Now, I’ll confess, I got into Soilwork way back with the excellent Stabbing The Drama and then kind of lost touch with them over the years. As such, it’s been some time since I’ve heard anything new from them so I’d expect their sound to have matured and changed over the years. We’re talking a decade, after all!
But, wow. I wasn’t expecting this. The Ride Majestic is still recognisably Soilwork – based, as I said, on a 10 year-old impression – but better. This is a classier, more rounded album and it’s got some utterly superb individual tracks on it.
The titular opener is pretty good. Nice and gentle to ease you in then *bam* the heavy stuff hits you. It’s the kind of song which could open a show. Slow intro as the band walk in then a quick rhythm set by the drummer before hell reigns. That doesn’t mean it’s not got those trademark harmonious vocals, though. All the ingredients are here.
“Alight in the Aftermath” follows a mirror-image path. Starting with a blast, it slows in the middle and even hits prog-ish territory with a brief guitar solo before wending its way through some rapid-fire death-style drumming and harsh vocals.
The first absolute brain-melter, though, is “Death in General”. Whether this would go down as well live to a crowd wanting to burn off energy I’m not too sure, but it’s a beautiful track. More of a heavy rocker than a metal song in the main (typical of Soilwork they throw a bit of everything in here and there), it’s the perfect track for showing off Björn’s varied vocals. There’s a lovely strident guitar riff around the choruses too.
The tempo is raised once more for “Enemies in Fidelity” with plenty of blast beats coupled with fast guitar work. “Petrichor by Sulphur” is another track where the band seem to have gone all out to include as many separate sections as possible. Prog, death, metal… it’s all in there like a miniature musical.
“The Phantom” is a more straightforward song and simply attacks the listener, giving a brief respite partway through, and is followed by “The Ride Majestic (Aspire Angelic)” which once more mixes varied styles. It’s got a great pre-chorus which does remind me of older material. So catchy that you don’t realise how heavy it is.
With a name like “Whirl of Pain” you’d perhaps expect something fast and brutal, yet this is probably the “power ballad” of the album. It’s still damn heavy, but not particularly quick-fire. One to bang your head to rather than bang into someone else. That attitude is returned with “All Along Echoing Paths” which has some great build-ups which burst in to wonderful choruses of mixed clean and harsh vocals. Trademark Soilwork.
“Shining Lights” once again brings the heavy before “Father And Son Watching The World Go Down” brings the album to a close with incredible emotion. It’s a great song to finish the album on.
On balance, I do still prefer Stabbing but I’ve listened to that dozens of times so it’s familiar territory. The Ride Majestic took me a couple of listens before the tracks which didn’t grab me immediately wrapped themselves around my brain, but I’m liking the album more the more I listen to it. I certainly don’t think long-time fans of the band risk disappointment.
The Ride Majestic is out on August 28th through Nuclear Blast.