Album Review – Soilwork / Övergivenheten (2022)

Musically and lyrically evolved, Swedish Melodic Death Metal masters are back with a fantastic new opus dealing with darker thoughts that have shaped the band itself.

Musically and lyrically evolved, Swedish Melodic Death Metal masters Soilwork are back with their twelfth studio album, entitled Övergivenheten, the follow-up to the amazing Verkligheten and one of their most complex and elaborate albums to date, strengthening their legacy even more in the world of heavy music. Recorded and produced by Thomas “Plec” Johansson and Soilwork at Nordic Sound Lab, and mixed and mastered by the same Thomas “Plec” Johansson at The Panic Room (assisted by Simon Eliasson and Viktor Brunö), Övergivenheten, which means “abandonment” in Swedish, deals with darker thoughts that have shaped the band itself and affected the development process of the album. The personal struggles align with social difficulties outside of the band, all embraced by the first-class, sharp music beautifully crafted by frontman Björn “Speed” Strid, guitarists Sylvain Coudret and David Andersson, bassist Rasmus Ehrnborn, keyboardist Sven Karlsson, and drummer Bastian Thusgaard.

The acoustic guitars and banjo by guest Johan Randén kick off the multi-layered title-track Övergivenheten before Björn and his henchmen begin a fantastic sonic attack showcasing melodious riffs, rhythmic beats and endless adrenaline; followed by Nous Sommes La Guerre, or “we are the war” from French, where the ladies’ choir brings an extra kick to the music while Björn beautifully declaims the song’s lyrics (“I can feel the shadows enter, risin’ from the earth / Now that everyone is giving me the widest berth / I have nightly visits, sentient absence watchin’ me / Nurturin’ the itch where other worlds are scratchin’ me”). There’s no time to breathe as the band keeps slamming their instruments in Electric Again, with Sylvain and David doing an amazing job armed with their stringed axes; and in Valleys Of Gloam the skillful Bastian adds tons of groove to the overall result is a first-class Melodic Death Metal feast for the masses. Let’s then slam into the circle pit together with the Soilwork boys in the striking, high-octane Is It In Your Darkness, with Bastian hammering his drums mercilessly supported by the rumbling bass by Rasmus, whereas the band keeps invading our senses with their dense, groovy Melodic Death Metal in Vultures, where Rasmus is on fire with his metallic bass lines, being therefore perfect for headbanging like a true metalmaniac. After the short, atmospheric instrumental interlude Morgongåva / Stormfågel, or “morning gift / stormbird” from Swedish, it’s time for us all to bang our heads to Death, I Hear You Calling, a solid composition where Björn’s angry vocals match perfectly with the song’s lyrics, pace and heaviness, meaning it should work amazingly if played live.

The gentle keys by Sven are suddenly joined by a wall of sounds spearheaded by Bastian’s crushing beats in This Godless Universe, presenting elements form Death and even Black Metal which bring a touch of eccentricity to it. More modern than its predecessors, Dreams Of Nowhere offers another round of their caustic lyrics (“Bleeding through the blanching skin you’re / Offering the Gods your name / Bound to see the sunrise fading / The everlasting flame”), flowing into the whimsical interlude The Everlasting Flame, where Sven will captivate your senses once again before we’re treated to tons of progressiveness in the form of Golgata, with Sylvain and David extracting sheer electricity form their guitars, providing Björn with exactly what he needs to fire both his guttural roars and his classic clean vocals. Those Swedish metallers still have a lot of fuel to burn in the album, with Harvest Spine being the perfect depiction of how heavy and melodic they can sound at the same time and with Björn stealing the spotlight once again with his flammable vocals; and lastly we have On The Wings Of A Goddess Through Flaming Sheets Of Rain, a stunning name for an incendiary song that begins in a sinister manner before evolving into one last Melodic Death Metal attack by Soilwork, offering our avid ears piercing, strident riffs and solos, massive blast beats and stylish keys, putting an outstanding ending to Övergivenheten.

Needless to say, Soilwork did it again, kicking some serious ass with their undisputed Melodic Death Metal throughout the entire Övergivenheten while always loyal to their core essence (even when experimenting with new elements and sounds). Hence, don’t forget to check what the band is up to on Facebook and on Instagram, to subscribe to their official YouTube channel for their official videos, to stream more of their top-of-the-line creations on Spotify, and above all that, to grab your favorite version of Övergivenheten by clicking HERE or HERE. Övergivenheten is one of those albums that not only represents what Soilwork are all about, but it also emanates a sharp and strong energy that’s the result of all of the aforementioned personal struggles from the band members, proving once again heavy music is always the best remedy for any type of adverse situation.

Best moments of the album: Is It In Your Darkness, Death, I Hear You Calling, Harvest Spine and On The Wings Of A Goddess Through Flaming Sheets Of Rain.

Worst moments of the album: Dreams Of Nowhere.

