Soilwork is a unique brand of coalesced Swedish metal. Crafting melodies as dangerous as Dark Tranquillity and In Flames, godly solos as effortless as Arch Enemy and Armageddon, aggression as damn beautiful as At the Gates, and clean vocals as soaring as Opeth, Soilwork combines these elements together with the band's own rare compositional skills and clever use of keyboards. Adding layers of atmospheric texture, rather than racing along with the guitars, the keyboards appear as translucent nuances, never clouding, only accentuating. Each song flows with a compositional sleight of hand, sounding thick and complex, but without any great exertion (similar to At the Gates' Slaughter of the Soul) from the band. The album simply makes sense, like a natural flow of the band's conscience, with its dense, '80s thrash-driven guitars, tighter than thou rhythm section, and split vocal approach. A Predator's Portrait makes their prior efforts, Chainheart Machine and Steelbath Suicide, look childish in a way. Both are still fantastic albums, but neither has even half the ambition this new album violently contains. Songs like "Needlefeast" and "Bastard Chain" dance through chugging, syncopated melodies, with delicious Tomas Lindberg vocal lines reminiscent of early-'90s Swedish death and early-'80s New Wave of British Heavy Metal choruses. Björn Strid's newly refined clean vocals, sprinkled throughout most of the songs, recall a clean Dan Swanö, or Mikael Åkerfeldt from Opeth melodic style. Questionable at first, upon multiple listens one discovers that this new addition to the repertoire works almost too well. So when the aforementioned Opeth leader makes a guest vocal appearance on the title track, his dynamic style virtually goes unnoticed, blending into the music with jaw-dropping ease. Courageous guitars paint a lush harmonious canvas for the album, with solos that ache of the Amott brothers (Michael from Arch Enemy/Carcass and Christopher from Armageddon), especially on the title track, "Shadowchild" (which features a godly Opeth-esque chorus), and "Neurotica Rampage." Fret dancing indeed, Peter Wiche and Ola Frenning should feel nothing but pride about their soaring accomplishments witnessed on this masterful recording. Even eyebrow-raising experiments such as "The Analyst," with its off-beat, poppish chorus, feel comfortable after repeated listens, making the album an almost uncontested success. In the ranks of a Swedish metal scene that oftentimes sounds winded and unwilling to change, Soilwork is a breath of fresh air that will continue to release stellar albums for countless years to come. A Predator's Portrait is shining proof of this.
AllMusic Review by Jason Hundey