Release DetailsLABEL Nuclear Blast
RELEASED ON 10/19/2007
Sworn To A Great Divide
posted on 11/2007 By:
Soilwork certainly need no introduction. They’re a band that, in the early part of the decade, jumped from being accused of being an “At the Gates clone” to being accused of “selling out”; though I’d argue being accused of the former is rewording the latter. So really, Soilwork haven’t exactly been on stable ground with a decent portion of the metal scene since their inception, and their new album, Sworn to a Great Divide, isn’t about to change any perceptions (true or false) anyone already has about the band. For this 2007 Soilwork release there’s been a decent amount of hype building up. Certainly rumblings of a “return to form” have been coming in from all over the place and I’m not going to lie, the idea certainly piqued my interest, as I haven’t been too fond of the past two albums.
Sworn to a Great Divide is an interesting surprise. Not only because it’s actually an enjoyable album but because it’s decent despite the loss of guitarist Peter Wichers, who played a major in the band’s success up until his departure. There’s really no change in style and execution here; the band is still firmly rooted in that melodic, mainstream-styled pseudo-Gothenburg metal that they helped pioneer more than 5 years ago, a style that many Swedish and not so Swedish bands have taken up in recent years.
This time the band has made attempts to make things heavier and create a larger disparity between verse and chorus. This becomes quite obvious from the get go, as opening track “Sworn to a Great Divide” juxtaposes sharp, grooving, staccato riffing with the band’s patented poppy, melodic chorus. Much of the same occurs in some of the songs that follow, most notably “Breeding Thorns” (“As We Speak” part II?) and “The Pittsburgh Syndrome” (quite heavy for the band at this stage in the game). “Exile,” the album’s kick off single is certainly a song built with a video in mind--it’s almost annoyingly melodic and tailored for the mainstream with its modern rock vibe. Thing is, “Exile” has what must be the best melodic hook to be found on the album. It’s actually rather disheartening, as other songs on the album that show a lot of promise fail to have that big breakout chorus that could push the songs over the top. So more often than not we’re left with great sections, yet no great songs, which just leaves me shaking my head.
“I Vermin” ends up being the standout track and backs up what this band is still capable of when things are firing on all cylinders. The chorus isn’t overly melodic and still packs a bit of a punch, while the band does a good job of playing with the tempos, especially when slowing down the verse after the initial run through. Unfortunately, during the latter half of the album things start to drag, “Light Discovering Darkness” and “Sick Heart River” being more than enough to bring even the best of albums down, not to mention that when only pieces of “As the Sleeper Awakes”, “Silent Bullet”, and “20 More Miles” work it becomes hard to find a reason to keep listening after the album reaches its peak.
The overall issue with Soilwork circa 2007 is that for the past three albums (including Sworn to a Great Divide) all the elements of the band’s sound don’t gel together. Songs will have a great verse but the chorus lets it down or the chorus is great but the rest of the song doesn’t rise above filler. Then you throw in some pretty uninteresting attempts at rather mainstream rock and things become rather clear, Soilwork doesn’t seem to understand what made them popular in the first place. With that said, Sworn to a Great Divide is actually a decent album--I have found myself listening to it more than just the few times it took to form an opinion and I can’t see anyone who has been a fan of the last two albums finding anything to complain about, as this effort is at least a couple steps above.
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