Soilwork Figure Number Five
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01. Rejection Role
03. Figure Number Five
05. Light the Torch
06. Departure Plan
07. Cranking the Sirens
09. The mindmaker
10. Distortion Sleep
11. Downfall 24
I must say that I’m quite impressed with this album. On the same note, I’ve never been so unbelievably disappointed with a band’s live performance. After countless spins of this record, I realized exactly how remarkable "Figure Number Five" truly is. Appropriately titled, this is the fifth installment from the Soilwork camp. The most magnificent use of vocal layering and a subtle touch of keyboards, only add to this work of art. The real applause should be given to producer Devin Townsend, who pushed Soilwork past boundaries they never thought were conquerable. Although Townsend had no actual hand in this record, his presence can be felt on tracks throughout. Soilwork decided to try and produce this album themselves after being “taught” more than a few tricks by Townsend’s. He has taken a mediocre band and made them sound like gods of metal, light-years better than their live set.It’s even more amazing that all the riffs on previous albums and “Figure Number Five” were written on a computer. Technology has truly never sounded so good!
Allow me to touch on Soilwork’s live set. As with In Flames, Soilwork play along to their CD over the soundboard. I have seen them live three times, and In Flames at least a handful of times, and each time it’s the same thing. You hear the songs playing in the background and the actual live music barely makes its way in front of it at times. The main reason for this is to hide any mistakes that might occur live. Also, both Speed (Soilwork) and(In Flames) cannot pull off the traditional metal screams they do on record and then go into the clean vocal parts. It just won’t, and can’t happen. Also, a lot of the Soilwork choruses have gang, clean singing parts which would make one believe that their bassist and guitarist, who stand by the mics throughout the band’s live set, would be helping vocalist Speed out. Unfortunately they are merely there for show and that’s it. I cannot stand when a band does something in the studio and they can’t pull it off live. It’s a total bumout. I will never forget at last year’s New England Metal Fest when I saw Soilwork live - hearing a gang singing part and seeing the guitarist and bassist footsteps away from their respective mics when they should’ve been layering their vocals over Speed’s screaming part. This just wasn’t the case. The clean vocals, including choruses, are punched in through the soundboard.Granted, it sounds amazing live, but unless you are blind, it leaves a fan like my self feeling as though I have been cheated.
Aside from their live performance, which is awful to say the very least, Soilwork can write a mean melodic metal album. I actually like them more than In Flames. To be honest, I wish I had never seen either band live. That way they could still have some integrity left in my heart as a fan. I guess it’s just the vocal layering that sucks me in with Soilwork. If this band could pull off this vocal layering live, without using pre-recorded material, they would be the best metal band on the planet. They could definitely use a new lyricist though, as the lyrics are absolutely horrible and I don’t recommend reading them unless you are looking for a good laugh. A quick note, “One for the money, two for the show” isn’t metal, it’s just plain awful.
Like "Natural Born Chaos," "Figure Number Five" is extremely catchy. The chorus hooks suck you in and you’re lost in each moment. There’s really not a great riff on this album, which were aplenty on earlier thrash efforts "Steelbath Suicide" and "Chainheart Machine." But for some reason, this album just simply works in a huge way on all levels. I swear that the structure of “Light the Torch” could’ve been a Fear Factory song at one point or another. Now that I think about it, new Fear Factory is a great comparison to the “new” Soilwork sound. “Light the Torch” possesses the only intelligent riff on this entire record, so listen closely because it’s gone almost as soon as it arrives.
I understand what people are saying when they call Soilwork numetal. It’s true there are definitely aspects of the genre found throughout "Figure Number Five," but one must also account for the fact that they were also found on "Natural Born Chaos" and "A Predator’s Portrait." So, if you were a fan of those records, don’t try to pass off for one second that "Figure Number Five" sucks because of some newfound affinity for mainstream metal.
When you make it through this album you are going to be so pissed that these guys can’t pull this shit off live. So, do yourself a favor and stay far and clear from this band’s concerts. Believe me, it’s not worth the pain or the frustration. It’s a hard choice to make, but the right one nonetheless.
Bottom Line: Soilwork are just another in a long line of studio only bands. I remember when true metal bands didn’t record something they couldn’t pull off live. When bands like Nile can flawlessly pull off their extremely tech sound night in and night out, with no problems at all, I can’t see how an average melodic metal band can’t at least find a singer(s) that can sing their songs live As much as I love "Natural Born Chaos" and "Figure Number Five," I’m forced to look at Soilwork as the Britney Spears of metal. With producers as talented as Devin Townsend and Fredrick Nordstrom, the sky is simply the limit. Soilwork proves this with their mesmerizing "Figure Number Five."
(PS. my score reflects a grade according to this band’s record "Figure Number Five" and does not include a loss of points for a failing live show.)