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Soilwork are still here! - 80%

SculptedCold, December 11th, 2004

Ahhhhh.

First thing that should be made clear; those who have never liked Soilwork will find nothing new here, and likewise those who have not liked Soilwork since Natural Born Chaos will not find anything interesting in Stabbing The Drama either. However, while this new record does not deviate from the path set-upon from NBC, and furthermore with Figure Number Five, it does go to surprising and ultimately satisfying lengths to reclaim the 'punch' that many complained was lacking in FNF.

The overall sound is best described as a fine-tuning of Figure Number Five; the songs still feature a lot of radio-friendly 'airspace' interspersed between the heavy power-chording, and even moreso than FNF but arguably not so much as NBC, there is far more melody to be featured here. The candy-sprinklings of electronic keys that characterized FNF have more or less been removed on Stabbing The Drama; the keys having been relegated back to a supporting role, rather than a detailing one. Incidentally, and very thankfully, the riffs and drumming have been given a welcome kick up the backside; there's newfound aggression and power in the delivery on Stabbing The Drama that harkens back to days even before NBC. Songs like Blind Eye Halo, Weapon of Vanity and the beginnings of Crestfallen and Nerve, while still submerged in the staccatto detuned riffing of more accessible metal are nevertheless played and produced with more conviction than ever before in 'new' Soilwork. The drumming is also more adventurous this time around; the bass drumming in particular more often directly supporting the riffs in a fashion reminiscent-of, but not as constant as that of Fear Factory's approach. The melodies, unbelievably, and in spite of the fact that this is undeniably a far more aggressive record than FNF, have been expanded-upon and indulged-in. Almost every single song bar the furious Blind Eye Halo spends considerable playing time exploring extended clean vocal passages with subdued and tastefully used keyboards. While Strid's clean vocals don't explore new territory or hit new highs, they are nevertheless consistent, built-into the songs efficiently, and aren't overly cheesy. What is possibly the most startling change on this record (for me) is Strid's harsh vocals. They're back...and they're the best harsh vocals he's snarled onto disc since A Predator's Portrait. Drier, more aggressive, but also backed-up refreshingly often with new low growls on many tracks, notable ones like Stalemate and Blind Eye Halo making definitive if restrained use of them.

As noted, this won't convert anyone who wasn't into the NBC and FNF records already penned, but for those faithful to new Soilwork, and maybe even for those who were indifferent to those two records, there is a hell of a lot of newfound energy to be credited here.