Soilwork

Picture of Soilwork

The Chainheart Machine

Soilwork - The Chainheart Machine ©1999 Listenable Records
1. Chainheart Machine
2. Bulletbeast
3. Million Flame
4. Generation Speedkill (nice Day For Public Suicide)
5. Neon Rebels
6. Possessing The Angels
7. Spirits Of The Future Sun
8. Machine Gun Majesty
9. Room No. 99

Soilwork's ascendence to prominence within the crowded Swedish melodic death metal scene has found them taking the gradual, but persistant approach to their development. The band's second album, The Chainheart Machine, is a fine example of high speed, aggressive melodic death metal complete with classic guitar harmonies and fluid riff selection. At the point of this album's release in 1999, Soilwork was still firmly entrenched in the area excavated by early In Flames and Dark Tranquillity. Soilwork relies on highly aggro tempos and pacing guaranteed to whip the butt of any marathoner within the first four miles. The approach taken by the guitarists sticks to the basic formula of fast paced, but ultimately memorable melodies throughout the record. The vocals stick to one hoarse pitch and act a bit as a detraction from the overall impact. For the most part The Chainheart Machine is a highly competent, albeit far from original inclusion in the subgenre. More than a few songs are guaranteed to get the most jaded listener bopping around as Soilwork's songwriting ability has always been a bit stronger than the majority of their peers. At the very least, ardent fans of the style are required to own a copy of this as it is a prime example of what they are trying to accomplish.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 04/2002

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A Predator's Portrait

Soilwork - A Predator's Portrait ©2001 Nuclear Blast
1. Bastard Chain
2. Like An Average Stalker
3. Needlefeast
4. Neurotica Rampage
5. The Analyst
6. Grand Failure Anthem
7. Structure Divine
8. Shadowchild
9. Final Fatal Force
10. A Predator's Portrait

Just when you thought that the Swedish strain of melodic death metal had been done in entirely by repetitious and bands lacking innovation, Soilwork comes out with their third record, A Predator's Portrait, and proves there's still a little life left in the style. Although Soilwork sticks to some tried'n'true methods of twin guitar, melodic and slightly thrashy metal with the usual raspy shouts, there's a little extra spice to their music that has made this effort a major surprise. That spice, of course, is great songwriting. After all, if you're going to do something, you should do it well.

As many already know from Soilwork's previous two albums, the band can be easily lumped into the same category as Dark Tranquillity, In Flames and other slightly more known bands of the style. The assault Soilwork unleashes is easily derived from the At the Gates school of death, with frantic, raging pacing and an abundance of unbridled energy that seems to be lacking in a lot of similar releases these days. The guys in Soilwork do not sound like they're running through their all-too-familiar formula. Rather, they sound like they're having an incredibly fun time playing their music and that enthusiasm is translated well onto disc. The vocals are mostly the high pitched, raspy sort of thing that is broken up by very well done clean choruses. The band also uses a very subtle approach with keyboards by putting them very low in the mix, but just at the point where they underscore the raging music perfectly. You almost don't realize they exist at all but without them the music would be sorely lacking.

In the end, A Predator's Portrait is a sharply focused portrait of a band who are proving there still can be exciting music found within a style that became quickly overcrowded and saturated. I doubt too many other bands will be able to match Soilwork in the coming year.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 02/2001

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Natural Born Chaos

Soilwork - Natural Born Chaos ©2002 Nuclear Blast
1. Follow The Hollow
2. As We Speak
3. The Flameout
4. Natural Born Chaos
5. Mindfields
6. The Bringer
7. Black Star Deceiver
8. Mercury Shadow
9. No More Angels
10. Song Of The Damned

Not only did Soilwork put out one of the best albums of 2001 with A Predator's Portrait, but they've turned out to be prolific as well, recording a follow-up within a year's time. Natural Born Chaos finds Soilwork continuing down the same path as last year's effort with a few minor refinements and upgrades along the way. There are a few small differences from one album to the other. The core sound of Soilwork is still intact with the mix of crunchy, melodic Swedish death metal riffing and that cool keyboard undertone still keeping the bottom intact. Singer Björn Strid has apparently worked on his clean vocal delivery and uses it quite a bit more, adding a better melodic strength to the mix. To a degree, the tempos are a touch slower, allowing songs to breathe more, but it does lose that excellent frantic and manic feel of A Predator's Portrait. However, that is not even a quibble since the songs here are very well written and memorable from beginning to end. In fact, Natural Born Chaos suggests what Dark Tranquillity might have accomplished on Haven had they not lost their nerve on the clean singing. Thankfully, Soilwork chose to continue their natural development and not wander off the path or resort to a "back to our roots" release.

Soilwork may stand as my favorite Swedish band over the past couple of years, now that they've released two fantastic records in a row. They've proven that although they are working within a subgenre that is oversaturated, there is still room for a band who has the songwriting ability to make the music fresh and invigorating.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 03/2002

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Figure Number Five

Soilwork - Figure Number Five ©2003 Nuclear Blast
1. Rejection Role
2. Overload
3. Figure Number Five
4. Strangler
5. Light The Torch
6. Departure Plan
7. Cranking The Sirens
8. Brickwalker
9. The Mindmaker
10. Distortion Sleep
11. Downfall 24

After the rousing success of last year's Natural Born Chaos (with the term "success" being relative on a grand scale), Soilwork has seemingly decided to attempt to remain riding the wave of strong word-of-mouth and attention by pushing out another album rather quickly. Testament once did this with an album called Souls in Black and promptly alienated all the fans that had come around during their first three excellent albums. Soilwork's decision to essentially whip out another album may not necessarily have been the best one, based on initial listens to Figure Number Five.

