Sunday, September 23, 2012

Soilwork - A Predator's Portrait


Thanks to its release through Nuclear Blast Records, A Predator’s Portrait is known for being Soilwork’s major breakthrough album. Why this album and not the two previous ones? Because every single piece of material that Soilwork has released since A Predator’s Portrait has received rave reviews from critics and fans worldwide. So after catching the attention from the underground European metal scene with The Chainheart Machine, Soilwork landed a deal with the best record label in the world, Nuclear Blast, which is a deal that is still very much alive this very moment. Why? Because everything Soilwork just keeps getting better and better with each release, despite the fact that they aren’t as much under many people’s radars as they were in 2005.

Even though this album’s sound isn’t THAT much different from The Chainheart Machine and Steelbath Suicide, it still remains one of the band’s most successful and influential releases. Usually, with a band with as big of a legacy as Soilwork, you would expect there to be a cult following of similar bands attempting to follow in Soilwork’s footsteps. But funny enough, there really hasn’t been much of a cult following. An extreme example of this would be the number of metalcore bands out there that practically worship August Burns Red (I the Breather, Oh, Sleeper, A Past Unknown, Never See Tomorrow, For Today, etc.). Or an even bigger example is the fact that Meshuggah has caused an utter explosion of progressive metal, metalcore, deathcore, and technical death bands to play their complex breakdown style (Veil of Maya, Born of Osiris, Periphery, Animals as Leaders, Decapitated, etc.). How many bands do you know of out there that play really thrashy melodic death with some other random shit thrown in here and there? I mean, there are most definitely some whether they’ve been influenced/inspired by Soilwork or not, but there isn’t a definite group.

A Predator’s Portrait is one of Soilwork’s heaviest records. Even though it has numerous melodic guitar harmonizations, there’s minimal singing, thrash metal-style drumming, and very fast-moving breakdowns in every song. If you’ve heard any of the albums that came after A Predator’s Portrait, especially Natural Born Chaos and Figure Number Five, you might have noticed that A Predator’s Portrait is the last album where Speed’s screams are REALLY high-pitched. Ever since then, Speed’s harsher vocals have drifted closer to a yell with each release. But in order to prove that he hasn’t lost the ability to let out his bone-chilling screams, Speed continues to scream every once in a while in each album. They’re just no longer the primary vocal style of the album.

What I meant when I said that this is one of Soilwork’s heaviest albums, I meant that there aren’t very many songs that are completely melodic as a whole. There are several guitar riffs and mood shifts in each song that just bursts with soft melody, but when you listen to each song and/or the album as a whole, it sounds much more groovy and thrashy than melodic. Sort of like a more melodic Pantera or Machine Head (probably not the best analogy, but it works in my head). The drumming is extremely aggressive in this album. Part of what makes the drums sound so driving and aggressive is the fact that there isn’t a shitload of bass like there is in The Panic Broadcast and Stabbing the Drama. This really tinny sound that the drums portray is what many critics claim to be the core of what makes this album’s sound so unique along with the higher-pitched guitar distortion.

So with this really gritty and aggressive sound, you’re also met with some atmospheric keyboards in the background every once in a while. I’m not quite sure what the point of having these brief moments of melodic keyboards because they don’t seem to add much to the music. But then again, there are several cases where even the smallest and seemingly-miniscule additions give the music a COMPLETELY different sound than it would without them. So maybe it’s just because they’re so slight that the difference is hard for me to imagine in my own head.

A Predator’s Portrait isn’t Soilwork’s best album by far, and I wouldn’t consider it a classic, but I would most definitely consider it to be an important record in the melodic death genre with its limit-defying attitude and groovy aggression. For those of you that are wanting to get much more into melodic death, make sure to pick up a copy of A Predator’s Portrait after you’re done getting to know Stabbing the Drama, The Panic Broadcast, Sworn to a Great Divide, and Figure Number Five. I would rate A Predator’s Portrait 15/20 for being a fantastic melodic death record.