Soilwork, Natural Born Chaos (Nuclear Blast, 2002)
Björn “Speed” Strid − Vocals
Peter Wichers − Guitars
Ola Frenning − Guitars
Ola Flink − Bass
Sven Karlsson − Keyboards
Henry Ranta − Drums
Produced by Devin Townsend
When Soilwork dropped Natural Born Chaos in 2002, “metalcore” was not yet a twinkle in the eye of a million American copycats. Just pure. Fucking. Swedish. Heavy metal. Though their countrymen In Flames may have melodicized death metal first (or second, after At the Gates, I suppose), Soilwork arguably did it better, and the Devin Townsend-produced Natural Born Chaos stands as the band’s defining moment.
Natural Born Chaos doesn’t steamroll you with riffs, technical prowess or off-kilter time signatures; just solid as fuck, undeniable songs through and through. Every single one of ’em, start to finish, is a fist-in-the-air, sing-and-air-guitar-along affair propelled by Peter Wichers knack for a hooky riff and Bjorn “Speed” Strid’s powerful scream, still amongst the best and clearest in all of metal. That Devin Townsend was able to coax a fantastic clean-singing performance out of Strid was the icing on the cake that made the contrast between the verses and choruses so strong and irresistible, long before it became the thing to do or before Decibel coined the “good cap/bad cop” vernacular. Current keyboardist Sven Karlsson made his presence felt in his debut with the band, the most keyboard-present mix before or since. Not for nothin’, Townsend fucking NAILED the production on this one too, and that goes a long way.
Soilwork hasn’t made a bad album yet, but to me Natural Born Chaos mixes all the trademark elements of Soilwork in the perfect brew. Predator’s Portrait was too unrefined, anything before then was like listening to a different (but still good) band; Figure Number Five was too subdued and melodic; Stabbing the Drama… well, StD definitely gives NBC some competition. But for my money Natural Born Chaos is the Soilwork album, the one that defined their sound and that of many bands to follow [the hollow].