Soilwork are probably one of my favorite melodic death metal bands (melo-death if you prefer) and in celebration for their new full-length record, The Ride Majestic, which is dropping today, here is a list of my favorite 15 songs from the band. None of the songs on this list are from the new record.
15) “Sick Heart River” (from Sworn to a Great Divide)
I am aware that Sworn to a Great Divide is not held all that high of regards in either fan opinion or the band’s but perhaps because it was one of the first records I bought from the band, many of the songs remain highlights to me. This one in particular stands out to me because of Bjorn’s vocal performance. I think the soulful way he sings the verses is what really gets me here. It just hits me every time I put the track on.
14) “Departure Plan” (from Figure Number Five)
This one has always stood out to me because it’s one of the very few low-key songs by the band. It actually bears somewhat of a resemblance to the record Completion Makes the Tragedy by Coldseed that Bjorn sang on because of the band keeping their sound pretty quiet and minimal for the majority of the track. Though Figure Number Five isn’t anywhere near my favorite albums from the band, there has always been a handful of songs from that album that I keep returning to, this one in particular.
13) “The Windswept Mercy” (from The Living Infinite)
Although I loved The Living Infinite as an album, there were certain songs that just give me goosebumps. This is one of those songs. I love how the band balance technicality and melody on this song. Bjorn’s vocals just soar over this entire track. I have to almost mention that bass has never had a huge place on Soilwork records, in terms of standing out against the guitars I mean, but I love how during the ending groove the bass really sticks out. But yeah, a true melodic anthem of a song in my opinion.
12) “The Akuma Afterglow” (from The Panic Broadcast)
A nice, groovy song with a fantastic chorus melody. There really isn’t a whole lot more to say on this one to be honest. It has a really solid solo as well. This was the end of a trio of songs from The Panic Broadcast that represent the highlights of that record.
11) “Blind Eye Halo” (from Stabbing the Drama)
Straightforward, intense, and no bs. This is Soilwork at their most purely intense. Certainly not as death metal as their early days (more groovy) but, in my opinion, much more memorable because of it. It’s all about that groove and growls. Also features some great blast-beats.
10) “Exile” (from Sworn to a Great Divide)
As far as I know this was the first single from this record (I may be incorrect) but it stands as one of the best and most memorable songs from this record. To me it’s a great melodic track, not overly aggressive, at least compared to other songs from records that came out before and after this one, but very straightforward – but that’s why it works. It’s a simple song that is lead by Bjorn’s vocals. And he really gets to sing his ass off during the chorus of this one.
9) “Epitome” (from The Panic Broadcast)
Until recently Soilwork hasn’t experimented with slower (some would say doomy) songs, but this was probably the first of their experimentation with that side of their sound that worked on all fronts. Bjorn is one of my favorite vocalists in metal and this side really highlights his clean singing in my opinion. It also has a keyboard solo – which as far as I know the band hadn’t really done before this song, and it’s actually a cool keyboard solo to boot.
8) “Black Star Deceiver” (from Natural Born Chaos)
Maybe it’s the fact that Devin Townsend guests on vocals on this track that it always stood out to me. Maybe it’s the dueling vocals between him and Bjorn on the verses. Maybe it’s the propulsive structure of the song that even when it hits the chorus it never feels like it stops moving. Maybe it’s the ever present synths that hang in the background that really help set this song as one of the band’s most atmospheric tracks (at least in my mind it is anyway). Maybe it’s the dueling solos. Or maybe it’s just all of it and the way all of it comes together that makes it into one of the band’s most ferocious songs.
7) “Bastard Chain” (from A Predator’s Portrait)
What I love about this song, and this album, is how the band were just beginning to integrate more melodic vocals into their style, so they weren’t totally comfortable having sections that were more open so for the better part of the record, the band are still playing pretty intense parts. This song has no clean vocals, but rips harder than almost anything else the band has done – more or less full-throttle from start till finish here.
6) “The Crestfallen” (from Stabbing the Drama)
This is one always hit me as being one of the more visceral tracks from Stabbing the Drama. The riff is very groovy, but the song jumps between that more groovy kind of aggression and more atmospheric spots. This is clearest in the chorus really adds some interesting atmospheric synths to the mix, even then Bjorn’s more aggressive shouts interrupt it. There’s the more bluesy vocals during the bridge of the song which still stand as, in my opinion, some of the best singing Bjorn has ever put to record. I also can’t fail to mention how great I think Dirk’s drumming on this song is. Then there’s the ending, which makes me want to headbang every time I hear it.
5) “Nerve” (from Stabbing the Drama)
This was the very first song I had ever heard from the band and it remains one of my very favorite from them. At the time I heard this track I was still very into metalcore (bands like Atreyu, As I Lay Dying, and Killswitch Engage) and was just starting to get into “heavier” bands like In Flames. I wasn’t really sure where to start with Soilwork but I knew I wanted to hear them, then I heard this song (on Headbanger’s Ball of all places) and knew I wanted more. Almost a decade after hearing it for the first time and this song still sticks with me more than almost any of the band’s other tracks.
4) “Let This River Flow” (from The Panic Broadcast)
This song is probably the greatest example of Bjorn’s range as a singer. This one struck a chord with me from the first time I heard it. I love the way the band utilized acoustic guitars in the intro (and outro) only to kick into high gear once you’ve settled into the mood they’re trying to establish. The chorus is among the best the band has ever written, but the whole song really emphasizes melody over aggression. It stands out as the clear highlight from this album and the beginning of that trio of songs I mentioned above.
3) “Long Live the Misanthrope” (from The Living Infinite)
Probably the epitome of where I think Soilwork are today. Groovy riffs with a progressive edge but, obviously, a strong focus on melody. Then there’s the dueling guitar solos that call back to the band’s earlier days. Once again Dirk kills it here – as the song takes several turns throughout it’s 5+ minute length, he just plays his ass off here. It’s easily one of the band’s most anthemic choruses to date and one that really knocked me out when I first heard it.
2) “Needlefeast” (from A Predator’s Portrait)
This one sticks out to me for just the shear intensity and the chaos that the song sounds like. It’s the height of the “old” Soilwork sound for me. Bjorn’s vocals just sound raw and throat-shredding while the rest of band groove hard. And the harmonies… oh the guitar harmonies. Mattias Eklundh’s solo is fantastic and just as great as you might expect it to be (melodic but with just a bit of eccentricity). Obviously the chorus is great, as I’ve said on pretty much every song so far.
1) “Soilworker’s Song of the Damned” (from Natural Born Chaos)
This is easily my most played song from the band. The main guitar melody is just killer while the rhythm just crushes (probably lofty words normally but remember that this was produced by Devin Townsend). Then there’s the chorus which just soars, simplistic to be sure, but catchy as fuck. But I think the main reason I keep returning to this one before other cuts from this album is because of the twists and turns this track goes through. From the lead melody into a death metal section and then into the chorus. It’s just perfect in my opinion and it has yet to lose it’s charm.