh vocals by Amorphis' Tomi Joutsen. Despite a few melodic keyboard and guitar backdrops, the song is one of the fastest on the record and goes back to Soilwork's early years. Fans of yore will certainly like the relentless energy of the song and particularly appreciate the track's sinister second half. Soilwork should explore its dark side more often instead of always predictably shifting towards melodic lead vocals in every song.

The closing ''You Aquiver'' is yet another collaboration. This song features additional guitar work by Dave Sheldon and the track indeed comes around with some of the most gripping riffs on the entire record but especially the versatile vocals between harsh screams and melodic lines really carry this adventurous track and end the record on a high note.

Soilwork doesn't really reinvent its style but convinces with successful collaborations that bring some fresh air into the band that sounds overall more focused than on previous records. The record convinces from start to finish and doesn't feature any repetitive stinkers this time around which makes Verkligheten the band's greatest release in many years. The stunning cover artwork symbolizes the band's more adventurous approach to song writing. The additional extended play Underworld offers some extra value for money. Melodic death metal fans in general and Soilwork fans in particular should pick this very solid but not excellent release up to start the year on a positive note.