Soilwork have been on an upward trajectory for a while now. While many fans see their albums Stabbing the Drama and Sworn to a Great Divide as low points, the band have improved with each release ever since The Panic Broadcast hit our ears in 2010. Ambitious double album The Living Infinite and 2015’s The Ride Majestic further added evidence that Soilwork are far from melodeath hasbeens. Despite the news of drummer Dirk Verbeuren leaving the band only coming out in recent weeks, the new B-Sides collection Death Resonance is a good reminder that even Soilwork’s B-side cast-offs are strong enough to put many other melodeath acts to shame, and that they have a well of talent to keep them going for a while yet.
Many of the tracks on this compilations are songs that completionists and Japanese fans will be all too familiar with, with all but two appearing on the Japanese editions of Stabbing the Drama through to The Ride Majestic. The two new additions, “Helsinki” and “Death Resonance”, were written especially for this compilation and feel like a natural progression from where Soilwork left off on The Ride Majestic, “Helsinki” continuing the tradition of phenomenal opening tracks. The first of the B-Sides come from the most recent release and the track, “The End Begins Below the Surface”, would be a welcome addition to any Soilwork album. The riffs are intense and feel pretty much as you’d expect from a modern Soilwork song.
The tracks from Japan’s exclusive EP Beyond the Infinite are next and, despite The Living Infinite being a double album, “My Nerves, Your Every Day Tool” still feels like it would be somewhat out of context given the fact that it has an altogether more melodic feel and a slightly more commercial sounding hook in the chorus, which is incredibly catchy but feels like something you’d hear on a middle-era Soilwork album rather than the crushing melodies of modern Soilwork. A return to form follows with “These Absent Eyes” in spite of the shaky inclusion of what seem to be gang vocals at the beginnng of the song. The songs from Beyond the Infinite show just how much quality was in the then-new look Soilwork lineup after the departure of founding guitarist Peter Wichers, with all the tracks being just as strong as both sides of The Living Infinite. They may not all have fit on the album due to the increased use of catchy hooks akin to their alt-metal era, although they deserve to be heard and appreciated in their own right.
The cuts from The Panic Broadcast contain a real treat for longtime fans of Soilwork, as a special re-recording of “Sadistic Lullabye” sits nuzzled in the middle of Death Resonance. This track was the very first track many fans of Soilwork will have heard, appearing as the opening track of their debut album Steelbath Suicide. You can hear what Peter Wichers brought to the band in this and “Sweet Demise” and how much his influence made Soilwork what they are, with the sweeping ambience of the song’s mid section and following solo being very typical of his approach. And yet, when you listen to the tracks recorded since, you still have to appreciate the sterling job that David Andersson and Sylvain Coudret have done to take the sextet to the next level.
The 2016 mixes of tracks from Sworn to a Great Divide and Stabbing the Drama just go further to show how far they have come. Sworn to a Great Divide is given a very harsh reception by fans due to the first absence of Wichers, but temporary replacement Daniel Antonsson still puts in an admirable performance and the B-Sides on Death Resonance show that, if given a little more time, things may have worked out better for them. While Stabbing the Drama is also seen by many as a mis-step from the band, I personally hold it as one of my personal favourites and the tracks here are no exception. This era showed Soilwork putting more of a groove and alternative metal stomp into their sound and you have to appreciate it when bands try to refresh their sound, even if it doesn’t exactly work out all the time. Dirk Verbeuren’s drumming has always been top notch and Björn Strid shows why he’s one of the best vocalists in the game right now.
Overall this shouldn’t really be seen as a collection of B-Sides and rejects from Soilwork’s vault, as the songs all stand up perfectly well on their own and blend together really well in context of each other on this release. A few mis-steps aside, this album could easily be considered another strong Soilwork album in its own way, with the newer tracks showing how far Soilwork have come and how far they can still go, and the older tracks acting as the glue holding the album together and letting newer fans see where the band have come from in the past 10 years. If you’re a devout Soilwork fan, you’ll need this in your collection. Even if you’ve heard all the tracks before on the Japanese releases of the albums, you’ll still need to hear the two new tracks. If you’ve never even heard Soilwork before or are just a casual fan of melodic death metal in general, this album provides a great introduction to the Soilwork of the past 10 years and whets the appetite for more, preparing you for the songs that did actually make it to the albums. The future may be uncertain while they try to fill the void left by Verbeuren, but this can act as a fitting send-off for one of death metal’s best drummers.
Soilwork’s new compilation album Death Resonance is out now via Nuclear Blast Records. They are currently on tour with Arch Enemy, get dates on their official Facebook page here.