01. Verkligheten 02. Arrival 03. Bleeder Despoiler 04. Full Moon Shoals 05. The Nurturing Glance 06. When the Universe Spoke 07. Stålfågel 08. The Wolves Are Back in Town 09. Witan 10. The Ageless Whisper 11. Needles and Kin 12. You Aquiver2019 Nuclear Blast Records
by Kamron K.
After two redemptive releases in 2013 and 2015 in The Living Infinite and The Ride Majestic, respectively, I'm still cautious with regard to new Soilwork. As a lifelong Chargers fan from Southern California, I know what it's like not to fully trust your team, even during periods of brief success, or should I say especially during periods of brief success. (And even at 12-4, with a Divisional playoff victory in the balance, I still have my doubts.) Soilwork has taken us on an undulating ride since the mid-90s, so it's only natural to distrust. However, Soilwork at their worst is still pretty damn good by most standards. High production value, solid musicianship, and a consistent release schedule remain hallmarks of a band with a career spanning almost 25 years. Ironically, it's this formulaic approach that makes Verkligheten feel a little recycled, and while I certainly wasn't expecting something life changing, I was hoping for something more inspired. Listen, if album assessments were based purely on my level of enjoyment, and the rating system we subscribed to was simply a 'yes' or a 'no', Verkligheten would get a 'yes' every time. As a matter of practice, I listen to an album at least 5-10 times through prior to making any judgments. I revisited this one at least two dozen. That has to count for something, right? Unfortunately, rating metrics tend to be weighted, and listenability can't carry an album alone. A band's catalogue, songwriting ability, musicianship, recording quality, and even their ability to outshine peers have to be considerations. In case you couldn't tell, I'm conflicted; my numeric assignment might belie how much I actually like this record. Essentially, it represents what I think it deserves, and what readers ought to know. I listened to this in so many ways and under many different conditions. In-ear headphones, over-ear headphones, living room floor speakers, and shitty truck speakers. During workouts, quietly in my room, at work, and driving. Every time I heard it I needed more convincing, but it did grow on me. Despite the album as a whole feeling a little flat, there are certainly standout moments that excite and entertain; a well-timed blast beat or growl provide relief to what seems like a five-minute chorus, for example. In fact, there were times that I was straight up headbanging and singing along like a 13-year-old girl belting out Maroon 5 at a stoplight, but those moments are fleeting, and there was an equal number of times I would forget it was playing at all due to a lack of distinguishable dynamics and excessively-melodic overtones. The verses and bridges are easily the highlights, while choruses consume way too much time on an album already struggling to provide points of interest for extended periods of time. In fact, sometimes Verkligheten feels like one interminable chorus, with a lack of crescendos or distinctive moments surrounding them. On top of that, the choruses themselves are just really, well, vanilla. Tranquil background vocals like "nah nah nah" are straight out of a Little Mermaid musical ensemble. Further defiling this record are Soilwork's always-hilarious song titles, such as "Bleeder Despoiler," "The Wolves are Back In Town," "Needles and Kin," and "You Aquiver." With equally poor lyricism to boot, it's hard not to feel like they're just going through the motions at this point. Too harsh? Well, let's just say that lyrics and song titles aren't parts of the creative process in which Soilwork appear to be heavily invested. Energy is not the issue here, but it is clear that they miss the percussive contributions of Dirk Verbeuren and Henry Ranta. While the new guy (Bastian Thusgaard) does a competent job, there is a certain dynamism absent, particularly as it pertains to the highs and lows (the overly compressed sound isn't helping). It seems as if Verkligheten was recorded as a canvas for Bjorn to paint on, only this is more Bob Ross than Pablo Picasso. Bottom Line: For seasoned Soilwork fans, there are some disappointments here, though I still can't figure out exactly why I've so many critical things to say about an album I rather enjoy. No reasonable person expects Steelbath Suicide, but this isn't as weak a showing as Stabbing the Drama either. If you like your metal with tons of melody and a heaping portion of hard rock, this is your jam. Plenty of catchy melodies and a certain reliability make this a good, but not great effort.