A Croon With A View
Soilwork return, and with Peter Wichers back in their ranks and in the producer’s chair, fresh from working with Warrell Dane and twiddling Nevermore’s knobs, I approached this album with the tentative hopes of a horny ugly man at a blind nightclub.
With melodies so sickly that even Stock, Aitken and Waterman might call them wimpy poofs, I had the insulin on standby in case my blood-sugar level was too dramatically affected by Soilwork’s trademark melodic death metal stylings. Luckily the album opens with Late for the Kill, Early for the Slaughter and some straight-up, honest-to-goodness blastology, accompanied by an abrasiveness that hasn’t really been present since the days of A Predator’s Portrait. As predictably as night following day, the chorus comes in and starts softly massaging your nuts, however something is different… the vocals are not clean and the chorus doesn’t sound like a different song altogether. This is a true surprise finger up the bum for the Soilwork listening experience. The following track – Two Lives Worth of Reckoning – goes back to the tried and tested template, however, and features a chorus hook so silky smooth you could turn it into a pair of exceedingly comfortable y-fronts.
The album continues like this, with chorus-driven sing-along’s like Night Comes Clean sitting side by side with the really heavy, primitive sound showcased on King of the Threshold. Now, Soilwork have attempted this sort of thing before, notably on the last couple of albums, but it has always been fairly hit-or-miss for me and I would invariably end up listening to their older albums which offered one or the other instead. This, however, pulls the balance off with aplomb, and as a result is the first Soilwork album in a long time to really hold my interest. Though it does veer perilously close to the seas of shit, vapid, soulless, lifeless, toilet-paper thin, mawkish, cynical, fanny flap commerciality where Bullet for my Valentine dwell, Soilwork manage to deftly navigate safe passage thanks to their superior riffs and vocals. Rather than sounding twee and anaemic, Björn “Speed” Strid‘s vocals are as thick and luxurious as a swimming pool full of caramel, while the immaculate guitar tone and expansive drumming ensures that the instrumentals are suitably crushing to add a solid steel backbone to the crooning.
There are a lot of songs on here that could conceivably be Eurovision entries, and The Akuma Afterglow is probably the gayest song I’ve heard in my entire life, yet at no point did I feel like I was listening to drivel, I was just enjoying really solid, melodic metal. Over and above the instrumental superiority, Soilwork seem to bring an honesty and sense of feeling that elevates The Panic Broadcast above the (many) Killswitch Engages of this world. This sort of music is so easy to get very, very wrong indeed, and Soilwork are one of the only bands who can pull off Melodic Death Metal as modern and commercial as this without sounding like they’re after your little sisters pocket money.
The Panic Broadcast sees a welcome return for an influential songwriter and is a welcome return to their finest sparkling form; an album brimming with confidence, riffs and melody that will work deep inside your brain and have you nodding your head and singing along like an extraordinarily drunk man at a karaoke bar.