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Especially when it falls under the category of commercial melodic death metal. It's just horrible to not have any action going through the songs. The verses are just the wait for the chorus to shine. But if the chorus itself is just as boring as the verse, there will be the eternal wait for something to happen. Mainstream melodic death metal is supposed to be catchy and have great melodic lines throughout the songs. Figure Number Five, however, hasn't got it.
It's easy to dissect the songs, because every song is the Fucking same. The song either starts with an electronic effect or the band instantly kicking in. After that a horrible groove riff comes up with no melody whatsoever. The chorus (or in some cases also the pre-chorus) are usually the melodic vocal lines with underlying power chords. Everytime the fucking same thing. There are no guitar leads bands use like At the Gates, Insomnium or In Flames.
There are a few moments of joy, very scarce, and obviously only in the choruses. The melodic vocal lines of Light the Torch are pure bliss, although they are raped by the screaming after that (Speed, you suck at it). Distortion Sleep, Overload and Downfall 24 have decent vocal melodies (again, those are the only melodies in the song).
You'd do well to not buy this mallcore laden crap, hell some mallcore is even better. The same elements are being used as in bands like Slipknot or Papa Roach, except these guys suck even more.
On a side note, my ears started to bleed when I listened to Brickwalker, isn't that just the weirdest thing ever?
Figure number five is quite an amazing album, but be warned, it is not for everyone. Those who prefer to stick to pure black/death metal will be absolutely appalled by this, as well as those who dislike industrial metal and other genres of music.
If I had to give classify this, most of it would still fall under 'melodic death metal', though very weak genre-wise compared to their earlier efforts, and far more varied. In this album, you will see some modern hard rock/metal influence, as well as some industrial metal-ish style riffing (somewhat similar to Mnemic), and some synthesizers.
However, those who are generally open minded, and are not afraid to stray from black/death metal roots will enjoy this album a great deal. Sure, it's started to sound a bit more poppy, but this is largely due to the production style, which is now similar to that of Mnemic's. I would not classify anything like this or Mnemic as having a 'mallcore', but rather 'modern metal'. However, this still retains some Gothenburg influence, so while being fun and modernized, will still draw in more open minded Soilwork fans.
The synths are actually great on this album, and don't seem to overpower any of the other elements of the music. Sure, some may hate the use of synths, but they seem to add to the music, giving the songs a more layered and complex feel.
The guitar work is somewhat simple, but effective, as is the drumming, though these are both varied enough to prevent the music from becoming monotonous. Overall, the songs are quite varied, and quite catchy, but hardly in a lame way. There still is power in the music despite it being not the most serious of records, which the mixed semi-harsh/clean vocal style capture effectively.
To be honest, I know that I'm about as open-minded as any metalhead can get. As well as metal I listen to a huge amount of post-rock, industrial, ambient, neofolk, and a whole bunch of other non-metal artists. So, while I do understand the qualms of some who exclusively stick to metal (especially those who keep to strong death/black metal), I do believe that this is a strong album.
However, I do believe that Soilwork is taking a dangerous path. Should they get much more mainstream than this, they could become utter garbage (sold out, etc), even to the most open-minded listener, so I hope that if they do not return a huge amount to their past style, they stay around this area (they don't seem to have gone that far with STD). Overall, I'd say that the best songs on this album are Light the Torch, The Mindmaker, Figure Number Five, and Rejection Role. The rest are still pretty great, even Departure Plan (which could be considered borderline metal if lucky, but I like it anyway).
After Soilwork's stylistic change on Natural Born Chaos, the band comes back and offers to the masses Figure Number Five. The song title meaning that this is their fifth full length album. Unfortunately, this melodic death band didn't realize that there was nothing wrong with change, but people will bitch when you go about change with simplicity. This band, based on the quality of this release, seems steadfast in purposely flushing its career and reputation down the toilet, much like fellow Swedes In Flames by jumping on the nu-metal bandwagon. But seeing how nu-metal is dying out, the bandwagon has already left town and it's a little too late to capitalize on such a bad trend like mallcore. But they've done just that here.
The Highlights: Very few to speak of, but I'll start off with the good anyway. The screamed-verse/sung-chorus combination seems to work slightly better than it did on the last album, but only on a couple songs. "Rejection Role" and "Overload" have somewhat enjoyable choruses, very much done in the style of the last album. There is also somewhat of a good guitar solo in "Rejection Role", but not played to the ability of the guitarist. And as a footnote, if you buy the two disc import or digipak, you get some Steelbath Suicide demos on the second disc. There you have it, the album highlights. That's it, because this album takes a major nosedive from this point forward.
The Lowlights: Most of this album, unfortunately. Almost all the good riffing and creative songwriting is now nothing but a memory. "Departure Plan" has a rhythm and guitar elements you would most likely find in today's nu-metal bands like Disturbed, sad to say. The title track's chorus has a vocal perfomance that you would expect to hear coming from Corey Taylor of Slipknot, not one Speed of the once-well-regarded Soilwork. The riffing found in "Light The Torch" and "Cranking The Sirens" are very weak, dumbed-down nu-metal fodder that you would more likely associate with a band like maybe Burning Red-era Machine Head. And are those industrial elements I hear at the beginning of "Downfall 24"? Other bad nu-metal tinged noise can be found in "Strangler", "The Mindmaker", and "Distortion Sleep". More dumbed down vocal performances and guitar work, and simplistic drum work is what you'll find there. So in other words, if you're expecting something in the vein of their last album, yes it's similar in sound to this one in some areas, but it comes in dumbed down form.
