And so continues a segment, in which I will listen to an album for the first time and give my impressions of said album as I go through. I will provide background information, a track by track review and then final thoughts. Enjoy!
Background – In addition to being one of my favorite bands, Soilwork are one of the most consistent and hardworking bands in the business. The Living Infinite represents the band’s 9th release in 14 years. It is also the second release (though not consecutively) without their primary songwriter, guitarist Peter Wichers. Being a double disc, I am skeptical about this album as I can probably name on one hand the number of albums that merit that second disc worth of material. But, I will always give the benefit of the doubt to a band with such a great catalogue. And so, here we go inside of The Living Infinite.
1) Spectrum of Eternity – A strings quartet leads into one of the most old school riffs, I have heard out of Soilwork…well, ever. This lead riffs sounds like straight up mid-90s Norwegian shit. The verse is heavy as hell and the pre-chorus/chorus is tight, with some awesome guitar work. The new guitarists don’t miss a beat with some great melodies/soloes in the breakdown. Great opening track.
2) Memories Confined – After the blazing opening track, the guys settle into a slow groove on this one. I have never really heard Soilwork do a song like this one… its mid-tempo throughout, with a huge focus on the melodies with both the guitars and the vocals during the chorus. I like it though. A very cool change of pace for the guys.
3) This Momentary Bliss – Whoah! This intro! The guitar melodies are fantastic and this really reminds me of the guitars on A Predator’s Portrait. An awesome verse leads into a decent pre-chorus. The thing with Soilwork is you never really know if you are listening to a pre-chorus or chorus until the second time around the song. I view that as a positive, because their pre-choruses are strong enough to be choruses for many bands. But yeah, that was the chorus. Not the best thing I’ve ever heard, but the great guitar work more than makes up for that.
4) Tongue – A cool slide guitar melody starts things off, before leading into a crazy pre-chorus which sounds like the first Soilwork album. The chorus is huge and very catchy. Speed is keeping to the intense scream he picked up on the last album for the verses, but he has lost none of his touch on the clean choruses, making for a nice contrast, which the guys are known for. And the bridge/outro to this song sounds more like Steve Vai than anything else I could compare it to. Really cool track.
5) The Living Infinite I – Well, considering it’s the title track and its part I, I would think this is supposed to be a pretty important track and statement stylistically. After an atmospheric intro, this one goes into a mid-tempo rock style verse. There aren’t many clean vocals to speak of, with the chorus being in a semi gang shout style. Not a bad song, but didn’t blow me away.
6) Let the First Wave Rise – This one opens with blast beats and intensity. The guitar work in this song is insane, lots of nifty rhythm work going on. The band has not focused on the twin guitar melodies since A Predator’s Portrait, but they have upped the ante with their rhythm playing overall. Not a lot of melody in this song, but I don’t think that was the point here. This one is about anger and chaos. Another solid, but not great song.
7) Vesta – A mixture of classical and slide blues guitar give way to a crushing verse. It all comes together in a fantastic chorus with a lot of atmosphere and some great lyrics. Drummer, Dirk Verbeuren, kills it on this track! Another very solid song!
8) Realm of the Wasted – Probably the most straight ahead song on the record so far, this one rips right from the bat. The guitar work uses some of the forgotten twin guitar melodies I thought the band had forgotten. And we have another chorus, where the vocals are good, but what really makes it is the lead guitar parts added to the background. This song sounds made to be played live, especially if they can pull of this amazing bridge live. Great stuff!
9) The Windswept Mercy – I didn’t see this coming. This one starts off with a Devin Townsend-eqsue mid-tempoed, cleanly sung verse, before going into some nifty guitar work mixed in with some crazy screams. It all leads to a chorus which leaves you a little let down, considering how good all of the parts leading up to it were. Son of a bitch! I got fooled by the aforementioned Soilwork “Chorus or Pre-Chorus” game. This chorus is awesome! Throw in a great outro and you have a really cool, different song.
