German act Souldrinker have been kicking around the traps for some little while now, releasing a couple of EPs earlier in the decade but taking until now to get around to releasing a full length.
Guitarist Markus Pohl (you’ll possibly know him best from his work with fellow Germans Mystic Prophecy) is at the centre of everything that’s good about the band, coming up with an endless supply of groovy, heavy riffs and melodic solos that keep the listener engaged throughout. Operating in the area where the US groove of Zakk Wylde collides with the high-impact Euro power chops of Gus G, Pohl is a superb player and every track here highlights this.
That’s not to say that Souldrinker is just about one man and his six strings. Vocalist Iris Boanta gets well stuck into the task too, adding a sandpapery roar to the songs that stops shy of Arch Enemy-styled madness whilst still keeping the power in the red. Rhythm section Chris Rodens (bass) and drummer Steffen Theurer keep things direct and bombastic at all times.
After an opening brace of songs, Let the King Bleed and the title track, that concentrate on credential-establishing crunch and groove, the band start to spread their wings on third track Promised Land, a slow-moving quasi epic that ebbs and flows superbly on the back of a finely-measured performance from Boanta.
The following track, the strangely-named To the Tick starts life as a fully-formed hair metal ballad, tear jerking piano backing an impassioned vocal that’ll have the hairs on the back of the neck seriously interested; that the song then explodes into a lurching, Kreatoresque piece of Teutonic overkill shows how much the band are willing to experiment – with, it has to be said, winning results.
Take my Pain and Like Rain both ease back on the brutality but lose nothing in intensity thanks to the committed performances of all involved, with Boanta’s superb vocal ability again taking both songs by the scruff of the neck.
Raise the Flag doesn’t arrest the attention quite as much, though it does contain a superb solo, and the meat and potatoes rock of Fire Raiser suggests the album may be fizzling out slightly; however Voices, an absorbing exercised in melodic, weighty heaviness and superb vocal dexterity, pulls things from the brink and then some.
Closing track Final Stand combines dramatic, chugging guitars, insistent drums and another ear-tugging vocal refrain to bring the curtain down leaving the listener wanting more – and hoping that more doesn’t take five years to get here next time!
War is Coming will be released by El Puerto Records on November 3rd.