Originally written by Ramar Pittance
Soilwork had a lot of catching up to do when the first arrived on the Swedish metal scene in 1998. Fellow countrymen In Flames and Dark Tranquillity were already deep into prestigious careers and had begun making plays for mainstream acceptance. Looking back, Soilwork’s early works (Steelbath Suicide and The Chainheart Machine) appear almost as mere formalities — respectable, but clearly derivative attempts to establish underground credibility and put them in a position to start playing with the big boys. Their next three releases (A Predator’s Portrait, Natural Born Chaos, Figure Number Five) saw the band stepping out of the shadows and, for better or worse, carving out their true identity as forerunners of the post Gothenburg metal scene. Their latest release, Stabbing The Drama, doesn’t see the band making any daring alterations to their now well tested template. And, while it is far from a perfect execution of their formula, Stabbing the Drama is a release that will only frustrate fans of the band’s distant past and satisfy those simply looking for something to nod their head and sing along to.
Whether or not you dig Soilwork’s style is not really the most crucial question here. Obviously, If you don’t care for what this band has been doing for the last three go rounds then you will not like Stabbing the Drama. However, this album is far from a sure bet even for those willing to meet this band and their radio friendly aspirations half way. These are, for the most part, pop songs. As a result, each song is grounded in a few simple guitar hooks and vocal melodies, all culminating in a “big” chorus. So when the songs revolve around a good riff and feature a worthwhile and memorable chorus, then they are worthwhile. When they botch the simple ingredients, the songs aren’t so good. It’s a simple a formula, but easy to foul up, and when they do the results are very noticeable. “One with the Flies” depends too strongly on a repetitive and predictable nu-metal riff and whisper-quiet vocals, which results in the fabrication of some insincere and unbecoming aggression. Thankfully, the band has been doing this for a while, and seems to know what works. They are, for the most part, content to play it safe and give the people what they crave. Songs like the title track and “Distance” are both heavy on the clean vocals and memorable refrains. While, this shrewdness may not make for any remarkable songs, it at least prevents the band from doing anything too annoying.
It’s safe to say that we’re all pretty much done being shocked and dismayed by Soilwork’s push for the mainstream. They’re comfortable with this style and at this point they seem to have the system running on autopilot. The result is a mostly unremarkable but mindlessly enjoyable disc. I think, when people look back on this band’s career, Stabbing the Drama will be considered a solid but generally safe and forgettable album.