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Tuesday, 16 August 2022

Reviews: Soilwork, The Halo Effect, Orthodox, Dead City Ruins (Reviews By Matt Cook & GC)

Soilwork - Övergivenheten (Nuclear Blast) [Matt Cook]

Though the lineup has seen its far share of shake-ups since the band formed in 1996, what has remained consistent with Soilwork is Björn "Speed" Strid and his brand of harmonious singing juxtaposed eloquently with his attractive yet bitter screams. 

The lone remaining member of the Swedish collective that has transformed its sound from melodic death metal in the early days to a more polished metal band incorporating elements of symphonic and gothic techniques has piloted the ship, especially on the most recent effort, Övergivenheten. It’s the group’s 12th full-length, and the first to feature incoming bassist Rasmus Ehrnborn. In its current iteration, Soilwork retain the frenetic riffing and authoritative drumming, plastering harsh vocals that jumpstart the verses into fiery fervor. The hooks are still groovy and welcoming. Heavier standouts include Electric AgainIs It In Your Darkness and This Godless Universe.

The six-piece is rounded out by axe-slingers Sylvain Coudret and David Andersson; drummer/percussionist Bastian Thusgaard; and keyboardist Sven Karlsson. But you’d never know from listening to Övergivenheten that Soilwork has shuffled through four guitarists, two bassists, three percussionists and a keyboardist en route to the 2022 incarnation. The music remains sleek, formidable and calculated. Even as this record clocks in at 66 minutes, the 14 tracks provide variety and freshness, a testament to the band’s ability to not only garner attention, but maintain it (refer to 2020’s A Whisp Of The Atlantic, which features a 16-and-a-half minute title track).

It’s not all thanks to Strid’s acrobatic display of vocal styles that makes Övergivenheten shine, because his fellow bandmates certainly deserve recognition. But knowing the man at the helm of Soilwork has been there since day one and has helped in consistently churning out quality metal is a testament to the band’s staying power, regardless of who next walks through the door. 7/10

The Halo Effect – Days Of The Lost (Nuclear Blast) [Matt Cook]

Nearly every topic imaginable has already been covered in music. Think of Sabaton chronicling the battles and famous figures throughout history. Or Summoning infusing their metal with Lord Of The Rings themes. Cold Womb Descent have been churning out atmospheric delight that captures deep space and what may or may not lurk out of our reach. The Halo Effect delve into chaos theory with their debut melodic death metal effort, Days Of The Lost, and do so in a way that allows the average layperson to happily consume the music without having a keen understanding. To put simply, chaos theory is what it sounds like: unpredictable systems, reactions and results. It’s about expecting the unexpected. 

But the Mikael Stanne-fronted music is quite the antithesis of chaos theory. It’s what he does best. Days Of The Lost includes catchy, inspiring, spry and flourishing riffs. Niclas Engelin and Jesper Strömblad eloquently leave their marks with their juicy guitar work. The title track sees the pair dueling it out in the introduction before bursting into spirited goodness that is colorfully melodic, building into a heavier affair. ‘Gateways’ invites listeners in with a luscious melody. Stanne – who in this author’s humble opinion has one of the best inflections in the game – confidently emcees proceedings. His pacifying clean vocals (In Broken Trust); businesslike, deliberate arrangements (A Truth Worth Lying For); and rugged refrain (Last Of Our Kind) complements the atmosphere with stunning success. It’s obvious these Swedes have their fingers on the pulse of the genre. 

The members’ resumes include the likes of In Flames and HammerFall, two titans of the trade. And it’s effortlessly consumed. Throw any track on and it’s instantly approachable. Chaos theory this is not, because it was all-too predictable that The Halo Effect would debut with flair, vigor and chemistry that permeates from start to finish. 8/10

Orthodox - Learning To Dissolve (Century Media Records) [GC]

Hailing from the country and western capital of the world Nashville we have Orthodox who’s new album Learning To Dissolve is a nu-metal-tinged brand of metallic hardcore, apparently!? I started listening and before I knew it, I was already into the second song and first single Head On A Spike, but the lack of awareness of what was playing was not because they flew past in a blur of hardcore speedy riffs with frantic beatdowns, no it was because the songs were so similar, they blended into one long droning mess of noise, not a good start! 

