Follow The Hollow: Revisiting Soilwork’s transition into melodic metal accessibility, “Natural Born Chaos”

As melodic death metal veterans Soilwork prepare to release their 11th full-length album, Verkligheten, join us as we revisit the band’s previous work that led them to this point. The band’s second chapter has certainly been one to behold, as it can be strongly argued their last two records have been their best work – yes, even moreso than classics like A Predator’s Portrait. Is it because the band’s musicianship has continually evolved? Probably. Maybe it’s vocalist Bjord “Speed” Strid’s continuiously improving abilities? That, too – and a generally strong sense of songwriting – has made the band an essential part of metal’s evolution over the last 20+ years.

2002’s Natural Born Chaos was certainly a transitional album for the band, as the band’s previous work was extremely heavy melodic death metal. A Predator’s Portrait, in particular, foreshadowed what the young band would do on this record as they seriously flirted with melody and singing for the first time. While this record started the band’s mid-career move towards alternative metal, Natural Born Chaos is still firmly rooted in melodeath.

Natural Born Chaos revels in its ability to fill every 3-5 minute song with a large supply of riffs, a guitar solo or two, and Bjorn Strid’s melodically inclined singing (and screaming, of course) dominating the record. This accessibility doesn’t mean the band has gone soft, though. Take, for instance, opener “Follow The Hollow” and “The Flameout”. Both tracks (and the title track, as well) define the mission Soilwork was going for here, namely balancing the heavy and the melodic like few melodic death metal bands do so skillfully. Both tracks are heavy, sure, but they simply explode into keyboard and guitar-driven melodies that are more infectious (and accessible) than anything on Soilwork’s previous records. It all ties together thanks to the very good production of Devin Townsend and Fredrik Nordstrom, who co-produced the album.

Fans of Soilwork’s previous heavy material won’t be alienated here, however. The second half of the record is just as solid as the first, and none embodies it more than “Black Star Deceiver”. One of, if not the heaviest track on Natural Born Chaos, it also contains one of the best solos on the record a little over halfway through.

Given how great The Living Infinite and The Ride Majestic were, Soilwork’s best work might just be yet to come. Yet, the band’s impressive melodic evolution wouldn’t have been possible without Natural Born Chaos, as it’s a quality record that still manages to sound fresh and relevant 17 years after its initial release. Fans of melodic metal of any kind won’t want to miss adding this to their listening collection.

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