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Published:October 12th, 2007 10:40 EST
Natural Born Chaos II? Not so much.

Natural Born Chaos II? Not so much.

By Mark Palangio

Soilwork`s latest album Sworn To A Great Divide has been getting a lot of hype as being the long awaited return to the aggression and dynamics of Natural Born Chaos. " For a while, there were even rumors floating around that the band was going to use Natural Born Chaos II as the title of the album. I can tell you right now that this album sounds absolutely nothing like Natural Born Chaos, but that doesn`t make it a bad album, by any means.

If you`re wanting to compare this album to a previous Soilwork release, it would be much closer in style to Stabbing The Drama than anything else. There`s a lot of staccato verse riffs that lead into the signature Soilwork super catchy pop " sounding choruses and most of the songs have the same mid tempo groove feel that the last couple albums have had. There are some faster and heavier songs on the album though, namely The Pittsburgh Syndrome " which sounds more like a Terror 2000 song than a Soilwork song. The title track also has some more dynamic riffing and drumming at times, but don`t expect this album to sound like any of the bands older material. I will admit that there are some lead sections and riffs here and there that will remind you of their older more technical style, but these aren`t very frequent. If you don`t like the direction the band has been going since Natural Born Chaos, chances are you`re not going to like this album either.

One thing that really surprised me about the album is how it still sounds like a Soilwork album without Peter Wichers, the co-founder and mastermind behind most of the bands material. When Wichers left the band in late 2005, I expected them to break up or totally change their style, but they did neither. It`s too early to tell what kind of influence guitarist Daniel Antonsson will have on the band`s style. There`s really nothing out of the ordinary here as far as the songs go which makes me think that Ola Frenning wrote most of the guitar parts for the album. The only spot that made me stop and think that I wasn`t listening to a Soilwork album was the intro of Light Discovering Darkness. "

If there`s one glaring flaw with Sworn To A Great Divide, it would be the production. With the exception of Stabbing The Drama, Soilwork has always had great production on all of their past albums, especially Natural Born Chaos. That album just sounds so heavy and powerful. When you turn up the volume on that album you really get immersed in the music. That`s a huge reason why it was such a dynamic sounding album and Sworn To A Great Divide just doesn`t deliver in that regard. The guitar tone sounds very thin which makes the songs sound a lot weaker and less powerful than they could be. It`s really important to have a huge studio-produced sound with this catchy pop metal " style that the band plays now. If this album had the same type of production that Natural Born Chaos had, it would sound completely different.

If you go into this album expecting it to be Natural Born Chaos II, you`re going to be disappointed. If you just take it as the newest Soilwork album, I think fans of the band will definitely enjoy it. Songs like Sworn To A Great Divide, " Breeding Thorns, " Your Beloved Scapegoat, " I, Vermin, " and 20 More Miles " have those classic infectious sounding chorus sections that make you want to listen to the songs over and over again.

Sworn To A Great Divide is far from the bands best work, but it`s a very solid and well done album. There`s nothing new or ground breaking here, but if you`re looking for some new melodic metal to listen to, this is a good place to start.

Review Score - 80% 

Tracklist:
1. Sworn to a Great Divide - 3:31    
2. Exile - 3:48    
3. Breeding Thorns - 3:53    
4. Your Beloved Scapegoat - 3:58    
5. The Pittsburgh Syndrome - 2:45    
6. I, Vermin - 3:36    
7. Light Discovering Darkness - 3:48    
8. As the Sleeper Awakes - 4:16    
9. Silent Bullet - 3:24    
10. Sick Heart River - 4:11    
11. 20 More Miles - 4:36

Soilwork is:
Bjorn Speed " Strid - Vocals
Ola Frenning - Guitars
Daniel Antonsson - Guitars
Ola Flink - Bass
Dirk Verbeuren - Drums
Sven Karlsson - Keyboards