Released: 2003, Nuclear Blast
Reviewer: Night of the Realm
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.