After seventeen years and nine albums, Bjorn ‘Speed’ Strid could write serviceable melodeath records in his sleep and still feel confident he’d be invited back to Wacken so long as there was at least one decent song on the track list. But even though the Soilwork main man is the only remaining member of the original line-up, he’s still adventurous and hungry.
‘The Ride Majestic’ is their tenth outing since ‘Steelbath Suicide’ first landed and quelle surprise, it’s great. It’s well-executed modern metal full of hooks and choruses with a shiny European veneer and a few leftfield moments thrown in to keep things fresh. It’s also very succinct compared to their previous release, the excellent (if a little draining) double album ‘The Living Infinite.’ Compared to that monolithic beast, this fifty minutes of metal positively zips by, with lots of vibrant and fast-paced songs to keep things moving.
The opening title track for instance is classic Soilwork, Strid alternating seamlessly between harsh and clean vocals over driving riffs before a huge chorus erupts out the speakers. You’ll see it coming a mile off, but that doesn’t make it any less enjoyable. ‘Alight In The Aftermath’ then throws the first curveball. Kicking off with an astonishingly brutal introduction, it shifts gears into a slightly proggy feel before the blast beats reappear. There’s some great fretwork from David Andersson and Sylvain Coudret here, frantic death metal giving way to solos and abrupt time changes, all giving this a distinctly unusual but rewarding feel. Admittedly, things do dip with ‘Death In General’ but business picks up again with ‘Enemies In Fidelity.’ This one will delight the kids in the pit as much as the guys who prefer to sing along and feels like it should be accompanied by an over-the-top lightshow.
There’s a few decent songs in the middle of the album but it’s in the closing third that Soilwork deliver the best bits. ‘The Ride Majestic (Aspire Angelic)’ is not a reprisal of the first track but a bruising anthem in its own right, while ‘Shining Lights’ delivers the heavy like a sledgehammer hitting a goldfish. If there’s one criticism that does have some merit it’s that Soilwork do occasionally come over quite cold. Their music is sleek and resourceful, delivered with an almost machine like efficiency and it can be difficult to detect the emotion behind it. The closing ‘Father And Son Watching The World Go Down’ may well have been written with the express intention of disproving that theory. A mournful finale that features Strid trading vocals with Nathan James Biggs from Sonic Syndicate, it’s the closest we get to glimpsing the heart of the machine and is full of anguished life.
A flawed but impressive tenth outing then, ‘The Ride Majestic’ is a long way from the ruthless killing machine that delivered ‘Chainheart Machine’ all those years ago. Anyone that was worried they might hit a slump after ‘The Living Infinite’ can rest easy, this has loads of great songs even if it isn’t their masterpiece. And there’s a pretty good chance they’ll appear at every other Wacken from now until the sun collapses on the strength of it.
A flawed but impressive tenth outing then, ‘The Ride Majestic’ is a long way from the ruthless killing machine that delivered ‘Chainheart Machine’ all those years ago. Anyone that was worried they might hit a slump after ‘The Living Infinite’ can rest easy, this has loads of great songs even if it isn’t their masterpiece.