Soilwork's seventh release sees the band continuing on with the melodic and accessible death metal sounds that the band introduced on 2001's A Predator's Portrait and really made their mark with on the follow-up Natural Born Chaos. On Stabbing the Drama, the band sounds a bit more aggressive and straightforward, utilizing some of the techniques of American bands like Killswitch Engage or Shadows Fall, rather than rely on the Swedish metal sounds that they have made famous along with bands like In Flames and Dark Tranquility. So while some of the death metal vocals do remain, mixed very effectively with catchy clean vocals, the overall music is faster and relies less on doomy death/black metal passages. The band also effectively uses keyboards once again, courtesy of Sven Karlsson, as a way to set a mood and add a futuristic element, rather than as a lead instrument.
The rampaging "One With the Flies" is a perfect example of this technique, as Karlsson's synths bubble with an almost Techno edge, while the twin guitars of Peter Wichers and Ola Frenning come crashing in with murderous riffs. Other songs like "The Crest Fallen" and the crushing title track offer little subtlety, instead beat you over the head with meaty guitar chords and aggressive vocal shouts. However, there are plenty of metal thumpers here that also have wonderful hooks, like the catchy 'Weapon of Vanity" and the symphonic nu-metal style of "Nerve", complete with tasty pinch-harmonic guitar squeals.
If you dig speedy and brutal thrash, then look no further than "Stalemate", a kick-ass number with lethal death vocals and clean passages during the chorus that complement each other quite nicely. One of the most accessible pieces, and one that might even have life on a medium like MTV's Headbanger's Ball, is the addicting "Observation Slave", a real melodic tune that features great vocals from Bjorn "Speed" Strid, futuristic keyboards, and a killer hook. Fans of Killswitch Engage, or even the more recent In Flames release, will eat this song up. Early fans of the band who yearn for them to return to the complex thrash/death metal of their first two albums will love the pulverizing yet brief "Blind Eye Halo", easily the heaviest song the band has done in years. In sharp contrast, the band gets in some progressive atmosphere with a gothic flavor on the dreamy "Wherever Thorns May Grow", featuring spacey vocals and lots of varied guitar sounds.
In summary, there's a little something for everyone here. Stabbing the Drama is certainly the heaviest album the band has recorded since 1999's The Chainheart Machine, but it's also their most straightforward sounding, with less technical or complex guitar parts in favor of simpler, heavier riffs. Keyboards figure more into the sound, which add a nice gothic/prog vibe to some of the tunes, and there's definitely an equal amount of catchy vocal parts to go along with the maniacal death shouts. If I have one complaint it's that many of the songs are fairly short, and none exceed five minutes. With a headline tour of the US set to kick off, Soilwork seemed poised to make their mark with the release of this one. Let's wish them luck!
1) Stabbing the Drama (4:35)
2) One With the Flies (4:02)
3) Weapon of Vanity (4:04)
4) The Crest Fallen (3:48)
5) Nerve (3:40)
6) Stalemate (3:30)
7) Distance (4:31)
8) Observation Slave (4:11)
9) Fate in Motion (3:32)
10) Blind Eye Halo (2:26)
11) Wherever Thorns May Grow (2:26)