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Soilwork’s The Living Infinite Lives Entirely Too Long

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If you were to take a spin through my past Facebook posts, you would come across a status from a couple months ago that says something to the tune of: “You know those phases where you legitimately believe Soilwork is the best band of all time? I’m rocking one right now.” I’m a bit of a fan. For this review to make much sense though, I have to add a caveat that statement by admitting that I’m really not all that fond of anything released before Natural Born Chaos. So when I come across review after review declaring The Living Infinite to be the first worthy successor to A Predator’s Portrait, I can’t help but shake my head and sigh.

Since every ad I see for the record really pushes the fact that it’s a double album, I’ll get my bone picking out of the way up front. Off the top of my head, I can’t refute the claim that this is the first double album for the melodic death metal genre; I hope it is though, because most melodic death metal albums already overstay their welcomes. If one had to be made, however, I’m glad Soilwork was the band nominated to take a stab at it. After releasing five phenomenally complete records, I figured they might be able to put something together without resorting to their pile of outtakes.

Much to my disappointment, that doesn’t seem to be the case. Worse yet, there are barely enough gems on here to constitute an album of half the length. The opening three tracks pass by unremarkably, serving to adequately gain traction without instilling much hope or excitement; if it wasn’t for the flair of the opening riff in “This Momentary Bliss” and the strength of “Spectrum of Eternity” as an opening track, I’d have axed two of these three tracks for sure. The album gets back on track quickly though, as “Tongue” is arguably the album’s biggest highlight; dumping some of the opening songs could have let Soilwork maintain their streak of track #2’s that outshine the rest of their respective albums.

The rest of the first disc doesn’t do much to keep the momentum going, but the disk does end with two controversial (and therefore, interesting) tunes. There seems to be a lot of hate out there for “The Windswept Mercy” and “Whispers And Lights.” To me, these songs represent the first time Soilwork delivers the type of material I expected and hoped for from this release; the riffs are still there and still heavy, but there’s a huge emphasis on memorable vocal melodies that the band has only been teasing prior to The Living Infinite. Since people apparently want A Predator’s Portrait II, I guess the backlash shouldn’t come as a surprise — but these two songs definitely make the cut for me.

It’s uncanny how similar the second disk feels to the first disk, as if they were based on the same underlying structure or storyboard. In act two, “Leech” is the obvious powerhouse track, and it definitely rips. The final two tracks of the album are absolutely perfect selections as closers, even if they don’t stray as far from the formula as their disk one equivalents. Seriously though, people need to stop comparing “Owls Predict, Oracles Stand Guard” to “Soilworker’s Song Of The Damned”; it’s a great track, but it’s not even close to being in the same league as the Natural Born Chaos stuff.

This record could have been a beast with just a couple of tweaks. The fact that my ideal track list only uses ten of the album’s twenty tracks is pretty telling of the amount of throwaways used to pump up The Living Infinite’s runtime. Looking at the list of songs I would have scrapped, it doesn’t shock me that people are going crazy for this album; you could get pretty close to building the aforementioned, seemingly much-desired  A Predator’s Portrait II from the leftover pieces. Don’t get me wrong here, a Soilwork album that fails to run with the rest of their post-2002 discography is still better than anything most other bands could churn out. But if you, like me, were looking for a ninety minute response to Natural Born Chaos or Stabbing The Drama, you will come out of this experience disappointed.

Soilwork’s The Living Infinite is out now on Nuclear Blast. Buy it here.

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