Soilwork, "A Predator's Portrait"
I have said it before, and I will say it again, damn it! Soilwork is the best band currently playing, and their latest effort, A Predator's Portrait, is only further affirmation of this fact. These Swedes continue to break ground and tear up everything in their path with tight, thrashing, shamelessly melodic metal. On previous releases, Soilwork proved they were a force to be reckoned with. Their debut, Steelbath Suicide, boasted of even better arrangements and guitar work than country mates Arch Enemy (which is saying libraries for the group), and their absolutely godly sophomore album, The Chainheart Machine, brought the band into its own with music that was as technical, heavy and voracious as it was original and refreshing. Now, us lucky metal fans have their third release to look forward to, and I promise you that it is just as good, if not better than their earlier releases?though Soilwork has thrown a few new twists into the music.
The excellent opening track, "Bastard Chain" conveys very little change in the group's style, though it may be a bit slower, and more melodic than on the previous disc. Once we get to track two, though, things begin to change. "Like the Average Stalker," though beginning as one would expect, once the chorus rears its head, we find that "Speed" Strid, the Soils' more than adequate vocalist has added to his repertoire and range. That's right, the chorus on this track, as well as on most of the others on A Predator's Portrait is cleanly sung, and I am not talking about power metal, falsetto or the less-than-powerful attempts that Mikael Stanne did on Dark Tranquillity's Projector. Speed's clean vocals are an emotional, appropriate and powerful addition to the band's sound, bringing songs like "Shadowchild" or "Grand Failure Anthem" to new levels with added depth and character. On the title track, the band has even enlisted the vocal accompaniment of Opeth's super-talented Mikael Akerfeldt for still more impact. In addition to the new vocal style, the group has focused on creating some of the absolutely slickest songs ever put to disc. "Structure Divine" hits the speakers as if it were going to be a slow and sorrowful anthem, and turns itself into a mid-paced, hook fueled beast with a most excellent chorus. "Final Fatal Force" rips everything up with a slower, groovy-beyond-compare bridge that is as cocky as it is catchy, and "Neurotica Rampage"?well, hold onto your ass, because they are about to serve it to you on a plate! This one is as brutal, fast and unforgiving as a freight train running over a prairie dog.
And I am not the only one to think that A Predator's Portrait is the best thing since sliced bread. With #1 rating in German heavy metal magazine Heavy Oder Was, and a #2 in Rockhard, it is painfully clear that Soilwork is turning heads right and left. Those who know quality metal when they hear it are letting their opinions be known, and all they can seem to say is, "Shit, that Soilwork band really kills!"
Yes, the album may seem overall somewhat slower and lighter than The Chainheart Machine, but Soilwork makes up for it with ingenious hooks, solos, bridges and true songwriting smarts. If the beginning of "Needlefeast," the bridge on "Grand Failure Anthem," or whole of the title track doesn't have you drooling, I don't know what will. Though it is early in the year, so far A Predator's Portrait is the best album released in 2001, and I doubt that another band will be able to top them by December. Don't argue, just listen and begin believing.
Grand Failure Anthem