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Soilwork: Sworn to the Great Divide

Not sure what all the furor is about regarding the latest platter from Soilwork, Sworn to the Great Divide. Statements being thrown about focusing on 'sellout', 'mainstream', 'generic', and the like all seem a little unfair to this veteran Swedish act. Sure, Soilwork started out their career as a rather fine melodic death metal band influenced by such legendary acts as At the Gates, In Flames, and Dark Tranquility, but it's been a long time since the band swam in those waters. Releases like Natural Born Chaos, Figure Number Five, and Stabbing the Drama saw the band shift towards a more accessible sound that was still rooted in extreme metal, but has much more in common with the American metalcore style. That trend continues here on Sworn to the Great Divide, a very listener-friendly release that is both heavy and commercial sounding at the same time. Gone is founding member and lead guitarist Peter Wichers, who left to start a career in producing, and he has been replaced by former Dimension Zero/Pathos guitarist Daniel Antonsson. Fortunately, this major personnel change has done little to change the focus of this band.

One thing you notice right off the bat here, and really this should come across as nothing new to long time fans of the band, is that each tune is instantly memorable and contains some pretty catchy melodies. The opening title track has a hook that will stay with you for days, and mixed with some heavy riffs and pounding drum work from Dirk Verbeuren, should easily become a concert favorite. Lead vocalist Bjorn 'Speed' Strid once again shows his ability to combine soaring clean melodic vocal passages with aggressive hardcore styled screams and shouts. Atmospheric keyboards from Sven Karlsson add a nice touch to the alluring "Exile", while intricate harmony guitar lines permeate the brutal crunch of "Breeding Horns". The textured guitar work from both Antonsson & Ola Frenning work wonders on the catchy rocker "Your Beloved Scapegoat", a tune with a chorus that stays with you and never lets go, as well as plenty of fist pumping moments that just scream 'anthem'. Check out some of the interesting black metal styled tremelo picked guitar harmonies thrown in during a few spots on this one, adding an extra flavor to the already successful formula. If you are more interested in classic Soilwork, check out the brutal & blistering cuts like "The Pittsburgh Syndrome", "I, Vermin", "As the Sleeper Awakes", and "20 More Miles".

There's pretty much something for everyone here on Sworn to the Great Divide if you are a fan of modern metal. It's melodic, it's heavy, with just enough atmospheric & gothic bits thrown in for good measure. If you are still waiting for Soilwork to create another Steelbath Suicide or The Chainheart Machine, better look elsewhere, but if you like the direction the band has been going the last five years, then this new CD should fit the bill for you. If there's ever been an album that might really break this band here in the US, it just might be this one, and their upcoming tour with Killswitch Engage & Lamb of God can't hurt either.

The limited edition contains a bonus DVD with a studio report ducumentary, video clip for "Exile", and an official bootleg concert from Switzerland.

Track Listing
1. Sworn To a Great Divide
2. Exile
3. Breeding Thorns
4. Your Beloved Scapegoat
5. The Pittsburgh Syndrome
6. I, Vermin
7. Light Discovering Darkness
8. As the Sleeper Awakes
9. Silent Bullet
10. Sick Heart River
11. 20 More Miles
12. Martyr

Added: January 28th 2008
Reviewer: Pete Pardo
Related Link: Soilwork Website
Hits: 2968
Language: english

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Soilwork: Sworn to the Great Divide
Posted by Ken Pierce, SoT Staff Writer on 2008-01-28 13:06:20
My Score:

When a band like Soilwork has a dramatic change such as the departure of a songwriter like Peter Wichers (who was also their lead guitarist) there are bound to be comments about the band's losing direction, or that it will never be the same again and fortunately for us all some of these comments are the case. Now before you take this as a negative let me remind you of the old saying where "the only constant is change" as this has ALWAYS applied very well to a band like Soilwork. You might also recall that back in the day the band was a purveyor of blazing technical Death Metal and are now more along the lines of Death Metal meets Melodic Metal core and its these changes and advancements in sound that finds the group pressing the charge forward into the future. It's things like this that make a band like Soilwork so appealing in the first place because as far as blazing tech-Death, they have been there and done that and now must explore new ground and make new fans. The bands previous release "Stabbing The Drama" had a considerable amount of melodic influence on it and became a fast favorite of Metal listeners everywhere so I am thinking that the band will again find a winner with "Sworn To A Great Divide" since its stacked with feels we love from the band. The minute it begins we find the band up to their old tricks and offering up a few new ones as Speed makes good on the dueling vocals of raspy growls and superb melodic clean ones. The chorus of the opening, album-titled track has a strong power that the audience will dig into during the live set. The guitar work and overall composition of the tune is strong and in the credits we find that new guy Daniel Antonsson is also responsible for the stellar riffing on it. I like that they had him jump into the writing fray along with Frenning and Strid since it shows the band having confidence in him. I am sure that based on the playing across the record of the two guitarists that he will be a welcome change even in the eyes of those who had trouble with the loss of Wichers. There seemed to be a lock with the new player Antonsson and the existing member Frenning that worked out very well. He doesn't sound like a new guy normally would in a band such as this. There is also a great amount of stand out drumming from Dir Verbeuren who joined the fold in 2004. Dirk is literally a human drum machine with his fast paced, technical patterns that while rich in their content does not come off as over indulgent and showboating. He is lighting fast and at the same time solid as a rock. I think we shall be hearing a lot more praise about this guy in the near future as a talent such as his cannot remain a secret forever. Good job Dirk. The music presented on the new tunes is perfect for the voice of Bjorn "Speed" Strid, who really seems to be getting better at his clean vocals. Yes he has always done them well when they are executed but something about them on this recording made me feel that they were standing out all the more. Given the power he has in his pipes when he sings this way I would like to see him try more Soilwork tunes with this style alone.

As far as the songs are concerned on "STAGD", well I have to admit that they are all a little more commercially viable than that which we found on old Soilwork or even the last effort "Stabbing The Drama". The fans need not worry as the band did not deliver us a Country Western or R&B album, and instead this is more along the lines of classic Thrash with what we find appealing about Soilwork mixed in. I had a little trouble finding a favorite track right off the bat since I was digging the first few numbers on the album enough to let them play a couple of times before I went through the rest of the CD. Notable tunes are definitely to be found on "Exile", "Your Beloved Scapegoat" and "Sick Heart River" nonetheless. Overall the album is strong and can appeal to a wider demographic than the band's earliest stuff based on the changes they have made in their music over the years. Clearly they stand strong on the same stages as bands like Killswitch Engage and Lamb Of God and can win over some of these fans to their own cause without any difficulty. Soilwork shows that change can be good and that a band can remain relevant and powerful after seven albums without showing any signs of wear. Lyrics are included in the booklet and all the tracks seem to be well thought out lyrically. There's a bunch of photos and cool artwork and if you had the special edition it comes slip-cased with a bonus DVD.

DVD: The limited edition features a bonus DVD that includes studio footage with Devin Townsend, a video for the song "Exile" and a full concert bootleg from Switzerland.

2004 Sea Of Tranquility
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