Released: 2013, Horror Pain Gore Death Productions
Reviewer: Metal-Rules.com UK Team
After forming ten years ago, Massachusetts-based extreme metal artists Soul Remnants are about to release their second album, following on from Plague of the Universe which came out in 2009. Describing themselves as inspired in equal measure by American Death Metal and Norwegian Black Metal, the quintet promise that Black and Blood will provide a “frighteningly intense aural experience”.
Things certainly start out in an intense way with ‘Chopwork II’, the sequel to the opening track from the previous album. The production quality is exceptional, ensuring a brilliantly crisp sound, and the musicianship is likewise of an astronomically high standard. Colin Conway’s drumming is aggressive and fast-paced, backed up by tremendous bass work from Ryan Murphy, while Mitchell Fletcher’s vocals strike the perfect balance between coarse distortion and clarity that the listener has no difficulty in understanding. On top of all this, the guitar work from Chad Fisher and Tom Preziosi represents a frenetic adventure akin to modern thrash, with chugging rhythms balanced beautifully against emphatic solos.
‘Cauldron of Blood’ continues in much the same vein as the first track. Conway’s drumming is again prominent, and the savage breakdown halfway through just makes you bang your head furiously. ‘Incinerator’ is a full-blown explosion of heavy music. I'm amazed that so much power could be packed into the song without being completely overwhelming, and when it was over I genuinely had to take a breather for a few moments and bask in what I’d just heard. A “frighteningly intense aural experience” is too damn right.
‘Symptoms of Death’ at first offers a return to a more thrashy sound, with a pounding rhythm and layered graphic vocals from Fletcher, before diving headfirst into the full on fury to which the listener has by now become accustomed to. The guitar solo in this one was outstanding. Things take a turn with the opening notes of ‘Dead Black (Heart of Ice)’. Ethereally light, almost ballad-like compared to what has come before it, before growing into a song of epic proportions. This has the pure majesty of Iron Maiden and the great Metallica tracks like ‘The Call of Ktulu’ and ‘To Live is to Die’, but retains that unique spark, largely due to Fletcher’s vicious vocals. Halfway through, the song returns to the almost acoustic beauty of its opening chords, before instantly catapulting into incredible, fast-paced ferocity. A solo on top of this tempestuous storm of music keeps allows the track to maintain that exceptional epic feel, and from there the number soars. Not only is this the best song on the album, for my money it is one of the best metal songs of the year.
‘Rape Casket’ is, naturally, a fairly dark number that allows the whole band to further display their virtuosity. Duelling guitars, almost Slayer-like, are a real highlight here, and the vocal tricks utilized by Fletcher help this song to really stand out. ‘No Afterlife’ is an uncompromising death metal assault, the kind of track whose inclusion in a live set would guarantee an instant moshpit. The final moments of this one, in particular the guitar solo, blew me away. ‘The Antifaith’ is particularly notable for Fletcher’s passionate vocal delivery. In a diatribe whose pacing is akin to a speech or sermon, he unleashes his anger in a thoroughly engaging and intoxicating manner. The music is once again outstanding, but this track was all about the lead singer for me, a performance of genuine individual quality.
The album ends with ‘Reanimation’, kicking off with prominent bass chords from Ryan Murphy. The guitars soon take over, and the record’s denouement takes on the brutal savagery of ‘Incinerator’. Vocal and musical rhythms complement each other in a manner reminiscent of Annihilator’s ‘Alison Hell’, and once again I found myself utterly entranced by the guitar solos. This was truly a perfect end to an astonishing album.
To best express what I feel about this album I would have to utilize a number of unprintable expletives preceded by the word ‘holy’. To put it simply, this is one of the very best metal releases I have ever heard. Each song has an individual awesomeness contributing to the overall brilliance of the whole record. Listening to the complete work is a deeply powerful experience, and the pure beauty of ‘Dead Black (Heart of Ice)’ in particular makes me remember why I love heavy metal music.
I urge you with all my heart to buy this album, it just cannot be missed.
Review by Michael Dodd