Review – Soilwork: The Ride Majestic

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  • Bio: "Swedish metal eminence SOILWORK was spawned in Helsingborg, anno 1995 by guitarist Peter Wichers and vocalist Björn “Speed” Strid." - Facebook
  • Label: Nuclear Blast Records
  • Release Date: August 28th, 2015
  • Genre: Melodic Death Metal, Modern Rock
  • Website: Visit Website
  • Rating (out of 10):

Soilwork, one of the more important figure heads within the melodic death metal style since their formation in 1996 (one year after carrying themselves as Inferior Breed) continued to grow, change, and even step away from their signature sound over the years to allow a modern rock influence. However, it has been made clear they finally have a grasp on how to work it into their signature sound following their 2013 double album The Living Infinite. But, after spoiling fans of boh modern and classic Soilwork on that effort, the outfit returns with their 2015 release The Ride Majestic, their tenth full-length release, poised to try and do it once more. But does this recording further the evolution we saw on their last effort, or does this one take a few steps back?

Right away, it’s clear Soilwork has in no way abandoned the growth displayed on the previous release. The Ride Majestic blends together some of the heavest composition ideas from the days of Natural Born Chaos at times, all the while maintaing some of the lighter melodies that made their way onto their most recent efforts, all with a fantastic audio quality. A subtle modern touch can be felt in the mix with cleaner leads and edgy enough distortions when necessary, the bass lends a strong supportive backbone, and the drums are all as crisp as one would expect from an act like this. Much like the slight aquatic undertone of The Living Infinite, this one carries a similar sensation in the music that, even at it’s more aggressive, still comes off fun and energetic, as if staring at the sea from the edge of a beach with this act putting on one hell of a show. The vocals, however, push against the norm sometimes, once in a while going for heights not too common for Bjorn, some additional layering, and even a subtle effect or two.

As mentioned, The Ride Majestic often makes nods back to the days of Natural Born Chaos up to Stabbing the Drama throughout this effort, though the darker atmospheres of the former don’t always make it through. “The Ride Majestic” starts off with a fairly gloomy start akin to “Soilworkers Song of the Damned” before heading into the lighter aggression found on most of their Stabbing the Drama. Fairly technical hooks with a great deal of energy play out in the main verses, an aggression also felt in the lighter, far more harmonic chorus with a mixture of the softer clean singing and bouts of shouting geared to putting some hair on the listener’s chest. It stands as a truly engaging and enthusiastic track rivaled only by “Alight in the Aftermath”, which immediately can remind listener’s of Figure Number Five, but with a far better audio quality. The aggression soaks through almost like venom thanks to the tight guitar work and blasting drum beats that take a much darker, almost straight forward death metal, even grindcore side after the swampy trudging break that hits about half way through.

Soilwork

Of course, this high speed adrenaline laced with soothing choruses isn’t all this one is composed of. “Enemies in Fidelity” has a bit of a southern sting to it at times, such as at the start and the hardcore grooves that hit as a bridging agent. Some of the riffs also have a little more complexity in timing, hinting at a bit of progressive metal influence that does show in some other spots of the release as well, while the keyboards in the chorus oddly sound like turntables scratching away in early Slipknot fashion, which is more than likely an unintended coincidence. “The Ride Majestic (Aspire Angelic)”, however, stands as the only truly mainstreamish song of the recording. Yes, it has some heavier moments, but it’s the sort of weight that you could compare to what Bullet for My Valentine would consider heavy, which isn’t that bad a thing in this case, really. It’s catchy and the variety between modern rock and the classic organ effects on the keyboard really helps make the performance far more infectious than it has any right to be, but it comes as a double edge sword as it makes the hostility feel tacked on, leaving you wishing this one had the balls to just stay lighter from start to finish.

But then you get the decent middle ground material. “All Along Echoing Paths” is more of a mild mannered track with a lighter touch that plays more on emotion than anything else. The guitar solo, however, could have been a bit better. Other than that, there are moments of heaviness cast across a much more laid back performance, much like “Shining Lights” and some of the hooks in the chorus and certain bridges that feel more like something Children of Bodom would use if gearing for mainstream radio success. Again this sounds like it would be a negative thing, but it really isn’t all that bad, nicely suiting the tone of the song overall. Then there’s “Death in General”, which is a decently heavy track, but there’s more of a focus on softer, sombre passages than anything else. The main verses start off fairly clean unplugged feel that leaves you floating along the river Styx with bouts of anger thrown in, though rather rare.

In recent years, it seemed as though Soilwork was trying to find a way to incorporate a modern rock touch to their signature melodic death metal sound, as if attempting to top their “album of the year” status Natural Born Chaos carried in a brand new way. While The Ride Majestic isn’t quite at that level, it easily stands as the band’s best approach to that world yet in a one disc album formula, showing the further growth and maturing that long time fans have long been anxiously waiting to bare witness to. While still a product of the new sound, this fresh recording takes nearly everything that made their first few albums so memorable, ushering in a return to the classic days without vacating that new car smell, which is the most reassuring thing a fan can possibly want at this point of their career. The Ride Majestic is the definition of modern day Soilwork, and it’s easily one of the most promising pieces of metal they have recorded as of late. If you enjoy any period of this band’s discography, you are going to want to indulge in this one as soon as possible.

Soilwork

Digital review copy of this release provided by Nuclear Blast Records.