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Autopilot!! - 50%

krozza, March 11th, 2005

Oh sweet Jesus…where to start with this one! It is fair to say that the new Soilwork disc is one of the more polarizing albums that will be released this year. Back in the day – around the ‘Chainheart/Predators’ albums, there was much love thrown in their direction - Soilwork could do no wrong. As we now know, things went a little pear shaped with the arrival of ‘Natural Born Chaos’ and 2003’s ‘Figure No.Five’. Sure, there was still much love to be found for the band. But in total contrast there’s been a hell of a lot of hate develop also. ‘Stabbing the Drama’ isn’t going to help matters either – from what I’ve read, the hate directed towards Soilwork and the band they have become is now at absolute fever pitch.

If it wasn’t confirmed with FnF, the arrival of ‘STD’ will forever split Soilwork’s fan base right down the middle. Soilwork are now akin to someone like Cradle of Filth – adored on one hand and thoroughly despised on the other. Still, none of that is a revelation is it? This has been brewing for a few years now. And really, did we expect anything mind boggling progressive on this new disc? Not fucking likely punters. If you never cared for Soilwork’s last two albums, then you’ll be mortified at the prospect of hearing ‘STD’.

Talk about stuck in a rut. Either Soilwork have become very, very comfortable will churning out what is now a very concise signature sound or they’re at a complete and utter loss as to how to rectify the situation. ‘Stabbing the Drama’ is the result of a band running on autopilot.

Surprisingly, to this hacks ears at least, ‘STD’ is actually a much more enjoyable listen than the abomination that was ‘FnF’. But that isn’t really saying too much is it? Nope, this is a well oiled machine that seems more content to provide what the masses crave rather than pleasing themselves. There’s nothing daring here at all folks – in fact, via the overtly glossy Daniel Bergstrand production, ‘STD’ zeroes in on executing all of those ‘characteristic’ elements that they’ve now become loved/hated (you choose) for to an even more heightened sense of delivery. Cue the template folks – emotive aggression, nu-metal-ish guitar riffs and the now obligatory hash verse/quiet bridge/harsh verse to MASSIVELY MELODIC clean vocal choruses - Every time for every track; Formulaic to the point of redundancy. For fans of Soilwork’s earlier material, that means you’re in for one damn frustrating listen.

Yes, ‘STD’ is a much more tolerable listen than ‘FnF’. At the very least Soilwork have added a bit more beef to their sound and overall the songs are a tad more cohesive. But really, there’s not a whole lot to separate the two. Yet, as much as I despise the bands refusal to tear themselves away from their formulistic song writing approach, the main problem I have with this disc is the same problem that inflicted the last two In Flames albums - The vocal emphasis. Both of these bands have made a dramatic leap from guitar-riff oriented bands to bands that are now solely vocally driven. There is no question in my mind that the guitars come a distant second on this album. Bjorn ‘Strid’ is now such an overriding factor in the way this band presents itself that you’re hard pressed to actually hear anything remotely interesting musically. It’s a sad development that I can’t see being rectified anytime soon.

As stated, ‘STD’ is the result of a band that is quite willing to pursue the mainstream metal market for all it is worth. The recipe is well and truly perfected (according to them anyway) - It’s a well oiled machine that virtually runs on autopilot. Clearly Soilwork can write this shit in their sleep and quite possibly they have another dozen tracks in the can ready for the next round. ‘STD’ is a super slick sounding modern metal album. It’s far from the most remarkable disc you’ll hear this year, but somehow it is strangely enjoyable; or hateable. Again you choose.

Krozza: written for www.pyromusic.net and www.wallsoffire.de (english)