With the welcome return of original singer Ryan McCombs in 2011 for a UK tour (co-headlining with Puddle of Mudd) to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the SOiL’s breakthrough album ‘Scars’, speculation was rife as to whether this reunion would result in a new studio venture. We didn’t have to wait long before the band announced they were planning a brand new, crowd-sourced album and come Donnington’s Download Festival it also had a name; ‘Whole’.
Wasting no time getting down to business the record rips straight into ‘Loaded Gun’ instantly reacquainting fans with a SOiL sound not heard since 2004’s ‘Redefine’. Yet while there’s a certain air of familiarity it’s also harder and much more intense than previous outings, SOiL are back and they mean business.
The second track ‘The Hate Song’ ricochets around my headphones causing an uncontrollable urge to jerk my head forward and back in time with the music. By the end of the first chorus I’m already singing along with the lyrics, yes, it’s a proper jumpy party tune that begs to be played again.
‘Ugly’ creeps in like a greased up panther stalking its prey. A menacing intro riff falls into a sparse-sounding verse with lyrics that call on the protagonist (or victim) to look at the ugly darkness inside before ramping up the gain for the chorus.
The fourth track ‘Way Gone’ makes an entrance with a repeating, ‘rawhide-style “Oh Yeah” as the staccato guitars are joined by a driving bass drum. I swear I can hear a whip crack at one point, get those wagons rollin’! The verse is unhinged and threatening, getting more aggressive for the bridge until ripping into the memorable chorus.
‘Psychopath’ starts accordingly with a speed-metal riff that rattles the headphones off my ears. The pace relents briefly for the chorus, just enough time to catch your breath before you’re once again pulled into the circle pit and tossed around like a rag doll.
Many of you may have heard track six ‘Shine On’ as the band released it alongside a promotional video back in June. For those who have not yet had the pleasure the song begins with insidious guitars that are clearly up to something sinister. Breaking in for the chorus it’s another jumpy anthem-like tune begging you to throw your fists in the air and prance about like a loon. You can tell this is going to be one of those numbers that the crowd will go nuts to when played live.
‘Wake Up’ is a command you’d fail to obey if you set this track as your morning alarm. Unbalanced competing riffs and manic drums would certainly get you out of bed in a start but as a song it’s the first track that feels more like an album filler.
Ferociously militant drums and choppy guitars signal the intro to track eight ‘Amalgamation’. After ‘Wake Up’ it’s a welcome return to something that doesn’t need a great deal of concentration to get where its coming from. It may not leap out and demand to be heard much passed the first chorus but is worth revisiting as you’ll find it’s a grower.
Track number nine ‘My Time’ begins with a brief spell of music that could easily have been a video game soundtrack from the mid-90’s. The intro hook endures this time picked up by thick heavy guitars, bass and drums until the verse breaks the chain only for the hook to reprise for the chorus.
‘Little Liar’ a darkly reminder that SOiL can produce some sinister sounding metal when they want to. A slowing of pace this late in the album sets up the final act perfectly.
‘One Love’ marks the curtain call for ‘Whole’. Grab a handful of albums from any discerning music lover and chances are the final track on any of those albums will be the most progressive. SOiL underpin this theory by concluding with an epic song that crescendos from a softly, softly journey of plodding guitars and deep ballad-like vocals to a face-pulling battle royale only to be pulled apart as if the whole scene was being sucked into a black hole as the track and the album reaches it’s final destination.
The one criticism that can be levied at ‘Whole’ is that it lacks a “Halo” or “Unreal” of it’s own. ‘Shine On’ and ‘The Hate Song’ come closest and while the songs on offer here are much more distinctive than SOiL’s other post-’Scars’ efforts, they don’t quite match their classic breakthrough album. A harsh criticism maybe, as few bands ever recapture the excitement and energy of the album that broke them. Having said that ‘Whole’ is a welcome return to the ‘SOiL’ sound many of us know and love and long may they reign.
01 Loaded Gun
02 The Hate Song
04 Way Gone
06 Shine On
07 Wake Up
09 My Time
10 Little Liar
11 One Love
Ryan McCombes – Vocals
Adam Zadel – Lead Guitar
Tim King – Bass