Released in 2022 Nuclear Blast

Track listing
1. Övergivenheten 5:45
2. Nous Sommes La Guerre 6:53
3. Electric Again 4:22
4. Valleys Of Gloam 4:11
5. Is It In Your Darkness 4:04
6. Vultures 5:47
7. Morgongåva / Stormfågel 1:33
8. Death, I Hear You Calling 4:41
9. This Godless Universe 4:41
10. Dreams Of Nowhere 4:29
11. The Everlasting Flame 1:06
12. Golgata 4:59
13. Harvest Spine 5:10
14. On The Wings Of A Goddess Through Flaming Sheets Of Rain 7:31

Band members
Björn “Speed” Strid – vocals
Sylvain Coudret – guitar
David Andersson – guitar
Rasmus Ehrnborn – bass
Sven Karlsson – keyboards
Bastian Thusgaard – drums

Guest musicians
Johan Randén – acoustic guitars and banjo on “Övergivenheten”
Laila Prigorowsky, Helene Alexandersson, Catrine Ellwen, Gonca Yazan, Jenny Ericsson & Cia von Heijne – ladies’ choir on “Nous Sommes La Guerre”

Album Review – MĀRA / Self-Destruct. Survive. Thrive! EP (2020)

It’s time to self-destruct, survive and thrive together with the most dynamic, hardworking and promising unity of the Latvian metal scene.

If you’ve never heard of any metal bands hailing from the Republic of Latvia, a country in the Baltic region of Northern Europe, you should definitely take a shot at Riga-based Death, Thrash and Groove Metal unity MĀRA, who has just unleashed upon humanity the excellent EP entitled Self​-​Destruct. Survive. Thrive!, the follow-up to their highly-acclaimed 2018 debut EP Therapy For An Empath. Formed in 2018, the group spearheaded by the ravishing Māra Lisenko together with her bandmates Denis Melnik on the guitars, Dmitry Lisenko on bass and Alberts Mednis on drums has been making a name for themselves since their inception, having already played in several summer festivals and toured all across Europe, also supporting renowned metal acts the likes of Sepultura, Krisiun and Satyricon. In their newborn spawn Self​-​Destruct. Survive. Thrive!, the quartet offers more of their trademark metallic and industrialized sounds, with each one of the album’s songs bringing a true and self-experienced storyline, therefore inviting us all to find out more about the band and, above all, about ourselves, all embraced by the stylish artwork by Latvian artist Gundega Bārzdaine (Mad Meow Art).

As we face the intro titled Mīļā Māra, or “Dear Māra” in English (as if she was going to start writing a letter to herself), a shamanic and enfolding atmosphere sets the stage for Leaking Guilt, starting in a serene manner guided by gentle piano notes before morphing into visceral and futuristic Melodic Death Metal. Furthermore, Denis is infernal with his riffs, accompanied by the thunderous beats by Alberts and of course by Māra’s sharp fusion of clean vocals and demented roars; followed by Beauty Of Humanity, featuring the iconic Björn Strid (Soilwork) as a guest vocalist and presenting lyrics about the decay of mankind (“Brutal truth / Smashes your face against the wall / Cut enough wounds open / To feast on your blood / You’re dragged behind a car / Barely alive / Still asked to smile and hide all your pain”). It’s indeed an electrifying hybrid of Death and Groove Metal, with Dmitry extracting sheer savagery from his rumbling bass.

Then putting the pedal to the metal the quartet pierces our minds with their Arch Enemy-inspired extravaganza titled Religionipulation, by far my favorite track of the EP where Māra is on fire with her enraged growls and gnarls while Denis and Dmitry smash their stringed weapons in great fashion. And an eerie atmosphere ignites the dark and heavy Life Kills (Fear), bringing forward psychological words blasted by Māra (“Eternity passes / Me, blood and the ground / Thoughts of the existence / Rhetoric questions echo / Silence suppresses / Voices in the head scream / Begging for a help / Voice never follows”) while Dmitry adds endless groove and energy to the music with his bass punches. Lastly, featuring guest bassist Jeff Hughell from Six Feet Under, Don’t Look Back In Grief sounds perfect for breaking your neck headbanging, with Māra’s she-demon vocals being once again captivating from start to finish in their fast, furious and modern Death Metal feast.

MĀRA have already been rated #1 for “Brutal Female Fronted Metal” and have scored in the top 6 best EP releases of 2018 with their debut album, which also won the “Album of the Year” award at the 2018 Latvian Metal Music Awards, not to mention that their relentless frontwoman has topped many “Best Female Metal Vocalists” polls in the past couple of years as well as won the “Best Vocalist” award at that same 2018 ceremony. Having said that, it’s more than obvious that the band will continue to pave their path to stardom with Self​-​Destruct. Survive. Thrive!, which you can stream in full on Spotify and purchase from the band’s own BandCamp page or from Apple Music, an album that might be short in duration with only 21 minutes of music, but that carries an endless amount of energy, feeling and groove spiced up by meaningful and clever lyrics. Hence, don’t forget to follow MĀRA on Facebook, on Instagram and on YouTube, proving you have what it takes to self-destruct, survive and thrive together with Māra and the boys.

Best moments of the album: Religionipulation and Life Kills (Fear).

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2020 Independent

Track listing
1. Intro (Mīļā Māra) 1:01
2. Leaking Guilt 3:44
3. Beauty Of Humanity 4:06
4. Religionipulation 3:44
5. Life Kills (Fear) 4:30
6. Don’t Look Back In Grief 4:14

Band members
Māra Lisenko – vocals
Denis Melnik – guitars
Dmitry Lisenko – bass
Alberts Mednis – drums

Guest musicians
Björn Strid – additional vocals on “Beauty Of Humanity”
Jeff Hughell – additional bass on “Don’t Look Back In Grief”
Artur Georgadze – synths and audio effects