10) Whispers and Lights – The opening riff sounds like Down! Another cleanly sung verse….Soilwork is really changing it up a bit on this first disc. I’m a sucker for 6/8 time signatures, so I can probably bet I will like this song. I was right! Love this chorus…very progressive sounding. I like the mixture of styles from the southern metal verse to the Incubus sounding verses to the progressive, very well sung choruses. The first disc is a big hit with me!
1) Entering Aeons – A strange, almost Meshuggah inspired riff kicks off our second disc. And while at a slow tempo, the drums are going nuts. I guess this one is an all-instrumental intro. Like I always say, how good the intro tracks are depends on what follows. We’ll see what they do from here on out.
2) Long Live the Misanthrope – A nice driving riff kicks this one off. This one is pure Soilwork. If you are a fan of the last album, The Panic Broadcast, you will dig this track. A frenzied verse leads to a catchy chorus and there really is a lot to love about this one. Great guitars, great drums, great vocals combine to make this one a fantastic song. I can’t imagine them not playing this one live for years to come. The guitar harmonies at the end of the song cap this one off very well.
3) Drowning with Silence – More of the same, which is not a bad thing! The guys seem like they aren’t letting up so far. The chorus feels a bit odd and is not as catchy as the last song, but this is still a solid song. On a double album, if this is the worst thing they do, I could barely complain.
4) Antidotes in Passing – A nice progressive clean intro kicks this song off….a bit reminiscent of some of the mid 90s Annihilator instrumentals, though Speed sings over this part. I am very curious to see where they take this verse. STRANGE! This one doesn’t sound like Soilwork at all. I’m not really sure of what to compare this to. All clean singing and a very unconventional style for the band. Seems as if the band is trying to branch into some new territories on this album, with this one sounding a little like an extremely heavy Faith No More song. I would be lying if I said this song was especially memorable, but it is very interesting, nonetheless.
5) Leech – The pace is picked back up as we are treated to another ferocious track. Speed sounds vicious here, while the guys are going nuts behind him. This madness transcends into an almost Peter Gabriel styled chorus, which is really cool. Although short, the chorus of this song is well worth the payoff.
6) The Living Infinite II – We’re back to the title track, now faced with Pt. II. Much like part one, this one is a solid track, with nothing bad per say, but nothing that really pushes it over the top either. I dug the atmosphere the chorus creates, and I could see this one being a grower, but I am not rushing to repeat it for now.
7) Loyal Shadow – Another instrumental, this time with the boys focusing on some great guitar playing. If you like guitar harmonies and sweep picking, like me, then you will like this song a lot.
8) Rise Above the Sentiment – A great riff/guitar harmony opens things before going into an extremely heavy mid-tempo verse. The chorus is another one which will probably have to grow on me a bit and this is one of those songs that I could see becoming one of my favorites as time goes on. The guitar solo is really solid, as is the song overall.
9) Parasite Blues – Speed really stands out vocally here, hitting some notes I have never heard him hit before. This one is structured pretty weird and the main riff catches you off guard a bit, but as this one went along I liked it more and more.
10) Owls Predict, Oracles Stand Guard – Perhaps the goofiest song title I have seen in some time, this one starts with the slowest tempo I have ever heard Soilwork play in….I’m wondering what this is building to. Well, there you go….after two and a half minutes, the song goes straight death metal before fading out on some thrash inspired riffs. Strange way to close out the album…
Conclusion – When I saw that Soilwork had lost their primary songwriter and were putting out a double album, the whole thing screamed “letdown” to me. However, I turned out to be pleasantly surprised by The Living Infinite. While there are three or four tracks that you could probably throw away, most of this material is excellent and its great to see a band labeled as melodic death metal branch into some new styles. While I wouldn’t recommend this for a first time Soilwork listener, the long-time fan should be more than happy with this album.