Soilwork has always seemed to be in the shadow of its Gothenburg melodeath contemporaries who got started and released seminal record just ahead of them. But the band has quietly been the most consistently interesting and ever changing of the bunch, with frontman Bjorn Strid boasting perhaps not only the most dynamic and melodic singing voice of them all, but some ferocious screams. Through years of band member changes and ups and downs, the saga of Soilwork is on the upswing once more after the well-received Verkligheten. With new EP A Whisp Of the Atlantic, the band reaches new heights and delivers one of their most solid outputs in some time, all the while not being afraid to get as creative and out there as they ever have been.
Nowhere is that more apparent than in the opening title track, 'A Whisp Of The Atlantic.' At sixteen minutes, it’s the longest track Soilwork have ever created and amazingly, it never feels like a chore to listen to. It flows exceedingly well and features so many disparate elements that just work. From the sharp piano opening to the crisp and crunchy lead guitar tone, everything feels so well produced and on point. Strid’s voice sounds fierce amidst the layered guitars for the opening choruses, whose melody is rising and epic. Special shoutouts need to be given to guitarists Sylvain Coudret and David Andersson and drummer Bastian Thusgaard. All are in top form and Thusgaard especially is absolutely going bonkers in showing his massive talent and ferocious chops. It’s tight across the board and from blast beats to off kilter time signatures, he’s doing it all here. The piano comes back in halfway though to great effect with a massive kick in that follows. There’s even a deal of jazzy trumpet work, which fits in so well it makes a great case for even more brass in metal. Finishing on some amazing vocal work from Strid and a flowing jazz trumpet outro, this is a track that encapsulates everything that Soilwork is great at and thrusts them into the spotlight as a band that can not only keep up, but outpace and outplay their contemporaries.
Next up comes the three 'Feverish Trilogy' singles that the band released throughout this year, and just as before, they all sound so great. 'Feverish' has a great atmosphere with its 80s synth opening and more excellent guitar tone. Thusgaard again is going ham, but here is where it’s actually too much. If he could calm it down instead of laying down mile-a-minute blast beats in the first half of the chorus, the song would soar even more amidst such great melody and not get muddied. The guitar and vocals are the highlight, but the song’s ending with such aching strings seals the deal.
'Desperado' plays with some really diverse electronic textures at its outset and launches into a searing riff that ranks among the album’s best. Staccato strings add nice depth in the background, but the Strid’s vocal melody in the chorus doesn’t quite match up with the instrumentals as well as it could. Guitar, once again takes the lead, but the song ends with too many layers that muddy together. It remains a snappy and sharp track nonetheless.
'Death Diviner’s' main riff will instantly recall Tool's 'Schism' with its cadence, but make no mistake, this song is its own and it is one of the best Soilwork tracks to be released in a long while. The vocals are absolutely soaring and are some of Strid’s best ever, and the machine gun bass drum kicks that fill the chorus add more power and urgency to a song already running like a freight train. It’s one of those rare songs that gives goosebumps on first listen, and it’s a must hear track among 2020’s best, plain and simple.
Finishing the EP, “The Nothingness and The Devil” is actually the weakest one the EP. Though it comes out guns blazing with a pure rock and roll riff and a chorus punctuated by exclamatory chords, it feels a bit repetitive and business as usual compared to the rest of the EP. But once again, credit has to be given to the guitarists on this entire EP, as this track is no exception to the excellence by both men.
Soilwork have, on A Whisp Of The Atlantic, released some of their most creative and diverse songs to date, and also some of their best. It’s a release that only solidifies their rocksteady reputation and goes a step further to present them as worthy of any conversation regarding the best melodeath bands of all time. Through a few instrumental missteps, this is a solid collection of tracks that have a something for new and old fans alike.