Released: 1999, Independant
Have you ever wondered what a more violent Cradle Of Filth would sound like? Or perhaps as less drunken Witchery? Ever better, how about both of those bands with the very best of traditional death metal, a la early Unleashed mixed in? Sound good? Yer damn right! Taking the best elements of those bands and mashing them together with an irreverent blast of blackened wind, Soulless have unleashed (pardon the pun) one of the best independent recordings of the last couple of years. This is a band that has successfully taken its influences and used them to make their own distinct sound.
All of the elements that make a great death metal album are here. The full-out speed assault (see "Down Hell's Path), the grinding bludgeon ("Crumble Beneath"), the mid-tempo crushers ("The Darkening Of Days"), and the mix of all those speeds ("Devilish", "Blissfully Damned"). While the band can sometimes get too good at mixing tempos to the point of overload, the mash of speeds helps vary the album and doesn't let it get boring. The only other complaint I have is the fact that some of the songs tend to bleed into one another, making distinctions impossible in some cases. This happens more as the album gets past its mid-point, with songs like "Emptiness Domain" and "Hellbent" rushing by before you can tell that you've just missed 2 songs.
On the plus side, Soulless ends the album with 2 of their best headcrushers - "Lost" and the title track. "Lost" hits the mid-paced grind zone that I love so much, while "The Darkening Of Days" slow boils in the same pot until it takes off in a rush of speed riffage to finish the album. All you can say to that is "HELL YEAH!" and bang your head along with the band.
Another plus on Soulless' side is the crisp production. While dirty enough to sound "underground", the production job allows all of the band's weapons to sound clear without muddying each other up. In fact, the band's sound is completely its own. You can tell who they're influences are, but they don't fully sound like any one of them. Except for vocalist Jim. His screams are a little to close to Toxine for my liking. Hopefully as the band matures, he will develop his own evil voice and not follow Toxine (whose voice, although perfect for Witchery, can get a little grating on the ears at times). Here's a beer for the band and a definite double-horned salute! Do yourself a favour and get a copy of The Darkening Of Days by contacting the band at: firstname.lastname@example.org