Wow. So, it’s been like 10 years since I’ve listened to Soilwork and it turns out that they don’t sound at all even remotely the same. Sometimes a band falls off your radar and you don’t even think about them at all and honestly, Soilwork is one such band. Now, it’s probably not a surprise to anyone else but I was in utter shock when I turned on The Panic Broadcast to discover that the Gothenburg sound had totally been replaced by eurocore! See, now you’re laughing at my ignorance, but I’m a bit surprised. See, in Angry Metal World, the last record that Soilwork released was actually The Chainheart Machine in 2000. And back then, these guys were playing a not-entirely-novel, but very, very good version of the Gothenburg sound. Turns out in the much lamer real world Soilwork has had a bunch of records and gotten a new vocal style, a new sound and hyper-produced.
So I guess the best thing I can say here is that these guys are very good at what they do. The Panic Broadcast is commercial metal of the most workmanlike efficient stripe. For 48 minutes, the listener is bombarded with corey style screams and overproduced clean vocals from ex-Darkane screamer-in-chief Bjorn Strid, thick groove-based riffing, replaced drums and Swedish mainstream melodic sensibility. What struck me, honestly, was that when I ripped Sonic Syndicate apart for how bad they suck, they were just copping Soilwork‘s sound. I mean, really just ripping it right off their CD. But like Sonic Syndicate or Scar Symmetry, Soilwork (from Sweden, incidentally, that’s some alliteration!) has really just given into this groove based riffing which gives way eventually to a ridiculously catchy chorus that seems to be the focus of all of the songwriting.
But like I said, they’re good at what they do. Unlike Sonic Syndicate they have songs that are worth listening to and while you can take the death metal out of the band (because this is definitely not death metal), you can’t take the talent out of it. Soilwork was famous because of their amazing guitar solos and creative writing which shined on The Chainheart Machine and Steelbath Suicide, and that inventiveness hasn’t disappeared, especially since lead guitarist Peter Wichers is back in the fold. I would go so far as to say that the guitar solos on The Panic Broadcast probably are the high point for me, threading the needle between technical and melodic and producing some of the most memorable moments on the album.
But as a fan of death metal and old Soilwork I have a hell of a time accepting this for what it is. This is soullessly overproduced commercial metal of the most flagrant kind. While tracks like the ripping opener “Late for the Kill, Early for the Slaughter” and “King of the Threshold” harken back to the days when Soilwork were heavy with blasting and solid death metal riffs, I can’t get past the fact that all the songwriting seems to be a vehicle for a huge chorus that is designed to get stuck in your head for days (and really does get stuck in your head for days, fuckers). There doesn’t seem to be as much substance in the writing as there is a formula. Oh, also, I don’t actually like Bjorn Strid’s vocals. I didn’t like them in Darkane and I’m not a huge fan of them here, either, though the clean vocals do shine on songs like “Let This River Flow”, which stands out from the herd.
So it is with a bit of unease that I say: if you’re a fan of newer Soilwork and of this modern Swedish metal movement, you’re probably really going to like this. The band continues on with their core modern sound (which I listened to on YouTube to find out) while improving the guitar solos and writing, arguably, their best songs since the early 2000s. The songs are catchy, the riffs are pretty good and the production is just as sterile and overproduced as it can possibly be in the modern era. That said, however, it doesn’t send me into a rage like Sonic Syndicate did, and there are even songs on here that I like despite my strong knee jerk reactions when I first got the CD. But if you’re an old fan excited by the fact that Wichers is back in the band, don’t hold your breath. This record has some stand out moments that will appeal to you a bit, but I guarantee you it’ll send you, disappointed, back to your CD shelf to pull out some of their early material.