As they round out a quarter-century of existence, Swedish outfit Soilwork continue to find ways to innovate. On their newest EP, A Whisp of the Atlantic, the quintet unfurl some of their most progressive and forward-thinking material to date, pushing their melodic, “Gothenburg-sound” death metal stylings ever further into artistic overdrive.
The band’s creative vision has gradually come into focus through a smattering of pre-release singles this year. Described as “The Feverish Trinity,” the main tracks of the EP and their accompanying music videos celebrate “the Babylonian Death Goddesses that once made the world a more feverish and exciting place.”
The opening moments of “Feverish” feel like a wayward synthwave banger, recalling frontman Björn ‘Speed’ Strid and lead guitarist David Andersson’s 80s classic rock vehicle, A Night Flight Orchestra. Sven Karlsson’s glossy keys playoff against Andersson and Sylvain Coudret’s distorted fuzz. That is until drummer Bastian Thusgaard rips the nostalgic visage apart with an icy avalanche of blast-beats and whip-crack snare hits.
Over the years, Strid has established himself as one of the most impressive vocalists in heavy music, boasting a supreme dynamic range that swings effortlessly from catchy sky-high choruses to abrasive screams, and “Desperado” is the perfect example of his talents. His scooped cleans sound stratospheric as they touch and caress Andersson’s lightning leads on the track’s chorus, acting as a complement to the raw ferocity on display during the animalistic, thrashy verses.
Closing out the thematic trilogy, “Death Diviner” hinges on an earworm rhythmic groove and a serpentine Tool-esque lead that twists and bends around Strid’s gorgeous cleans, as Thusgaard’s pummelling double-kick drives the chorus relentlessly forward. With the pedigree of material already on display, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Soilwork could comfortably rest on their laurels and merely drop a solid three-track release. Well, you’d also be wrong.
Instead, the indomitable Swedes kick off A Whisp of the Atlantic with a 16-minute title track—a singular entry that’s longer and more diverse than the entire Feverish Trinity and an absolute behemoth to boot. The progressive epic shifts and ebbs from delicate piano leads to churning riff sections, with bursts of flashy solos and death metal grooves, always bolstered by Strid’s untouchable vocals.
Closer “The Nothingness and the Devil” is perhaps the most conventional of all the EP’s tracks, but its self-conscious of this status by design. Andersson’s sublime leads form the track’s backbone, while Thusgaard’s percussion is uncompromising in its consistency and speed. For his part, Strid straps in for one of the band’s catchiest chorus and puts his pipes on the line to get there.
At this point in their career, it should come as no surprise that Soilwork are capable and more than happy to retool and refine their legacy. A Whisp of the Atlantic proves that they can do so with style and grace, adding to their highly acclaimed discography rather than subtracting from it.
Pre-order A Whisp of the Atlantic here.