After a seven year split, Brisbane punk-rockers Speedlab made their triumphant return to music with …
Melodic death metal in the 2010’s deals with three solitary themes: the cold (Insomium), sadness (Omnium Gatherum) or being cold and sad at the same time (In Mourning). Thank the maker for Soilwork, the band daring to hang a bit of that big bollocked rock swagger on their melodeath.
Warning—reminder that you are old ahead: the Helsingborgers debut Steelbath Suicide is twenty-one this year. Yes, their OG baby is all grown up and ordering shots somewhere in downtown Miami. Their eleventh studio record so far, garners a confused reaction. If their previous effort The Ride Majestic was “back to the good old Soilwork,” this album has us wondering, “Holy shit, this is Soilwork?” You know, sort of like when Dark Tranquillity released Haven (19 years old this year) or In Flames dropped Clayman (also 19 years old this year.) It’s not some unwelcome Bring Me style reboot, it’s a re-imagining of what Soilwork as a unit is capable of.
They turn a whole lot of new tricks, of course. Stålfågel impresses like an anthemic 80s arena rocker, bursting with air-punchable moments and Strid pouring his heart out in both cleans and death vocals. Shared chops between new recruit David Andersson and “silver-fox” Sylvain Coduret are juicier than a butcher shop just before knock-off. Vekligheten (thanks, Ctrl-C) does keep one eye on the electronics, but its entire body is invested in full-throated, roaring guitars.
Ladies and gentlemen; here’s your first mandatory metal purchase of 2019.
Full Moon Shoals, their first single, is all about buzzsawing riffs and punishing blast beats (well, they’re pretty fast.) Witan is classic The Gallery or Subterranean style melodeath streaked with special Speed Strid rage and a harmonious chorus to die for. One-two-knockout punches Needles and Kin (feat as-capable Amorphis singrowler Tomi Joutsen) and You Aquiver feel like Soilwork reasserting themselves as absent Kings of Melodeath, rushing at us with walls of hard-driven guitars and an epic, near operatic turn from Strid. Throughout is laid slick and nuanced production, and I reckon we’ll be unearthing new and satisfying ear-nuggets for years and years to come.
Even half way through the album, songs feel complete; if you add or remove anything you’d just ruin them. Speed Strid and his mix of old and new hands are true believers in Soilwork. As their faith renews, as does our devotion. Ladies and gentlemen; here’s your first mandatory metal purchase of 2019. Get struck.
STANDOUT TRACKS: The Nurturing Glance, Witan, Full Moon Shoals
STICK THIS NEXT TO: Dark Tranquillity, Mercenary, Mors Principium Est