Who this album's for: Nu-metal fans who have just discovered In Flames' Reroute To Remain and their latest album, Soundtrack To Your Escape. Or perhaps people picking this up on import or the digipak, wanting the Steelbath Suicide demos on the bonus disc. But the latter people should be forewarned, the main disc is far from a quality album. Definitely not recommended for fans of old-school Gothenburg albums like Slaughter Of The Soul (At The Gates) or The Jester Race (the aforementioned In Flames).
The bottom line: This album shows the direction of the band, and unfortunately, it's a direction that a lot of metalheads aren't pleased with. Fans have gotten on other bands' asses for making moves like this, and unless Soilwork makes a major return for the better on the follow-up, fans (particularly melodeath fans) will be calling for their heads.
Soilwork’s change of direction on FIGURE NUMBER FIVE should be no surprise to anyone who has been following the band’s progression (regression?) over the past few years. With their fifth studio album in six years, Soilwork has cast the tattered and ragged shroud of metal they once wore to the side, plunging full-on into the realms of mallcore and commercial, radio-friendly extreme rock. This comes neither as a shock, nor as any great loss, as NATURAL BORN CHAOS was a shitty album, straddling the gap of mallcore and metal, and A PREDATOR’S PORTRAIT set the slide into motion before that.
What does FIGURE NUMBER FIVE have for the listener? Not a whole hell of a lot. The riffs, once the defining characteristic of Soilwork are hidden behind silly electronic beats and effects, and those that do pop through are sloppy and uninspired. Speed Strid has abandoned trying to sing or even growl, now content merely to scream inanely over the half-assed guitars. The overall sound of the album is club-friendly, predictable, and derivative. Listen to the pop influences on tracks like “Distortion Sleep,” “Light the Torch,” and “Brickwalker.” In addition, there are the “We wish we were the band Disturbed” tracks such as “The Strangler,” and the title track (is that rapping I hear on this track?). The opener, “Rejection Role,” is really the only track on the album I enjoy. It is representative of the structure (if not the quality) of the rest of the album, with it’s “where did the riff go?” whispered parts, silly, bad techno electronics, and a melodic, though simplistic and viral chorus. Even this song quickly wanes towards the last minute or two with shitty whiny clean passages. If you’re looking for an exceptionally rancid and sickly song, then I dare you to make it through the torture of “Departure Plan.” I thought there were laws against cruel and unusual punishment.
When the album is over, I find that I cannot recall one memorable riff, hook, solo, or chorus. The excessive downtuned, lazy riffs, robotic and scream-core vocals, and mallcorish keyboard effects and sampling really put me off of any other tracks that may have been salvagable. As bad as NATURAL BORN CHAOS was, Soilwork have really bottomed out with FNF. Relatively speaking, FIGURE NUMBER FIVE is so abyssmally awful that it makes NBC look like fucking Dark Angel’s DARKNESS DESCENDS. With any luck, this blatant attempt at commercial radio will explode in Soilwork’s face and they will abandon any future endeavors. After all, “Speed” Strid doesn’t have half the poster-boy appeal as Alexi Laihlo.
(originally written by me for www.metal-rules.com, April, 2003)
Soilwork, it seems, are incapable of making a bad album. They now have five gems to their credit. The reason for this is perhaps because they always leave the door open for evolution on their next masterpiece. This ability to avoid painting themselves into a corner is almost as powerful an asset as their flawless sense of melody and hooks. On Figure Number Five, they continue to refine the sound they pioneered on A Predator’s Portrait.
Let’s get this out of the way right at the start though. It’s clear what Soilwork is aiming for. They want to get a little piece of the nu-metal market with some of these songs. Several elements of Static-X have found their way into their sound, and beats reminiscent of hip-hop pop up from time to time. Speed Strid’s vocal rhythms maybe also tend to sound like Corey Taylor at moments and the song “Downfall 24” sounds uncannily like a Sevendust song. If anyone is wondering though, none of this is bad! It is all integrated so well that it makes the music more interesting and fun to listen to. The whole album is varied and compelling.
The band has done a commendable job of perfecting their signature sound. When they introduced the heavy keyboards, they tended towards the overbearing, getting in the way of the flow of the songs. Now however the effects are more subtle and decidedly more industrial. The verses are usually heavy and lead into a huge melodic chorus, but luckily they do it in so many ways that this formula does not grow old before the album finishes. Most of the songs have a futuristic tone to them which transcends traditional industrial sounds and is something completely unique to Soilwork. Included is an Opeth-like ballad which is perhaps one of the best written ever.
Everyone is in top form on Figure Number Five. Strid has never sounded this good. His original, somewhat flat screech has transformed into a pummeling growl. No other singer can pack that much emotion into a death metal growl. Then to further seal his status as a modern vocal god, he belts out more of his trademark melodic crooning which sounds something like a cross between Devin Townsend and David Gahan of Depeche Mode.
If any complaints are warranted though, it would be the fact that in their quest to get the right sound, they may have forsaken some of the heaviness of their previous albums, especially the first two. While the title track is reminiscent of those years, with its crushing riffage, most of the songs just don’t hit as hard as they should, and some of the songs are pure saccharine. And while the guitar solos are still generally superior to most bands, they have taken a steep dive. Some solos just sound plain goofy and others are disappointing. In “Downfall 24” you are most definitely expecting a killer solo but you are let down in a big way with a very, very lame excuse for a lead.
All in all, even those faults, which might be damning on a lesser work, are a mere annoyance on here. Nothing can stop Figure Number Five from greatness. It, as is all of Soilwork’s catalogue, is a masterpiece. The best part is that they have left the door open for another masterpiece. They should in no way be out of ideas. Hopefully the next masterpiece will have heavier riffs and better, more consistent solos. Either way, you must get off your ass and buy this album right now. I said NOW!