After first listening to this album I was literally stunned by the time it had ended. Soilwork’s latest album blew me away song after song, and in my first day of owning it I ended up listening to it seven times before reluctantly taking a breather with something mellower. Natural Born Chaos is the essence of melodic aggression — it is definitely one of the best metal albums I’ve heard in years. I’m not really a metalhead, per se, so take that for what it’s worth. Either way, I readily maintain that this is an _awesome_ record.Produced by metal’s own mad scientist, Devin Townsend (Strapping Young Lad), Natural Born Chaos envelops the listener with raging staccato walls of heavy riffage with exceptional compositional and melodic talents. While unquestionably aggressive, Soilwork’s music here is also stunningly melodic at times. For this, we can mainly credit the incredible vocal melodies and vocalist Speed’s delivery. On nearly every song, he smoothly toggles between his threatening, throaty growl and dark, powerful clean voice — and often straddling the line between the two. Speed’s vocals are uniformly stunning, and the album is not shy with hooks. I’ve found many of these songs stuck in my head for days at a time. Yet, for all of Natural Born Chaos’ melodic qualities, it remains a punishing, visceral metal album. Predominantly fast thrash-inflected, syncopated guitar furies, there are also the occasional slow, heavy-duty rhythms that recall the trendy nu-metal which works interestingly for rhythmic diversity. If my use of the term nu-metal frightens you, it shouldn’t. Soilwork’s songs are replete with technical, intense riffing that crushes any nu-metal band you can think of, and the band’s leadwork slaughters. Reams of tasty harmonies and textural guitar effects don’t temper the aggression, but still instill a melodic subtlety.I like how this album makes use of keyboards. They are very gentle in the mix, but they subtly enhance the songs without detracting from the “metallic” quality at all. The keys mistily creep through the songs, almost elusive but valuable in every situation: “As We Speak” presents a dramatic keyboard-generated atmosphere behind the raging guitars; “Soilworker’s Song for the Damned” has icy, haunting keyboard backdrops.The musicianship is topnotch, and every song is a highlight — I honestly can’t pick out any favorites because they are all great. Although the album is not very long, it is so awesome anything more would probably cause a fatal overdose. From its haunting artwork to the music itself, this album is an utter success.