SOILWORKís latest album "Sworn To A Great Divide" has been getting a lot of hype as being "the long awaited return to the aggression and dynamics of "Natural Born Chaos." There were even rumors floating around that the band was going to use "Natural Born Chaos II" as the title of the album for a while. I can tell you right now that this album sounds absolutely nothing like "Natural Born Chaos," but that doesnít make it a bad album by any means.
If youíre wanting to compare this album to a previous SOILWORK release, it would be much closer in style to "Stabbing The Drama" than anything else. Thereís a lot of staccato verse riffs that lead into the signature SOILWORK super catchy "pop" sounding choruses and most of the songs have the same mid tempo groove feel that the last couple albums have had. There are some faster and heavier songs on the album though, namely "The Pittsburgh Syndrome" which sounds more like a TERROR 2000 song than a SOILWORK song. The title track also has some more dynamic riffing and drumming at times, but donít expect this album to sound like any of the band's older material. I will admit that there are some lead sections and riffs here and there that will remind you of their older more technical style, but these arenít very frequent. If you donít like the direction the band has been going since "Natural Born Chaos," chances are youíre not going to like this album either.
One thing that really surprised me about the album is how it still sounds like a SOILWORK album without Peter Wichers, the founder and mastermind behind most of the bands material. When Wichers left the band in 2005, I expected them to break up or totally change their style, but they did neither. Itís too early to tell what kind of influence guitarist Daniel Antonsson will have on the bandís style. Thereís really nothing out of the ordinary here as far as the songs go which makes me think that Ola Frenning wrote most of the guitar parts for the album. The only spot that made me stop and think that I wasnít listening to a SOILWORK album was the intro of "Light Discovering Darkness."
If thereís one glaring flaw with "Sworn To A Great Divide," it would be the production. With the exception of "Stabbing The Drama," SOILWORK has always had great production on all of their past albums, especially "Natural Born Chaos." That album just sounds so heavy and powerful. When you turn up the volume on that album you really get immersed in the music. Thatís a huge reason why it was such a dynamic sounding album and "Sworn To A Great Divide" just doesnít deliver in that regard. The guitar tone sounds very thin which makes the songs sound a lot weaker and less powerful than they could be. Itís really important to have a huge studio produced sound with this catchy "pop Metal" style that the band plays now. If this album had the same type of production that "Natural Born Chaos" did, it would sound completely different.
If you go into this album expecting it to be "Natural Born Chaos II," youíre going to be disappointed. If you just take it as the newest Soilwork album, I think fans of the band will definitely enjoy it. Songs like "Sworn To A Great Divide," "Breeding Thorns," "Your Beloved Scapegoat," "I, Vermin," and "20 More Miles" have the classic infectious sounding chorus sections that make you want to listen to the songs over and over again. "Sworn To A Great Divide" is far from the bands best work, but itís a very solid and well done album. Thereís nothing new or ground breaking here, but if youíre looking for some new Melodic Metal to listen to, this is a good place to start.
(Online November 30, 2007)