Death Metal Underground

Soilwork – The Living Infinite

by Brett Stevens
April 12, 2013 –

soilwork-the_living_infiniteIf you ever find yourself wondering why mainstream music produces so many professional and well-produced acts while metal seems pasted-together in comparison, worry no more: Soilwork has invented a new form of radio-friendly metal that competes with the big bands you can hear on the radio.

Much of metal’s heritage is pop. Iron Maiden, Queensryche and even easy-listening death metal like Cannibal Corpse follow the pop formula. What they are not is systematic in listening to their own material, analyzing it, following published research on effective songwriting and thus, consistent. A professional band approaches music like science. Every part of every song must be deliberate, which requires organization and to put it bluntly, work. This anti-hobbyist view threatens metalheads two ways. First, it points out that we could do better, with self-discipline; second, it points out that the world isn’t as simple as “all pop is crap” and “all underground is good.” Pop is musically competent and in many ways surpasses the underground bands.

The Living Infinite manipulates human emotions like a Hollywood mega-movie. All aspects of this work are thoroughly professional. Nothing is left to chance. Every iota is calculated to produce an effect that works together to make a greater whole. Production is also a masterpiece, creating a glassine space that resonates with guitar sound and avoids crowding of the distorted tracks. Every aspect that wants to be heard can be heard, and through the magic of ProTools or an analogue, identical parts are (literally) identical. In itself, the production makes you want to relish this release because it gives it big-radio pop gloss without truly emulsifying the product into uniformity.

The style of the music is designed based on what has become highly popular for metal over the past two decades. If you can imagine Iron Maiden, The Haunted, Rammstein and Amon Amarth in a blender, you can see where Soilwork get their influences. It mixes the sweet dual lead guitar work of NWOBHM with the bouncing riffs and “carnival music” detours of metalcore. You will hear a Blind Guardian influence in the surging choruses and sparkly bright major key vocal melodies, and you could detect later Queensryche’s hybrid of indie rock, glam metal and power metal in its use of vocal hooks and interwoven rhythm lines. There are no ballads, per se; the ballad effect has been swept up in the metal effect, which is itself subsumed in the rock effect.

Soilwork target the audience for guitar-heavy bands like Dire Straights or Rush with the appeal of melodic metal and the positivity of power metal (which has a lot in common with modern Christian rock in this respect). While The Living Infinite may not satisfy the underground or true metal palate, its goal is not to appeal to that audience, but the people out there listening to mainstream rock who are looking for something that goes a bit further without going to a truly dark place. For that purpose, this heavily guitar-oriented band serves as an introduction and baptism into what could eventually become a dangerous metal habit.

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22 comments

    1. Tralf

      Read between the lines. He’s basically saying it sucks, based on what we know Brett traditionally looks for in a metal album. Why he doesn’t rip it to shreds a la sadistic metal reviews is beyond me.

      1. Brett Stevens Post author

        I’m trying to express something relatively complex here. This is a pop-oriented CD.

        However, there’s a reason Lady Gaga, U2 and Eminem make the big bucks: their stuff is catchy, musical and highly proficient. That it’s simple and vapid are secondary to musical concerns. They also have amazing production.

        Soilwork is attempting to make a metal version of those, like an updated Iron Maiden. It’s not for many of us, but we should notice what it does well and see if there’s anything to learn from it.

        We are afraid of no music on this site, but we call it like we see it, but that’s a privilege that requires honesty. Any fool can write a “wow, this blows” review but that isn’t going to capture what’s happening here, nor the interesting parts of this story, and I wouldn’t expect you to read it.

        Besides, stay tuned for the upcoming return of Sadistic Metal Reviews… you will see unkindness, cruelty, and bare-bones earth-level aggressive realism.

        It will drive you to religion.

    2. Brett Stevens Post author

      Not really. It’s an interesting phenomenon — the metal album designed to compete with high-powered pop. I would say it’s highly successful in that aim. I recommend that death metal fans give this a listen, actually, because it’s a very astute synthesis of elements that make for a successful radio metal album.

  • Tralf

    For that purpose, this heavily guitar-oriented band serves as an introduction and baptism into what could eventually become a dangerous metal habit.

    Instead of trying to lure people in by writing cryptic reviews on shit modern metal, why not try promoting entry-level bands like Metallica and Iron Maiden, which don’t suck and have an even wider appeal.

    1. Brett Stevens Post author

      We’d like to have more reviews of those, but it’s kind of not news, since 1983 is long behind us. I guess we could cover newer Metallica releases, but they have a similar approach to Soilwork, except they’re working the classic rock angle instead of the big pop angle.

      Phil Spector would have loved this album.

  • Radio Pop

    Now the main goal: How much further can Soilwork tuck in their balls and tailor their imaginary lady-parts so they can be receivers preteen angst?

