Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Album Review: Soilwork - "Death Resonance"

The release of a collection of rarities from any band is automatically a reason to pause as a fan.  Absent the most dedicated completists among the faithful, the fans at large are always skeptical of rarities albums because the band can package it however they want, the overriding message is always one of ‘here’s a bunch of stuff we had kicking around that we’d like to cash in on.’  The cynical among us would even suggest that fans shouldn’t spend their hard-earned dollars here, because these are all songs that the band didn’t think were good enough to make the grade the first time around, and why has that suddenly changed?

Now, that’s not to doom Soilwork’s “Death Resonance” out of hand, but it does tell of a cautionary note that goes into the proceedings of listening to the record.  Now, there’s some saving graces incorporated here.  There’s the usual window dressing of a couple previously unrecorded tracks, but the meat here is that most of these songs had been released in some form previously, predominantly in the Asian market (sidebar – why does Asia always get the expanded releases?  Somebody explain this to me.)

So, to spin an unusual analogy, let’s compare “Death Resonance” to making meatballs.  You know when you’re making meatballs and you get down to the scraps of your meat mixture, and you scoop all the odd and ends and remnants together and compress them into one final meatball that finishes off the batch?  Sure, maybe it’s smaller than the others, or has a higher bread crumb percentage or just doesn’t look as pristine as the prime meatballs, but damn it, it’s still a meatball, and it still tastes good.  That last meatball is “Death Resonance.”

By this point you probably all think I’ve lost my wits (as though you didn’t suspect that before,) so let me elaborate.  First things first, and let’s get the bad stuff out of the way.  The five remixes at the end of this record?  Cut ‘em.  They don’t add much but time to the record, and they’re worth listening to once, but don’t add a ton of ‘wow’ material to the overall experience.  So boil this down to ten songs before you dig in.

Where “Death Resonsance” really shines is as an active chronicle of Soilwork’s career starting  at the end of phase two (if you will,) and up to the present (phase three, by most accounts.)  Some of this material dates as far back as “Stabbing the Drama,” which is now eleven years old, if you can believe it (where does the time go?) and runs right up to the two new cuts, reflecting the many changes of the band over that time period.  Over the duration of this collection, you hear Soilwork evolve from punchy, rhythmic death metal band into artistic, thrashy death metal band and all of the stops in between, which means this album houses a great deal of variety in a small package.

So what you end up with is all the highlights of Soilwork that you love with none of the filler.  Right in the middle of “Death Resonance,” starting with “My Nerves, Your Everyday Tool” and running all the way through “When Sound Collides,” we hear hallmarks of the same kind of songwriting that ran the extensive gamut from the all-encompassing chug of “The Crestfallen,” to the mature precision of “Living Infinite I.”  To have examples of all these things in one place, even if the songs are only 85% of their bigger brothers, has value as a retrospective.

“Death Resonance” was automatically worth the price of admission if you are even a moderately well-schooled Soilwork fan, but this collection, in distinct contrast from the usual spate of rarities albums, has value for even casual fans who come with less personalized memories and experience.  There’s a pleasantly abundant selection of good material here, worthy enough for a purchase by most metrics.

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