The thought that rock and rock and roll has existed for more than half a millennium is wild, and it’s even stranger to think that certain bands and genres fall in the same spectrum. The latest album from Austin, Texas-based band Souls Extolled is entitled MMXXII and spans 12 tracks. With a myriad influences from the rock and metal world, it took me quite a few listens to wrap my head around.
The opening track Sweet Glow is a 70s track at its heart. You can hear many nods to the works of Rainbow, but the vocals had a more modern tinge and reminded me of the haunting way Vince Cavanagh of Anathema sings his lyrics. The second track, Ride Of My Life, is sung more softly and uses slow bass lines and chord progressions against groovy drum-quite the indie biker rock song (in my opinion). If you weren’t already surprised by how the band could go from the 70s in the first track to a more modern 2000s sound in the second track, then you’ll be shocked once you hear track number three: Acid Drop. This track has the pounding riffage of Bleach-era Nirvana, with anger and aggression in its gritty vocals-the screams and voice cracks are second to none. This Time is a slower track that feels like ska punk met goth rock somewhere in the past, creating an awesome dreamy yet grippingly dark song. Propaganda Song is another short track with more ska stuff going on, only to be interrupted by blast beats and ominous keys/synths.
Dancing In The Light has a more conventional structure, is mid-tempo and has a more accessible feel in general. It hit me right in the feels with a solid guitar solo that created a wonderful climax. 1K Red Balloons brings back the more violent distorted vocals along with atmospheric keys…it’s more of an alternative rock track than the rest of the album, and its guitar solo was highly impactful. Fall Into Orbit begins with a guitar progression and tone similar to that of sweet glow, but the timing of the gentle drum beat gives it more of a ska feel…it’s probably the most dance-friendly song on the album. I love the seamless ability these guys have; to blend genres.
Never Like Before is a highly emotional number. I was caught in the state of trance it put me in and the interplay between lead and backing vocals that I couldn’t even categorise it into one of the album’s many genres. It has a very melodic solo and catchy lyrics. Self Mutilation (Won’t Forget) had a lot of transitions from slow verses to a fast and more aggressive chorus. Just Dreams had a similar arrangement, except it was generally heavier and faster than all the other tracks, especially on the bridge section. In the middle of that bridge is one of the most Metal sounding guitar solos you’ll ever hear. The lead guitar was backed up by keyboard lines that honed the Rainbow influence I mentioned earlier. The final track Down To Go is a more proggy one with a tempo change after the intro, deep dark vocals and a creepy outro. This album is just the gift that keeps on giving.
If I plainly told you that Souls Extolled are putting as many genres as possible in to one record, you wouldn’t anticipate MMXXII to be the masterpiece it is. But let me tell you, these guys have honed their songwriting abilities, mastered their instruments and blurred the lines between all the loveable eras/movements of the Rock world. When you only share a few elements with other artists but still give the same emotions, you know you’ve successfully solidifed your musical fingerprint, regardless of genre or style.