(2002) Soilwork – Natural Born Chaos: Anniversary Special

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For many bands, the fourth album can be another make-or-break moment, depending on how things have progressed in their initial trilogy of releases. When it comes to the Helsingborg-based Gothenburg legends of SOILWORK, the album that truly solidified them into our ears, and thus hearts and minds as well, was none other than 2002’s “Natural Born Chaos.” This hard-hitting album still holds many classic favorite SOILWORK songs, so we had to give it a few spins in honor of its 20th anniversary this year, which just so happens to be today!

If I personally have a favorite SOILWORK song, one song where I must always leap into the moshpit no matter what condition I’m in, it’s “Follow the Hollow.” The glorious combination of fierce vocals from Björn “Speed” Strid with the relentless, driving, yet catchy riffing and rhythms make for a face-melting live track that’s equally good for starting the party at home, or just letting out some energy. The clean vocal parts have been toned down in more recent live years, yet it only barely takes away from the overall punch that this track has. The powerhouse of an album continues straight into “As We Speak,” which has a slightly groovier intro with more influence from the synths. The trade-off between Strid‘s harsh vocals in the verses and softer side in the chorus really helps to drive the track home. However, “The Flameout” is a speedier, more traditional Gothenburg track, again with the cleans mostly kept to the chorus, with the instruments simply driving forward with few opportunities to breathe. It helps keep the pace of the album fast and furious, leading up to the title track, “Natural Born Chaos,” which opens on heavy, slightly funky guitar riffing. There’s a balance in the vocals, that aren’t pure grit, nor clearly pure melody, with good layering in the chorus for added depth.

If you think you’re due for a rest, think again, as the band continues to push forward at full blast with “Mindfields”; props to the nice little wordplay there! This one follows suit with the rest of the album so far: raging rhythms, slick riffing, and forceful growls. “The Bringer,” however, does allow for some breathing room, as the track moves forward… still at a fierce pace, but with more stop-and-go (particularly in the drumming) to bring a nice change of rhythm to the thus-far very fierce release.

Back to the warzone with the very energetic “Black Star Receiver,” which I only recently learned has guest vocals from none other than Devin Townsend, which I fully confess that I had never noticed before but certainly it can clearly be heard now. The song also boasts one of the more melodic choruses to be heard on the release, which almost brings SCAR SYMMETRY to mind – perhaps the Swedes from Avesta were fans of SOILWORK? “Mercury Shadow” is another standout track thanks to the nonstandard singing styles, equally rougher and more melodic in turn than on other songs. The verses toe the line into extreme/black metal territory, yet there’s an almost metalcore tint to the chorus at times, with more ambient vocals interspersed throughout the instrumental work.

There’s a grittier, grungier sound, with notable synth parts again in “No More Angels,” especially in the chorus, which is otherwise fairly standard for SOILWORK‘s sound at the time. Again, this one is less fierce and driven, with a little more of a melodic touch, but don’t take that to mean that it isn’t a powerful, energetic track. Finally, the album wraps up with “Song of the Damned,” which immediately makes a great closing track because of the memorable synth lines in the intro that don’t follow the usual pattern of rage from these guys. This song also features guest vocals from Devin Townsend, though I had to personally pay even closer attention to pick them out on this track than the previous feature.

“Natural Born Chaos” was one of those albums that really put SOILWORK on the radar for those who hadn’t quite gotten word of them yet at that point. Thanks to the strong songwriting from then-guitarist Peter Wichers, who wrote almost all of their music back in the day, the album has a very cohesive sound, yet enough changeups to make sure that the listener doesn’t get burnt out or bored in its near-42-minute playtime. If the new-age SOILWORK is a bit too melodic for your taste buds, definitely take a trip down memory lane with “Natural Born Chaos” and remember the ferocity of youth once again!

Tracklist

  1. Follow the Hollow
  2. As We Speak
  3. The Flameout
  4. Natural Born Chaos
  5. Mindfields
  6. The Bringer
  7. Black Star Deceiver
  8. Mercury Shadow
  9. No More Angels
  10. Song of the Damned

Lineup

Björn “Speed” Strid − vocals
Peter Wichers – guitar
Ola Frenning − guitar
Ola Flink − bass
Sven Karlsson − keyboards
Henry Ranta − drums

Label

Nuclear Blast

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