Soilwork - Sworn To A Great Divide
Nuclear Blast
Modern Melodic Death
11 songs (41'46)
Release year: 2007
Soilwork, Nuclear Blast
Reviewed by Crims

The often maligned Soilwork is back with another release, entitled Sworn To The Great Divide. I’m going to discuss Soilwork for the first paragraph here so if you just want to skip to the actual CD review then just go ahead and move on to the next paragraph, otherwise… stick around. My first introduction to Soilwork was when Chainheart Machine was released. I downloaded Millionflame after reading a rather positive review and was blown away by the song and promptly bought the CD. Even most people who dislike Soilwork typically still like the intro to this song which is one of the best around. With their first two releases Soilwork made a rather large impression on the Melodic Death genre. Few bands at the time in the genre incorporated background keyboards and few bands had the constant aggression and speed that many bands would copy in the next few years. The majority of Melodic Death releases at the time had fast songs but were typically more structured; where as Soilwork was still complex rhythmically and at times melodically, their music was constantly aggressive and fast but they threw in enough rhythm changes and mid-paced break downs to keep things interesting. I’ve always thought the debut to be slightly overrated with Chainheart Machine being one of the best in the style. Depending on who you talk to the wheels of the Soilwork train went off the tracks at various points in their discography. A few people insist the wheels went off with A Predator’s Portrait. Some of the aggression of their previous work was lost on that CD with a further emphasis on catchy rhythms and clean melodic vocals for almost all the choruses. The music was still, by in large, similar to Chainheart Machine but wasn’t as complex and it was really their break-thru CD as they became a lot more accessiable to the average Metal fan. The melodic clean vocal style the band used on that CD was one of the first Metal releases to use such vocals and you can pretty much thank Soilwork (though not exclusively) for influencing many Metal and non-Metal bands alike to incorporate pop-styled clean vocals for extra melody in between harsher styles. A Predator’s Portrait also remains one of my favorite releases in the genre; the extra catchiness and melody the vocals and some riffs gave the CD, to me, a more preferable balance between aggression and melody. A more popular opinion is that the wheels flew off with Natural Born Chaos (henceforth referred to as NBC). With NBC a further emphasis was put on catchy chorus melodies with heavy, staccato riffs, with only occasional flashes of the half-Thrash/Melodic Death of the previous three releases. What they lacked in rhythmic complexity they made up for in song variation and atmosphere that was helped along by a fantastic production job. Though I am in the minority NBC is actually my favorite Soilwork release. The next two releases, Figure Number Five and Stabbing The Drama, weren’t as bad as most people would have you believe but they were a huge step down in quality. Though not without their above average songs an even further emphasis was put on simple and basic song structures with radio friendly pop melodies (take away the harsh vocals and a lot of the music was more Modern Rock than Metal); not to mention a lot of laid-back tempos and too-modern-for-their-own-good riffs that made the original aggression of the band sound more like Nu-Metal angst. So where does Sworn To The Great Divide fit in? Read on to find out.

It seems the Metal trend of the last few years is for long standing bands to release CDs where they return to their roots or an earlier sound. Some bands have been very successful in this regard, and some haven’t, probably more due to false media and or label propaganda than anything. Sworn To The Great Divide is not a return to the bands roots but sounds more like NBC than the last two CDs combined, unfortuntately the pop-tendencies of the last two releases still work their way into some songs as the first single most heinously demonstrated (thankfully it’s the worst song on the CD). What we have here on a lot of songs is a return to the fast tempos and staccato riffing and occasional half-Thrash/Melodic Death riffs of NBC. The Pittsburgh Syndrome is one of the better examples of this and it’s not the only one, even if some of the songs still revert to the ultra-melodic choruses. There is an overabundance of staccato break downs and riffs but they are mixed with enough high quality fills (this actually sounds like a Henry Ranta performance... almost) and NBC styled riffs that they actually work here. Some fantastic leads that bring to vague memories some of the better work on Chainheart Machine also make an appearance which was nice to hear though not in such a high quantity. A lot of the other songs are mid-paced that go between Modern Rock like riff and vocal melodies to some decent to not so great modern Metal riffing. Check out Silent Bullet as you’ll have a great example (in one song mind you) of riffs that work (pre-chorus, intro theme) and one’s that don’t (verse). The fact of the matter is Soilwork have never done mid-paced songs especially well despite decent vocal melodies on occasion. I’m happy to say only a few songs are of the mid-paced variety as a whole, but even the faster return to NBC style found on this CD features mid-paced breaks, and not the awesome groove breakdowns of songs like Millionflame but well, the stuff we’ve heard on the last two releases ad nausea. For what it is the mid-paced work isn’t bad but a lot of it is not what most Metal heads enjoy listening to and would likely appeal more to Nu-Metal, Metalcore, and Modern Rock fans (and for the record that doesn’t include me).

Essentially the band has given some hope for the future but a lot of choruses are still too radio friendly for a lot of metal fans to enjoy; for me they are borderline. The band proved on A Predator’s Portrait that the clean vocals can add extra layers of melody without taking too much away from the aggression of the band and they gave glimpses of that here such as on the title track. The riffs are probably what have improved the most. Despite the somewhat obnoxious modern power-chord progression of the beginning of the title track the main verse riff is the best and most Metal riff they’ve written in quite a few years and thankfully the title track riffs were found in other places on the CD. If you liked the last two CDs then you’ll probably love this. If you’re like me and were mostly indifferent to the last two but enjoyed everything previously I think this is worth your time. Yes, Exile and to an extent Light Discovering Darkness and Sick Heart River (despite the somewhat cool atmosphere) are painful reminders as to why most of us loathed the last two releases, they are out-numbered, even if ever so slightly, by more reminders of why some of us liked NBC so much. If in doubt don’t let the first single (Exile) generate your opinion of the entire CD as it is the worst song, by far, on the CD, as mentioned, and the CD as a whole has more to offer than that debacle of a song. Thus, this is worth a listen for most of you.

Killing Songs :
Sworn To The Great Divide, The Pittsburgh Syndrome, I, Vermin, 20 More Miles
Crims quoted 72 / 100
Other albums by Soilwork that we have reviewed:
Soilwork - Verkligheten reviewed by Goat and quoted 80 / 100
Soilwork - Death Resonance reviewed by Goat and quoted no quote
Soilwork - The Ride Majestic reviewed by Goat and quoted 74 / 100
Soilwork - The Living Infinite reviewed by Goat and quoted 75 / 100
Soilwork - The Panic Broadcast reviewed by Goat and quoted 85 / 100
To see all 13 reviews click here
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