NUCLEAR BLAST ALL STARS OUT OF THE DARK REVIEW: WILL THE REAL SOILWORK PLEASE STAND UP?
October, 2007 will go down as an interesting month for Gothenburg metal; we’ve effectively seen the release of two Soilwork albums. One, which bears the Soilwork namesake, is the first album written and recorded by the band without ex-guitarist and primary songwriter Peter Wichers. The second is essentially a Peter Wichers solo album released under the Nuclear Blast All Stars moniker — Wichers wrote, produced and played guitar and had a host of other musicians contribute their duties, including an A-list roster of singers, one for each song. Anders Friden (In Flames), Peter Tagtgren (Hypocrisy), John Bush (Anthrax), and Bjorn “Speed” Strid (Soilwork) all contribute vocals. Out of the Dark ends up being a solid listen, if not so much a proper album as a collection of songs. Nuclear Assault has drawn on their rich history to assemble a disc that’s a much more interesting — at least to these ears — version of the Roadrunner United compilation put out a couple of years back.
Wichers’ true talents lie not in his guitar playing — though are certain plenty of sick riffs and soaring solos — but in his songwriting, and it seems this is the aspect of his arsenal that he is most trying to accentuate. Songs run the gamut from the melodic death metal you’d expect (“Dysfunctional Hours,” “Schizo,” others) to black metal (“Devotion,” featuring Jari Mäenpää of Ensiferum / Wintersun), power metal (“The Overshadowing” featuring Christian Älvestam of Scar Symmetry), thrash (“Cold is My Vengeance” featuring Maurizio Iacono of Kataklysm) to older-school hard rock (“Paper Trail” featuring John Bush, ex-Anthrax, and “My Name is Fate” featuring Mark Osegueda of Death Angel). Wichers has certainly proven himself capable of writing in a variety of different styles, and furthermore creating the tones to match them.
One of the best songs is unsurprisingly led by the disc’s biggest name — Anders Friden of In Flames — the crushingly mid-tempo melodeath “Dysfunctional Hours,” which leads off the disc. Peter Tagtgren of Hypocrisy also does a fine job with “Schizo” in the same vein, and Wichers’ old battery mate* Bjorn “Speed” Strid showcases his softer side with the haunting “The Dawn of It All.” Another highlight, and perhaps the disc’s biggest surprise, is the political anthem “Paper Trail” delivered by the mighty former Anthrax singer John Bush. “Paper Trail” could easily be an Anthrax song, and it’s a shame it isn’t. (Sigh.)
The other guest singers do a fine job as well, no slight meant towards them (see the full track listing below) — and Wichers’ astute songwriting is the key. The end result is an incredibly solid collection of songs; while Out of the Dark may not have the cohesiveness of an “album,” per se, each song plays to the particular singer’s strengths and style, and this is what’s so impressive. Out of the Dark serves as a testament to the skills of the former captain of the Soilwork ship, and if nothing else will make a damn good production reel for Wichers as he moves forward with his producing career.
(three and a half out of five horns)
*Wichers also calls on current Soilwork drummer Dirk Verbeuren and ex-Soilwork drummer Henry Ranta to fill drum duties on this disc.
Anders Fridén (IN FLAMES)
Peter Tägtgren (HYPOCRISY)
Jari Mäenpää (WINTERSUN)
Christian Älvestam (SCAR SYMMETRY)
John Bush (ex-ANTHRAX)
Björn “Speed” Strid (SOILWORK)
Maurizio Iacono (KATAKLYSM)
Mark Osegueda (DEATH ANGEL)
Richard Sjunnesson and Roland Johansson (SONIC SYNDICATE)
Guillaume Bideau (MNEMIC)