    “While The Living Infinite may not satisfy the underground or true metal palate, its goal is not to appeal to that audience, but the people out there listening to mainstream rock who are looking for something that goes a bit further without going to a truly dark place.”

    Nice way to say it’s shit without calling it shit. :)

  • Archibald

    What the fuck is going on here. The artilce, ‘Brett’s’ reply…. It’s all slightly amiss. did I eat some acid?

  • OscarTheCouch

    A guess the argument here is, is Soilwork a gateway drug or a placebo.

    I think this article is a good analysis of a band in cultural context.
    Can’t we admire a band’s work even if it doesn’t grab us by the cojones and sling us around?

  • Der

    Tom Petty definitely makes me want to listen to metal, like biting into a rotten apple makes me want a tasty beverage.

  • archibald

    ‘Admire’ is a loaded word, and brings in elements of a wrong-headed type of relativism. Of course we can ANALYSE a band’s work even it we don’t like it, but the degree of criticism that is incorporated into this analysis is the controversial issue with this post.

  • Anon

    Iron Maiden = Pop band? Phantom of the Opera, Rime of the Ancient Mariner, and 1986-1990 would beg to differ.

    This place has become a joke. Would you mind changing the URL, so people won’t be confused and think this is a Death Metal website?

    1. fallot

      Iron Maiden was and is popular metal. It is pop music with a pop music intent, doesnt mean it is bad music. Soilwork however, is bad music. No two ways around that. A shiny turd is still a turd.

      ”In itself, the production makes you want to relish this release because it gives it big-radio pop gloss without truly emulsifying the product into uniformity.”

      Perhaps not utter uniformity, but a dreary homogeneity certainly. The dearth of fine ideas makes the gloss even more unpalatable. Style without substance. As intended? Sure, whatever. I hope it is worth it giving bands like this a pedestal. It is true that stuff like this can be an important stepping stone into extreme metal (Children of Bodom anyone?) for a lot of people, but so is nearly any noisy guitar driven popular genre.

      1. Anon

        As far as I understand it, the intent of Iron Maiden is to write Heavy Metal with a focus on Romantic themes (struggle/war, the fantastic, the darker side of humanity, etc.), give or take forays into the ridiculous (e.g. Holy Smoke, which isn’t even bad). Their thematic content and focus on rhythmic complexity and non-standard song structures makes them a pretty progressive pop band… ; )

        As far as “as intended” goes: if I intend to take a shit, and succeed, does the action become even moderately praiseworthy due to my having fulfilled my intention?

    2. Metal Command

      Back in 1983, people were talking about how 666 was the pop album from Iron Maiden. Pop doesn’t mean “bad,” it just means that you’re looking at crowd-pleasing sing a long material, usually standard song for as well. Some of metal’s greats like Black Sabbath, Queensryche, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest and even Motorhead used the pop formula.

  • Metal Command

    HOLY FUCKING SHIT IT’S A SELL OUT!

    What’s upsetting most of you is that this band is actually professional. Unlike most underground bands, they listen to each riff and song piece and make sure they’re all of good musical quality and well-executed. Underground bands don’t do that. They spend the money on drugs and try to figure it out in the studio. This band is just a lot more professional than any band in the underground, and that’s why they’re popular. It’s simple music and simple-hearted music, but it’s not bad. It’s vapid. There’s a difference.

    I think most of us are just somewhat outraged that so many of the bands we’re encouraged to support for the kvlt are nowhere near this professional. Who cares about the production, but I think a lot of bands don’t go back through their songs and listen hard to each part, thinking “Is this good enough?” They just write it and then… they’re done. That’s one reason the underground is declining. It’s hasty and half-ass.

    As far as will I ever listen to Soilwork again: hell no. I hate vapid candy-ass music, and that’s what this is. It’s not any different from your average power metal or metalcore band though. We just notice them more because they’re succeeding. In fact, arguing that this band is any different than At the Gates Slaughter of the Soul or Immolation Majesty and Decay is really pointless. They’re the same thing. Soilwork is just better at it.

    I think that’s why it rankles. The sell-out bands are outperforming the true ones, and the true ones by trying to sell out are just showing themselves to be less competent, less professional and not deserving of the big time. Recent Slayer sounds haphazard in comparison to this, and quite honestly, I prefer this over the sloppy riffs and junkyard songwriting of the new Immolation style. There’s no point bringing up the most recent Morbid Angel.

  • 1349

    Rumpsteak – i mean, Rammstein – do broadcast vir, onto a broad audience, in their image and music/sound.
    Soilwork do not. They sound like hysterics of a (rather successful) yuppie-hippie in a shopping mall; at the same time they’re too “brutal” (on the surface) for the pop listener to easily take in.
    I mean, can Soilwork really be an entry-level band leading to good metal? We can only hope…