Many thanks to Pablo Zuccalá, the lead vocalist for Soulkick, for sending me their debut album to look at for review. It underlines something I've been discovering for a few years now, namely that there's a vibrant rock/metal scene in South America nowadays that runs all the way across the genres. This is one more album from one more band from down there that's worth checking out and I'm certain that I haven't even scratched the surface yet.
Soulkick hail from Buenos Aires in Argentina and they play a form of hard rock that occasionally thinks about venturing into heavy metal but never quite does. It reminded me a lot of the British bands that grew up everywhere in the mid eighties after the pioneers of the NWOBHM era had shown that there was a serious audience for rock music. Much of what I hear on this album comes from that particular era of British hard rock: the riffs on songs like No Turning Back and Hands of Time; the melodies on No Shelter and The Walls; and even the Whitesnake-esque bluesy swagger of Dagger.
However, there are newer sounds too and the other one I caught often was nineties alternative rock. It's a dominant aspect on Would, which closes out the album, but there's a grunginess that's obvious in songs like Mirror Eyes and The Circle as well. It's kind of like Elixir got crossed with Pearl Jam with some Sammy Hagar era Van Halen added to the mix too. What they don't sound like, at all, are any of the other bands that the musicians play for, like Therion and the Eric Martin Band, two very different outfits indeed that are just are different from Soulkick.
Guitarist Christian Vidal has been with Therion since 2010 and there's absolutely nothing here of that band's sound. The rhythm section of Charlie Giardiana and Pablo Garrocho both play with Eric Martin, or have done (I'm not seeing a current line-up) and, while there's a little of that sound here, it's only a little. This band definitely chose to go their own way, perhaps to play with a style that they're not used to playing otherwise.
Everyone in the band is good at what they do and everyone in the band gets the opportunity to shine, even though nobody feels the need to show off. They're all aided by the mix, which is excellent. I could hear Giardina's bass throughout, without it ever becoming bass heavy. Sure, it helps that there's only one guitarist in the band so, while Vidal is soloing, that's obviously Giardina keeping the riffs alive in the background, but a song like Would is almost a showcase for the bass, as well as a showcase for the unusual rhythms of Garrocho. This one really gets under the skin.
I'm not sure I could tell you my favourite song. Initially it was the riffier ones, no question. No Turning Back barrels along joyously, while When the Lights are Gone does much the same thing about half the speed. Hands of Time deepens the riffing very effectively, but hands off to Zuccalá who finds a way to both sound urgent and soar at the same time, which is a neat trick. I love the way he sustains melody across a tempo shift forty seconds in. That was when I stopped paying attention to the guitars quite as much. There's a lot more here than that and it's not just what's in Would.
This is obviously a good album from the outset but it's one that gets better with repeat listens, as we discover what else the band are doing beyond what we thought they were doing to start with. All that may be missing, I think, is the killer single. No Turning Back tries to be that and does a pretty good job at it too, but the overall effect definitely trumps any individual song. What that means is, while I may not be waking up with any of these songs playing in my head tomorrow morning, I know I'd love to see this band live and I want to hear a second album in a year or two to see how they develop.