Sound — 8
The latest album Soilwork has brought us, "Sworn To A Great Divide" gives us another album filled to the brim with Soilwork's adrenaline-pumping, intense yet melodic Swedish metal that we are custom to receive from this band. Although I'm writing this review long after the album was originally released, I believe it is a necessity to look back on Soilwork's progress so far and to check how fans have looked, and now look upon this new release after they've had some more time to listen it through. Many Soilworkers have found it very hard to appreciate this new release mainly because of it's sound. Why? The deep and epic sound of mainly the guitars has been replaced by a slightly more down-to-earth installation. The consequence is that people feel the recording quality has gone backwards. Actually, the contrary is the truth. Never before has a Soilwork album sounded so tight, clean and polished, not even Stabbing The Drama. Many of us relate this to the similar change of sound Gothenburg band In Flames has gone through. The difference between the transformation of In Flames and the transformation of Soilwork however, is with the mindset and mood of the bands. Where In Flames drastically switches to a different state of emotional mood, Soilwork does not. The mood is still similar to that of for example Stabbing the Drama. And that, is a very good thing. I believe that with this particular new sound Soilwork has managed to show everyone that they are still a unique force within a genre that is so commonly imitated. Although it may feel as if the band has become less heavy due to the guitar sound, the compositions of the songs prove otherwise. Many thrashy riffs have been implemented in this release, namely on songs such as the title track "Sworn To A Great Divide" and "The Pittsburgh Syndrome". Further, although not as prominent as for example on "Figure Number Five", the mainly supportive keyboard parts really make everything sound even twice as sophisticated. The same goes for the bassguitar, although you'll never really hear it individually. The only real problem, is simply the absence of the great guitar solos that we were used to by the former lead guitarist Peter Wichers, who by the way got back with the band some time later. The solos on this album have the same touch, but rarely reach the same epic climax as they did before, and are usually shorter.
Lyrics — 9
The lyrics are what we are used to from Soilwork's singer and lyricist Bjorn "Speed" Strid. What I've come to see as a recurring pattern in Soilwork's lyrics is that they are filled with clichs with some kind of twist. "Speed" manages to create beautiful metaphors that at the same time are surprisingly new, but can almost sound like as if you'd heard them ten times before. This can be both a weakness and a strength of Soilwork's lyrical style. The lyrics themselves on this album usually are related somehow to the personal individual. This also, is both a strong point and a weak point because the lines can be extremely well felt-through, but can at times also seem almost a bit too self-centered. None of which in the end really matters, because due to the singer's vocal skills and beautifully written singing parts, it would've touched anyway. This vocalist is commonly far underestimated, he has quite some range and a very broad scale of different vocal styles. The vocals seem to top it all off especially on the somehow haunting, dramatic song "Sick Heart River". This, I might add, is a very impressive and original Soilwork track unlike anything you've heard before from these men. Any Soilwork fan, whether they preferred their earlier or their latter work, will agree that Bjorn "Speed" Strid is one hell of a good metal vocalist.
Overall Impression — 9
Overall, I'd say this is a damn brilliant Soilwork release, especially when keeping in mind that original songwriter Peter Wichers didn't participate in the creation of this album. It doesn't have the same level of tremendous guitar solo's that we could hear on previous Soilwork cd's, but it is compensated by many, many other little things that have managed to make this album as magnificent as it is. Perhaps the album stands taller as a whole, and putting these Soilwork tracks among older ones in the same playlist might cause the newer tracks not to somehow stand out as much. But in the end, this album is definately worth buying. And if it did get stolen, or lost... I'd definately buy it again. Hell, yes.