Despite its strangely incongruous opening (jazzy piano and slowmotion shots of the band), this DVD from Soilwork is exactly what fans have been waiting for. Even though the band have amassed a towering back catalogue and a stunning live record, Soilwork have, till now, eschewed the live album, meaning that this effort, filmed in Helsinki in 2014, is eagerly anticipated. Few bands have captured such a perfect balance of melody and aggression as Soilwork, a band who have consistently married these elements on albums such as ‘predator’s portrait’, ‘sworn to the great divide’ and the excellent ‘figure number five’, and the result is a band whose hard-hitting riffs and scarifying screams are never less than memorable.
The good news is that the wait has been worth it. With a stunning sound mix that perfectly showcases the band’s feral solos, powerhouse rhythm section and multifaceted vocals, the producers have sensibly kept the filming free of unnecessary effects or epilepsy-inducing fast cuts. Well-synced with the music, the filming moves between close ups of the personnel and long shots showing the stage as a whole quickly but not distractingly. It is refreshing to see a metal DVD so well-filmed and the director deserves full credit for allowing the band to shine without trying to artificially ‘enhance’ the show with cameral trickery and digitally added shenanigans. Whilst the band are hardly Kiss in the performance stakes, they still make for engaging performers, interacting with the crowd and emitting plenty of energy and it is plainly evident that the crowd were fully up for the party Soilwork had planned for them.
Of course, any live DVD can only live or die by its set list and, let’s face it, Soilwork have a back catalogue to die for, especially when it comes to producing their debut live effort. The band are under no illusions, too, about what their audience want and they mix up the old and new perfectly, sending the mosh pit into a frenzy as they unleash gems from the likes of ‘natural born chaos’ with an abandon more usually reserved for an album just written and released rather than one some thirteen years old. There’s so much good stuff here, both new and old and the band’s performance is relentlessly faultless. However, the real star of the show is the imposing presence that is Bjorn ‘Speed’ Strid. Roaming the stage with menacing intent, he never misses a beat or drops a note and his performance oozes passion and sincerity. The band may well unleash the sound of the apocalypse behind him, but it is Bjorn who pulls it altogether and gives the band its face. He never stops, winding up the crowd between songs, standing tall, foot astride the monitor as he unleashes yet another skull-flattening roar and when he duets with Floor Jansen on album highlight ‘let this river flow’, the sparks that fly are very real.
At twenty-three songs in length, ‘Live in the heart of Helsinki’ is a pristine and lengthy reminder of just how impressive a band Soilwork are. The frequent shots of the crowd show an audience in rapture at the band’s immense performance and you can’t help wonder why more live DVDs are not so well shot and performed. In terms of quality, thanks to the stunning sound mix and the near perfect image quality this is very near reference quality and it is very much one for the fans. Whilst the uninitiated would be better heading for one of the band’s many excellent albums (I’d start with ‘predator’s portrait’ or ‘figure number five’), 8fans of the band will need no encouragement to track down this excellent package which features both the DVD/Blu ray and a double CD of the band’s set. This may be a belated foray into the world of live releases for Soilwork, but it truly does underscore the old adage that good things come to those who wait. Outstanding.