Sworn to a Great Divide (Nuclear Blast)
by Tim Den
I hate to admit it, but my first impression of Sworn to a Great Divide wasn’t that good. After having perfected the union between accessible hooks and Swedish death metal on their last two albums, Figure Number Five and Stabbing the Drama, Soilwork‘s latest platter almost sounds like an afterthought. The riffs, breakdowns, blast beats, and expected “clean choruses” are all exactly where they should be, yet you’re not moved during the experience and can barely recall the specific songs once the album is done. Could it be that Soilwork had figured out their songwriting formula and were now afraid to stray from the path? At first glance, it seemed so.
But with repeated listens, I grew to embrace Sworn to a Great Divide just cuz, well, sometimes a by-the-books melodic death metal album from Soilwork is exactly what a person needs. So what if the structure and writing is predictable? The music still satisfies the fan in me that wants to shred to some aggro verse and then belt out an anthemic chorus. And it wouldn’t be a stretch to say that the latter characteristic is what ultimately makes this record worth revisiting. The likes of “Breeding Thorns,” “Light Discovering Darkness,” and “As the Sleeper Awakes” feature riveting singing from vocalist Björn “Speed” Strid that eventually becomes the main reason you play the tunes over and over again. Even first single, “Exile,” a relatively tame number, will win your ears with its persistent catchiness. The highlight, however, is “Sick Heart River” (written by keyboardist Sven Karlsson, no less), where the band temper,with affecting arpeggios, a lilting time signature, and an explosive chorus that’s the only moment on Sworn to a Great Divide where veins bulge and eyes pop. Rate this sucker five stars on your iPod and play it ’til you puke.
While it’s far from their best, Sworn to a Great Divide nevertheless is enough to satiate those of us who want a no-brainer Soilwork album. And who knows? Maybe its conventional nature will cause a reaction in the band to create something more daring next time around.