A Predator’s Portrait
In the wide world of metal, that old cliché “third time’s a charm” is a relevant factor: On their trifecta release, a metal band fatefully proves whether they will posit themselves as future legends or mere mediocrity dwellers. Ergo, a small sampling of third albums in the heavy metal genre: Master of Reality, Reign In Blood, Master Of Puppets, The Number of the Beast, Whoracle. Soilwork’s third album, A Predator’s Portrait, proves this adage out• to a point. Following up their promising, not-quite-yet-superstar-status sophomore platter, The Chainheart Machine, Sweden’s Soilwork continue to finely hone their post-Gothenburg death/thrash/rock attack into blood-caked razor wire on A Predator’s Portrait, with frontman Bjorn “Speed” Strid agilely moving from his tastefully decipherable rasp to a previously unearthed clean channel (no doubt influenced by Opeth’s Mikael Akerfeldt, who also makes a guest appearance on the title track) and keyboardist Carlos Del Olmo melding subtle, yet integral, atmospheres onto the meltdown riffs of Ola Frenning and Peter Wichers. And speaking of the two axe-slingers, Frenning and Wichers have now become a masterful tandem, balancing the searing riffery of latter-day At The Gates and the soaring leads of modern-day In Flames with equally stout-hearted aplomb, their lines remaining both dynamic and familiar, because, like all great musicians, they’ve now become a law unto themselves. All the above considered, then, what truly sets A Predator’s Portrait apart from the band’s humble beginnings is the songs themselves, all of which are immediately memorable without pandering to formula, all of which logically flow from one to another without overshadowing the one before or after, all of which bespeak “this is Soilwork and no one else.”
Truth be told, however, much like The Haunted’s recent The Haunted Made Me Do It, A Predator’s Portrait isn’t necessarily the simultaneously life-damning/-affirming blow this writer was expecting. It’s times like these when I curse my station in life as a music journalist and its consequent alterations, now forever etched, to my music-appreciating psyche. As a metal fan, the record is top-notch: compelling and crushing, memorable and mesmerizing. But as a metal critic, I can only image that, had A Predator’s Portrait been full of songs as devastating as the title track to The Chainheart Machine (the album’s standout, and the band’s finest four minutes so far), the record could well have been as mind-blowing and classic-status-ready as the aforementioned holy texts. But comparing A Predator’s Portrait to them? That’s like comparing any random Michael Chricton novel to Crime And Punishment • here’s to crossed fingers for Soilwork’s next one.
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