Figure Number Five

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With Figure Number Five, Soilwork continues on the melodic, streamlined path forged on previous platter Natural Born Chaos (which marked a departure from the hectic, At the Gates-style death/thrash of the group's first three releases). Releasing Figure Number Five barely a year after its predecessor, the Swedes apparently struck while the iron was hot, riding the inspired wave of Chaos' songwriting into an even more hook-heavy realm. Immediately noticeable is the conciseness of the songs -- only one surpasses the four-minute mark, the band trimming any unnecessary fat from the arrangements and scoring with several strong, hard jabs and a couple of jaw-busting uppercuts (i.e., "Rejection Role" and "Figure Number Five," the album's most aggressive track that proves Soilwork, despite an increasing emphasis on melody, is still cut from post-death metal cloth), "Light the Torch," and "Brickwalker," although the power ballad (!) "Departure Plan" doesn't quite convince. Vocalist Björn "Speed" Strid sounds more natural transitioning between the thrashy howl of the verses and the clean singing during the choruses, and the neo-prog keyboards mingle well with the carefully constructed riffs, which are compellingly thick and aggressive without being too busy or distracting from the song. Figure Number Five is a thoroughly fresh and exciting record, growing more powerful with each listen, even if death metal purists will bristle at the band's lack of "brutality." Point being, with each successive album, Soilwork is getting even more difficult to categorize, and therefore rising above any genre limitations. (Initial pressings of Figure Number Five came packaged with a bonus CD consisting of six raw, thrash-heavy, and difficult-to-listen-to demo recordings from 1997, which serve to show a seedling of the band's ambition and further illustrate how much the band had progressed over six years.)

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