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Soilwork do it again - 92%

JVK, June 10th, 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!