Upon first listen, my ears instantly told my brain, "Rush job, and we're not talking Moving Pictures, pal." Having given Figure Number Five considerably more listens, I can say the CD has grown on me to the point where I'm not thinking total abomination anymore. What this album does suggest is that Soilwork is trying to work within the formula that made Natural Born Chaos such a winner. While the formula is inherently an enjoyable one, the songwriting occasionally comes across as though the band forced songs to be written rather than naturally letting them flow out. Whereas the past two albums by Soilwork have been solid from beginning to end, Figure Number Five bogs down with more than a couple less than nifty tunes. On the plus side, there are also several songs on par with the best stuff from the past two albums. Moreover, singer "Speed" sounds more confident in his vocals, both hoarse and melodic, than ever before, which does help the overall delivery.

Essentially the biggest problem facing this CD is that it seems like the band could have taken a bit more time in creating it. It may ultimately turn out to be a mistake as a lot of fans who were turned onto Soilwork last year might disregard them with a somewhat disappointing follow up. Perhaps those of us who couldn't stop playing Natural Born Chaos last year have set rather high standards, but that's no reason the band should put out anything less than excellent.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 04/2003

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Stabbing The Drama

Soilwork - Stabbing The Drama ©2005 Nuclear Blast
1. Stabbing The Drama
2. One With The Flies
3. Weapon Of Vanity
4. The Crestfallen
5. Nerve
6. Stalemate
7. Distance
8. Observation Slave
9. Fate In Motion
10. Blind Eye Halo
11. If Possible

At this point, it's safe to say Soilwork has painted themselves firmly into a corner. The ascendency of the band has been remarkable, fueled by the duo of excellent releases, 2001's A Predator's Portrait and 2002's Natural Born Chaos. Of course, such success (which, incidentally, is pretty appalling minor compared to actual top selling bands) has possibly caused Soilwork's artistic stagnation. Let's face it: 2003's Figure Number Five came across as a rushed product, released in the hurry to capitalize on their rising wave. And who can blame the band? Noteriety and attention is a fickle thing, so why not make albums to get back out on the road and enjoy it as much as possible? The only drawback is that occasionally rushed albums will drag down the band's discography. It's just unfortunate that the latest release from Soilwork will do little escape the rushed, hasty judgements that obnoxious critics such as myself will pronounce.

On one hand, Stabbing the Drama is quite listenable, but in a very unchallenging way. The band's songwriting formula is firmly established, mixing clean and growled vocals (quite expertly, incidentally), thick chunks of rhythmic soup and more than a hint of melody. The only problem is that the songs themselves are just not as catchy, strong or enjoyable as they were back on Natural Born Chaos. At best, they're simply just okay. Okay is good if you're skating through the ninth grade. Okay is not so good when the record store is charging you seventeen bucks for a new CD. A couple of the songs do revisit the amped up attack of The Chainheart Machine, which indicates the band wants to show fans they still remember their roots. However, it's not like these pair of songs are so incredibly splendid that every other band playing the melodic death style will want to imitate what Soilwork does.

Granted, there are far worse albums out there (for example, Soilwork's own Figure Number Five is far weaker than this one), but Soilwork has definitely placed themselves into a pigeon hole with Stabbing the Drama. It's safe, predictable and only moderately enjoyable. As with stylemates Dark Tranquillity, Soilwork apparently has deciced playing it safe is a far wiser career move than seeing what left turns their music can take.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 06/2005

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Sworn To A Great Divide

Soilwork - Sworn To A Great Divide ©2007 Nuclear Blast
1. Sworn To A Great Divide
2. Exile
3. Breeding Thorns
4. Your Beloved Scapegoat
5. The Pittsburgh Syndrome
6. I, Vermin
7. Light Discovering Darkness
8. As The Sleeper Awakes
9. Silent Bullet
10. Sick Heart River
11. 20 More Miles

Ever since the excellent Natural Born Chaos came out in 2002, Soilwork has subsided somewhat into an area that is better than mediocre, but worse than impressive. Figure Number Five and Stabbing the Drama both featured a handful of pretty good tunes, but overall did not completely satisfy. Soilwork has now returned with yet another good, but not great, release in the form of Sworn to a Great Divide.

The album sticks to the musical trade Soilwork has been plying for the past half decade: rhythmic, melodic, aggressive and chunky metal that retains barely a foot in the melodic Swedish death metal movement that spawned so many soundalike bands. Singer Bjorn Strid continues to demonstrate great versatility in his singing style. He is equally capable of strong melodic clean vocals as an aggressive shout. Perhaps his musical contemporary would be Devin Townsend (who we all know had a hand in Natural Born Chaos). The music throughout Sworn to a Great Divide sticks to form. Soilwork isn't looking to redefine metal on this album, which is okay. Soilwork is the type of band that will live or die on the quality of songwriting, which tends to be above average. Their ability to weave in a couple hooks per song does allow them to stand out a bit in the heavily crowded metal scene. Coupled with Strid's vocal talents, this helps Soilwork immensely.

Although Sworn to a Great Divide didn't particularly impress me upon initial listen, a handful tunes have grown on me on subsequent listening sessions. As with their previous two releases, I can find plenty of enjoyment on this new disc, but it still ranks below Natural Born Chaos (which may be the career standard for the band).

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 12/2007

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