I restarted as a show of faith and can confirm I regret this decision wholeheartedly as Feel It Linger and Head On Spike both go nowhere and aren’t very good we then get to track 3 Cave In which is basically the same thing, it’s all mid-paced down tuned chugga chugga nu-metal style riffs, muddy badly mixed double bass lead drums and angry at my dad type vocals, track 4 Become Divine comes across as a mix of debut album Slipknot & nu-metal era Machine Head but unfortunately they decided to make this a vocal lead track and this was not a good idea as the vocals on offer have absolutely no personality or variation and it just makes for a long, laboured and painful listen. 

Digging Through Glass is more of the same but they do attempt to add some atmospheric in a Korn-esque middle section but to absolutely no-one’s shock, these totally miss the mark and just sound annoying. Nothing To See is the first time Orthodox get the formula right and the loud/quiet nu-metal dynamic pays off here with some nice breaks and decent drumming all finally picking up the pace, now the less said about pointless interlude 11762 the better, just another reason to get frustrated at this album but, Dissolve does actually kick in and up the tempo again and makes you think it might be a turning point but no, it all ends up just dropping back into the ever present formula that has so far made me want to start pulling my own teeth out! 

Out of nowhere we get Fast Asleep which is actually a decent song and is full of bouncy riffs and pounding drums but again the vocals here are just so monotone, one paced and always the same but this is the best song so far! However, the last songs All That I Am and Voice In The Choir should just have been left in the practice room as predictably they just chug along at a pedestrian pace, offer nothing new and bore you until its finally the end of the album. This was hard work and not because the music was challenging or affected me in an emotional way, it was just so mediocre, it lasted far too long and was very, very boring, there is nothing at all here that would make me want to recommend this album to anyone. Piss poor. 2/10

Dead City Ruins - Shockwave (AFM Records) [GC]

WARNING: This absolutely isn’t usually the sort of album I would review and it’s a shame really as I haven’t got many positive things to say about it but, we are here now so let’s get on with it! Is everybody ready for some non-offensive rock and roll all the way for Australia? Because if you are then here it is in the shape of Shockwave by Dead City Ruins!

So here we go and getting right into it, opener Preacher goes straight into the 80’s with some ‘’ I hope this is going to be sung back to me in arenas’’ Whoa Ooh’s and it just keeps get more unoffensive and formulaic as it goes on, it just feels like Skid Row have decided to tone it down and play safe!? The main plus point in all this is undoubtedly Steve Walsh’s vocals as he has a great set of pipes on him and comes across as a mix between Layne Staley & Sebastian Bach but, it doesn’t really save from the fact that its all just a bit boring and safe! 

The first 3 songs all blaze by in a mix of 80’s style metal and don’t really impress much upon the listener, but then it gets REALLY awful at track 4 Speed Machine! Good lord this song is terrible, I nearly spat my drink all over when the chorus started, true comic genius in the most unintended way and the vroom vroom samples in there are also classic! Anyway, onto next track which sounds like they have tried to write their own version of Blaze Of Glory and to nobody’s surprise or shock it is shite! 

More Whoa ooh’s open next track Dog On A Leash and then continue to infiltrate the song, just write some actual lyrics lads? At this point I am starting to lose the will to live to be honest but, then a glimpse of light comes along in the shape of This Side Of The Dirt which is by far the best song on here and is reminiscent of Black Stone Cherry in places but that’s about as good as it gets if I am honest. 

Next song Drifter, does just what it says on the tin and bores me almost to tears for its entirety,  but then another slight glimmer of hope is offered on End Of The Line, which has some promise in there and shows that there these guys can offer a decent full force rock banger when pushed but then again after that the closing 2 tracks limp along and are just all pomp and circumstance and offer very little to make it worth listening to all 12 songs on offer.

I did warn you in advance that this wasn’t my usual type of thing and I almost feel bad about it but at the end of the day its up to Dead City Ruin to make me change my mind which they haven’t managed to do. I am sure there must be something in there waiting to get out but, when you are on your fourth album, and it sounds like you haven’t found what out what that it is yet I’m not really sure when or if they ever will find it? Everything on offer here just fails to deliver and sounds like a relic from days of the past and it really should have just stayed there. 2/10

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