Wednesday 8 November 2023

Soulkick - Hide the End (2023)

Country: Argentina
Style: Hard Rock
Rating: 7/10
Release Date: 20 Oct 2023
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Lead vocalist Pablo Zuccalá kindly sent me a copy of Soulkick's debut album a couple of years ago. I was happy to review it and they were happy enough with what I said about it to send me the follow up. I'm glad that they lived up to the title of that debut, No Turning Back, because this is a slightly more mature version of the same thing and it sounds very good indeed. They hail from Argentina and play a contemporary form of hard rock that's rooted in the classic rock era but with touches of more modern alternative rock, toned down a little here in favour of glimpses at prog metal.

The word of the day is elegance, starting with the mix, which is absolutely pristine. That's elegant riffing to kick off Sign of the Times and a powerful back end to punctuate it. Soulkick remain a four piece band, so the bass of Charlie Giardina is easily identifiable throughout without dropping the sound into bass heavy mode. I liked that about the debut and I like it even more here. Zuccalá is a little reminiscent of Geoff Tate on this song and often throughout the album. He doesn't have the same range, of course, because precious few singers do, but he drops impressively low on Empty Faces given how he's much higher everywhere else, and he never stretches beyond his limits.

If there's a flaw, it's in how he sometimes tries a little too hard to emulate other singers or styles when he could have remained in his own style just as effectively. He doesn't need to, but it's easy to tell when he does. Empty Faces, for instance, may start out almost like an Outlaws song, but it quickly becomes a Metallica ballad with a grungy filter over it, mostly because of the vocals. I preferred The Rope, which starts out with riffage reminiscent of Motörhead but on which Zuccalá doesn't remotely try to sound like Lemmy. The riff remains, however, and it builds and even ends like a Motörhead song.

It's always interesting to try to figure out Soulkick's influences because guitarist Christian Vidal is also Therion's guitarist and has been for well over a decade now, but there isn't anything here of their sound. Instead, they draw from AOR, classic rock, NWOBHM and alt rock, and much of that is in the guitarwork. There's some Scorpions in Sign of the Times, especially during the solo, and Van Halen in Last Goodbye and Reasons. Make Believe ups the heaviness with a neat bass riff to start and there's an even heavier riff halfway through Carved in Stone.

Sometimes, of course, what I hear, isn't necessarily something that I could fairly call an influence. While those nods to Metallica and Motörhead are clearly deliberate, Last Goodbye shifts into high gear with a riff that reminds me of Jan Cyrka's Western Eyes, an instrumental that Tommy Vance used as backing music on the Friday Rock Show. Instead of Tommy's urgent voice running through another rock chart, though, this softens up a little for the sung parts and heavies back up for the instrumental sections, an approach that they employ on many of these songs. I don't expect that Soulkick tuned into the Friday Rock Show or heard Cyrka elsewhere, of course. It'll be coincidence.

Once again, there are no bad songs, merely those which connect better than others on a personal level. I happened to appreciate the attitude of Perfect Day, the sassiness infusing Reasons and the heavy riff in Carved in Stone, but you may focus on other details and be just as right as me. There are no definitive answers, just individual tastes. I might suggest that Voices in the Night and On the Road are the least interesting songs on offer, but I have to add that the former is almost textbook solid. I could see that being someone's favourite song of the eleven on offer. It just doesn't aim to do anything fancy because it doesn't need to.

My favourite song surprised me because it's the most alt rock song here, namely The Lighthouse. I heard that influence a lot on the debut and it's less evident here, but The Lighthouse is an alt rock song, even if it's clean and nuanced, especially in the vocals. Zuccalá betrays a slight accent there, but it just adds a subtle exotic flavour because he chooses to sing in English throughout, similarly to someone like Klaus Meine. Sure, we know English isn't their first language, but they're fluent enough to deliver and intonate effectively. Those accents add rather than subtract.

I have no idea how well Soulkick are doing down there in Buenos Aires or internationally, now that the internet has shrunk the world. Based on their first two albums, they should be doing very well indeed, thank you very much. I hope that's the case. Now, how about album three in 2025?

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