July 14, 2010

Album Review: "The Panic Broadcast" by Soilwork

Few bands in the world can match the sheer raw talent that is held in Soilwork's lineup. Guitarist Peter Wichers, back in the band after a three-year break, is one of the best composers in all of melodic death metal, and newly-joined fellow guitarist Sylvain Coudret is incredibly well-versed in a multitude of styles. Bassist Ola Flink and keyboardist Sven Karlsson are both among the most underrated musicians on their respective instruments, and drummer Dirk Verbeuren is known around the world for his metronomic precision in Aborted, Scarve, Sybreed, and a number of other bands in addition to Soilwork. And of course, vocalist Björn "Speed" Strid is widely considered to be one of the best singers to emerge from Sweden in the past two decades, with his instantly recognizable voice and versatile range. With such a talented cast of players, Soilwork's newest album, The Panic Broadcast, has a high level of expectation surrounding it. This album not only meets those expectations, it blows them clear out of the water.

The first minute of this album is all it takes to show just how badly the band missed Wichers' presence on 2007's Sworn to a Great Divide. Granted, that album was still quite good, and Wichers' replacement, Daniel Antonsson of Dimension Zero and Dark Tranquillity, performed excellently in his place. But the songwriting was somewhat lacking on that album, and Wichers makes it obvious with the immediately amazing composition on "Late for the Kill, Early for the Slaughter". The whole album is filled with similarly extraordinary instances of songwriting brilliance. From the shades of thrash mixed into "Deliverance is Mine" and the haunting melodies of "Let This River Flow", to the infectious groove of "Epitome" and the relentless pure death metal speed of "King of the Threshold", this single album has more nuance and diversity than most bands can hope to encompass in an entire career.

Strid displays his brilliance throughout every note of The Panic Broadcast, further proving why he has earned guest vocal spots with the likes of Destruction, Mercenary, and Demon Hunter in recent years. His clean singing is stronger, more powerful, and more operatic than it has ever been, and his growls and screams carry more viciousness than anything his contemporaries could offer. It's easy to see why Strid is one of the most recognizable and sought-after singers in metal. Very few vocalists, be they fresh-faced newcomers or hardened veterans of metal, can match his skills and stylistic mastery.

The Panic Broadcast is even better than any Soilwork fan could have anticipated. Longtime listeners have been waiting for a successor to 2002's pivotal Natural Born Chaos, while newcomers to the band will expect a continuation of the catchy, semi-commercialized style of Sworn to a Great Divide. This album delivers on both counts, which is no easy feat by any means. More importantly, though, The Panic Broadcast shows just how wide the spectrum can go for Soilwork. There is nothing holding this band back now, and on this album, they've proven themselves to any remaining detractors in a huge way.

Score: 8.5 out of 10

Track Listing

1. Late for the Kill, Early for the Slaughter
2. Two Lives Worth of Reckoning
3. The Thrill
4. Deliverance is Mine
5. Night Comes Clean
6. King of the Threshold
7. Let This River Flow
8. Epitome
9. The Akuma Afterglow
10. Enter Dog of Pavlov
11. Sweet Demise

Album Personnel

Björn "Speed" Strid – Vocals
Peter Wichers – Lead guitar
Sylvain Coudret – Rhythm guitar
Ola Flink – Bass guitar
Sven Karlsson – Keyboards
Dirk Verbeuren – Drums

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