First and foremost, I'm sorry reviews have been relatively infrequent of late; So called "real life" has been particularly demanding of attention in the run up to some exams I apparently have to do at some point. On the other hand, breaks from studying are very welcome indeed, and this particular break involves reviewing a certain death/thrash band from Ohio by the name of Soulless, and their latest album "In Death's Grip" released in January of this year.
By all accounts, Soulless are something of a hidden gem in the underground metal-scene, and certainly, upon hearing their material, I can't understand why they aren't more heard of around the world, particularly with over fifteen years worth of material which is undeniably crafted with care. While perhaps not reinventing the wheel when it comes to thrashy death metal, the band certainly seem to carve some fine, juicy cuts of the style, and their latest record, the bands fourth, the third on which their long suffering mascot seems to have met with a grizzly fate, continues this tradition. The recipe for the music is certainly one which appeals to me; high-energy, tight and quite melodic, with a generous helping of lead-guitar work, especially in terms of melody and embellishment, but at the same time avoiding being insubstantial and twiddly. As I stated previously, not reinventing the wheel, but certainly making a brand of wheel which can take the listener for a solid ride. The band don't emphasise lightning speed or overtly crushing heaviness, but instead craft a remarkably solid, vigorous and fist-pumping concoction, swerving merrily between hefty, groove-laden riffs and faster sections more akin to old-school death metal and thick, clunking thrash, which quite often ends up being lighting-quick and crushingly heavy anyway. The factor uniting the styles incorporated in the music is without a doubt how energetic it feels, and I can certainly imagine that while Soulless might be among the opening bands of an evening, I absolutely expect they can conjure a pit or two, and dare I say, the band feel like to kind of support-band who have many-a-time inadvertently and impressively stolen the show from the big-boys ostensibly headlining.
The vocals quite often stand out interestingly; taking a very venomous, almost misanthropic persuasion through a lot of the record, particularly the -sort-of-title-track "Death's Icy Grip", where they feel very frenzied and scornful; typically less gruff and more maniacal than a lot of the death-metal vocal-styles one might have expected. The vocals are fiercely enunciated too, which adds to the bands percussive style and makes the vocal lines accompany the vigour of the music fantastically. The title track is, incidentally, also one of the more melodic on the record, and certainly demonstrates that the band don't play straight-up death-metal all of the time; taking not only a more thrashy persuasion, but also spreading plenty of memorable melodies through the track, fortunately without sounding too much like the "bad" kind of melodic death metal; that is, power-metal which has been to the gym once or twice too often. Instead, you get the impression that the melody through the album is present because it works - certainly not for the sake of it - it often crowns the thundering riff-work below, and carries the music forward. In fact, I think I can safely say that there is nothing in the record which sounds "for the sake of it" at all; which is another point of mention - there isn't any filler to speak of; and not a single track which left me unsatisfied, and all felt well-crafted. Each track is a veritable fortress of extremely nimble and explosive guitar work, both memorable and intense, solidly reinforced by the rhythm section, and with enraged vocals spat all over it with gusto. The album as a whole definitely brings the best of a few genres to the table, combining crushing and intense death-metal with the wreck-your-neck quality of thrash, and enough melody to really take the band to the next level; the songs are damn tight, but at the same time, the agility works, as opposed to being a case of one musician showing-off.
Looking at the band's entry on Metal Archives, it's very impressive to note just how many bands the members of Soulless have contributed to over the years. It makes me feel rather touched that they considered me, writer of reviews that about four people read, to actually have something to say about their band's music. My final thing to say is this however; that's not why I've said good things. I've said good things about "In Death's Grip" because my ears tell me it's a damn solid album, and I suggest that the reader should give it a listen at the first opportunity.
A solid 8/10.
Soulless Official Site
Soulless on Bandcamp
Soulless on Facebook
Soulless on Metal Archives