Soilwork are a mainstay and one of the heavyweights of Sweden’s metal scene and along with In Flames have been pouring out quality releases for years. Unlike In Flames, however, one might argue that Soilwork has been improving, rather than regressing, in recent years – quite the achievement for a band whose debut record saw release in 1998. I’ve been a big fan of Soilwork for years, and thought I’d have a stab at ranking their records, but believe me when I say that all of them should find a space on your shelf.
Anyway, let’s get to ranking, from worst to best, naturally.
12. Steelbath Suicide
Soilwork’s first is definitely their weakest, and musically, the most different. It’s thrashier and doesn’t feature any of “Speed’s” excellently smooth chocolate voice. The band hadn’t quite found their sound here.
11. The Chainheart Machine
Soilwork’s second record was a great follow-up to their debut release. The band still hadn’t found their sound that has proven so popular over the years, but The Chainheart Machine was more refined and slightly heavier than Steelbath Suicide. Both of these early albums come highly recommended as quality thrash albums.
10. Sworn to a Great Divide
Sworn to a Great Divide is a good record, combining the more electronic, rockier sounds of Figure Number Five with the thrashier sounds of Stabbing the Drama, but, it isn’t quite as good as either. Musically it finds the band at perhaps their least inventive, but tracks like ‘Your Beloved Scapegoat’, ‘Sworn to a Great Divide’ and ‘As the Sleeper Awakes’ are classics to my ears.
9. Stabbing the Drama
There isn’t much between Stabbing the Drama or Sworn to a Great Divide, but I’ve got a little more nostalgia for this record (it being the first Soilwork album I ever listened to). Title track ‘Stabbing the Drama’ is legendary, but the rest of the album doesn’t quite live up to the brilliant opening.
8. Death Resonance
Death Resonance is a collection of B-sides and unreleased tracks from over the years, with a couple of re-recorded versions of classic tracks thrown in for good measure. It’s an utterly fantastic record but doesn’t quite list as a full-fat Soilwork release.
7. The Panic Broadcast
There was a little bit of unrest amongst Soilwork fans after the releases of Figure Number Five, Stabbing the Drama and Sworn to a Great Divide. Say it quietly, but the band was beginning to become a little one-note. After some fans cried out over the supposed lack in quality of Sworn to a Great Divide, longtime guitarist Peter Wichers came crawling back and helped set the band off in the path they’ve been following since. The sound is bigger and slightly bolder than what came before.
6. Figure Number Five
The first in Soilwork’s slightly more electronic-leaning trilogy of records, and the best, Figure Number Five is a classic record. The heavier riffs, surely taking some inspiration from the American nu-metal scene, mixed with great keyboard playing made for some unique tracks in Soilwork’s long discography. While the thrashier sound may be missing to some extent, Figure Number Five is heavy in a different way.
Soilwork’s latest is perhaps the band’s cheesiest record to date. It feels as though it has taken inspiration from Bjorn’s second band, The Night Flight Orchestra, offering a lighter, slightly more accessible sound than the likes of The Living Infinite and The Ride Majestic. At its core, however, Verkligheten is still a melodic death smorgasbord, featuring everything you’d want from a Soilwork record. It’s catchy as anything they’ve ever produced, with plenty of heavy barnstormers to get stuck into.
4. Natural Born Chaos
Fast, heavy and stupidly catchy. Natural Born Chaos is probably the record I’d choose to play to anyone who hasn’t heard any of the band’s material before. There’s something from every era of Soilwork’s discography here. You may be wondering why it’s not top of this list based on what I’ve said, but the answer to that is simple – it’s not quite as good as what comes next.
3. The Living Infinite
How do you follow-up an album that reinvented a band, such as The Panic Broadcast did in 2010? Soilwork’s answer was emphatic. They built upon the sound and themes of The Panic Broadcast and put together a 2-CD 20 track offering. Not one of the tracks feels like wasted space. The Living Infinite is a grand old record that any self-respecting fan of metal should own.
2. The Ride Majestic
How does a band follow-up a 20-track magnum opus? With The Ride Majestic of course. It’s darker in tone than anything Soilwork has produced before, with a grander sense of scale. It’s a nigh-on perfect record, full of excellent moments that will make the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end:
It’s a smart, dark and powerful album filled to the brim with incredible moments you didn’t think Soilwork were capable of. I was blown away the first time I listened to this record, and thirty listens on, I am still blown away.
1. A Predator’s Portrait
How could Soilwork have made anything better than The Ride Majestic? It’s a question I ask myself from time to time, but to find the answer one must look back into their past. A Predator’s Portrait is the perfect combination of the band’s early thrash style, and the modern, stadium-filling sound they go for. No, it might not share the musical nous of the band’s more modern offerings, but as far as melodic death metal mixed with thrash goes, A Predator’s Portrait is the best album you will ever listen to.