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Natural Born Chaos

Sweden Country of Origin: Sweden

Natural Born Chaos
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Type: Full-Length
Release Date: March 25th, 2002
Genre: Death, Melodic, Thrash
1. Follow The Hollow
2. As We Speak
3. The Flameout
4. Natural Born Chaos
5. Mindfields
6. The Bringer
7. Blackstar Deceiver
8. Mercury Shadow
9. No More Angels
10. Song Of The Damned

Review by Nathan on March 23, 2024.

This is one of the most shallow, unabashedly poppy albums you'll hear as a metal fan. It's genuinely impressive how little substance or depth there is to this. The song structures are identical - you could rearrange the tracks any way you wanted and it wouldn't affect how the album is perceived because all of the songs are the same: chuggy verse, sugary chrorus with Strid singing, do it again, breakdown/bridge part, do the chorus again, maybe repeat it some more or go back to the main verse riff to close the song. You know, the rock song structure. All the riffs are carefully rounded down so as to avoid being abrasive, and even at its most aggressive this album is still incredibly playful and inviting for melodic death metal. If you're looking for an album that evokes any sort of raw, unfiltered emotion, you'd best be looking elsewhere. While I wouldn’t go as far as to call this a nu-metal album (as a few dumbasses did when this came out, it seems), I can definitely see why this would appeal more to a fan of Shinedown or Static-X than an old In Flames junkie.

All that being said, this is an extremely listenable album. Ever heard the phrase “in one ear and out the other”? Yeah. Natural Born Chaos has a warm fuzziness that permeates through its guitar tone, with every element carefully mixed with an industrial precision (Strapping Young Lad Easter egg by Devy?) that makes the album incredibly easy on the ears. This doesn’t sound like industrial metal, mind you. There’s a faint resemblance to Fear Factory in some of the choppy stutter-chugs, but that’s about it. I feel like using the word “industrial” or perhaps “robotic” to describe the album, though, and it’s because Natural Born Chaos has no...soul. There’s a crisp, glossy sheen lining the music, not just in the production but also in the performances. All of Strid’s choruses are ear-pleasing enough just because of that warm tenor voice of his, but never awe-inspiring enough to make any song stand out. It’s hard to know what the standout single would be for this because literally every song sounds so fucking identical and every chorus is so equally kinda-catchy. The guitars combine a lot of playful melody with precise, choppy grooves, but man I find myself longing for a sour note in the solos to make me feel some sort of non-neutral emotion.The keyboards are only further proof that this was probably generated by a groove melodeath AI. Is anyone’s life gonna be changed by the lyrics of a song called “Black Star Deceiver”? Do people actually read the lyrics and find deep emotional resonance in Soilwork’s haphazard ESL poetry? My guess is probably not.

It seems like this is considered one of the band’s more popular albums overall, but people also indicate this as the point where the band started to sell out. That makes sense, because there’s still a few Gothenburg melodeath riffs sprinkled about and some of the solos are fairly energetic, so if you are a fan of the older stuff this is probably the last point at which you’ll get any kind of enjoyment out of the band. If you’re a melodeath/groove metal fan, this is about as close to an exact approximation of that genre as it gets, so you’ll probably really enjoy this. It’s a good representation of what the genre can sound like at its most refined, with an equal balance of influences coming from death metal, Pantera and pop. One could even say it’s a foundational and influential album for the style - well, at least every melodeath band on Nuclear Blast sounded like this for a few years. You don’t have to think at all when you listen to Natural Born Chaos, but to be fair there’s probably a lot of people out there that prefer it that way. Well executed in an artistically bankrupt sub genre, this album is about as good as it could have been, with the caveat that it was never going to be great.

Rating: 6.5 out of 10


Review by Adam on February 15, 2002.

"Natural Born Chaos" is a culmination of years of hard work and evolution for Soilwork containing their most melodic and catchy material to date. It takes where the band was going with "A Predator’s Portrait" one step further with less focus on speed and more on punch. With this release, the band have finally created their own unique sound unlike any other within the extreme metal realm.

After metal fans were bombarded with the all out blistering assault known as "The Chainheart Machine", it was difficult for many to grasp the band’s change in pace for their follow-up. One of "A Predator’s Portraits" most notable faults was the fact that it did not really flow together all that well. As "Chainheart Machine" was mostly consistently thrashy and fast, "A Predator’s Portrait" changed pace with each song, leaving the more speedy numbers to overshadow the more mid-tempo tunes. With "Natural Born Chaos" the tracks have a very nice flow from one to another. For the more intense songs, the thrash drumming has been replaced by a more punchy drum sound which gives these tracks more of a diverse kick rather than that supplied with overused thrash beats.

Another noticeable improvement on this record are the vocals. As many of you know, Devin Townsend helped to produce the record and you can tell by the vocal layering and so forth that he was a great asset to the recording process and overall sound of the release. He also guests on one of the tracks entitled 'Blackstar Deceiver'. The intense vocals sound better as well as do the clean vocals, which are bit higher in occurrence than on they were on their previous effort.

This record still contains basically everything Soilwork have stood for since the beginning of their metal career; melody and intensity. The drum and guitar sounds are very similar to that of "A Predator’s Portrait". The bass and the keyboards are given more breathing room on this release as well. On several occasions the keyboards are actually placed up front for a brief moment which I felt to be a welcome and very pleasant surprise. The production on this cd is absolutely flawless.

Overall, this is another very solid effort from Soilwork. If you liked "A Predator’s Portrait", you will absolutely love "Natural Born Chaos". Especially those fans who loved the bonus track to that record 'Asylum Dance' which was the most catchy and melodic songs the band had recorded up to that point. Some may be a bit put off by the increase of clean vocals, yet in the end they create a nice balance, however are still very much belittled by the much improved intense vocals. This is not the same hellraising speed oriented Soilwork we knew from "The Chainheart Machine", but a constantly evolving band putting above all else quality, melody, and intensity. Soilwork have created another heavy metal masterpiece with "Natural Born Chaos" sure to be one of the greatest metal releases of 2002. This is star making material right here!

Bottom Line: Soilwork fans will totally eat this up, yet if you have never really gotten into them in the past then this is a great place to start.

Categorical Rating Breakdown

Originality: 10
Musicianship: 10
Atmosphere: 10
Production: 10
Overall: 10

Rating: 10 out of 10