Album Review: Soul Grinder – Anthems From The Abyss

Album Review: Soul Grinder - Anthems From The Abyss
Reviewed by Sam Jones

I’m a firm believer in the power of a strong depiction of album art, this case is no different as Soul Grinder’s Anthems From The Abyss came to my attention through prominent artwork and, here’s hoping, a competent work of metal to follow suit. Formed in 2018, Soul Grinder hail from Lower Saxony, Germany, where they are preparing to release their sophomore studio album, just two years following the release of their first full length work: Chronicles Of Decay. Considering the band have only been active four years now, Soul Grinder have done well lately having now two full lengths under their belt, but also two EPs and a Compilation to boot as well. However, Anthems From The Abyss is the band’s first release through record label MDD records so hopefully, through this new contract, we can see the band release more material in the future. Without further adieu; let’s see what Soul Grinder are all about and what we may discern over this album.

The vocal techniques are not what I was expecting. Granted, Soul Grinder offer up a pretty rudimentary delivery where death metal is concerned and, if anything, the primary vocal performance is surprisingly intelligible where we can actually make out what is being said. It therefore allows us to dive further into what is being said which only furthers our immersion of what Soul Grinder have in store for us. What I most enjoyed regarding the vocals though is how they’re never just the one-note performance from start to finish. The very first vocal utterance on record is this extended, guttural chant that immediately separates this record out from a great slew of others. Even before the first typical vocal performance begins, the audience understands that there are a few surprises waiting for them. The vocals also rise quite suddenly at times, becoming a banshee-esque cry demonstrating keen control and ability on the vocalist’s part to maintain a screech that strong, without his voice ailing or straining itself.

The blast beats across this album are especially ruthless and, furthermore, it’s down to how they’ve been mixed into the record on the whole. Listening to the album on the whole, we can infer that the band wanted their sound to be as equal a playing field as they were to able to put forth. We’re able to hear the riffs as easily as any drum beat or vocal delivery throughout the entire duration of this record; no one element overpowers the other which creates a nicely balanced aesthetic for us to fall into and enjoy. Its why the strength of the blast beats and drumming in general feels especially effective, the drums aren’t seeking to pursue dominance throughout the mix and yet, the blast beats break through the mire with ease. We’re able to experience that rapid fire, breakneck pace the blast beats are capable of purporting without them seemingly trying to. The taut, successive resonance the drums strike with creates a rampant pace but, since the album has had a level plane in mind regarding the mix, we’re able to experience them pretty casually without our senses being grated upon.

Album Review: Soul Grinder - Anthems From The Abyss

This also goes hand in hand with the band’s approach to songwriting too. As we move from one track to the next, it’s hardly a case of relentless onslaught repeated to the end, the band made sure there was plenty of variety and diversity amongst their writing and instrumental ability to ensure each track is not only different from the other, but that there are a few surprises waiting for the audience too. This may be due to a slower pace organically emanating from what has previously been accepted as quite the fast song, bringing out the crunching aspect of their guitar work or it can be down to how they’re unafraid to strip away many of the things that render their sound with power and unveil songwriting that’s far more intimate and direct with the audience. You’ve also got the inclusion of atmospheric elements too whether it be horns, orchestral segments etc that give the band something extra to boast of, and the audience something else to latch onto as their perception of the album only transforms as it keeps playing on.

If there’s anything we can say about the guitar work in an album that’s determined to give everything it’s own time in the sun, it’s how versatile the riffs actually are. The overall tone of this record, in terms of the the guitar work, never really changes much even while various tracks pick up or decline depending on what their songwriting details. Yet there is the unmistakable tell throughout some tracks of how meticulous the band have worked at their songwriting to give their riffs unexpected variety here and there. Depending on what the songwriting requires, the guitar work can be that trudging, crunching style yet, within the same song at times, the riffs can suddenly pick up and incline their intensity where they’re soon coupled with those rampant blast beats. Sometimes the riffs will open up with those fiery maelstroms of power before unveiling displays of concrete-dense impact and then, through songwriting, demonstrate more sporadic and eviscerating pieces of guitar work. As a result, Soul Grinder blow the doors of what people may expect from them wide open and they do so early on too so as to desensitise audiences from anticipating the conventional herein.

In conclusion, Anthems From The Abyss is a curious work of death metal. It’s a strong album and a fine piece of German extreme metal but, it’s the fact that it isn’t steeped totally in devastation that makes it interesting to me. This is an old school death metal record with a nice sheen of something new and modern wrapped round it; it’s a record that is going to appeal to many audiences equally young and old because while we can recognise the modern production standard and techniques going into the songwriting, the general attitude and style of the band feels engrossed with retro aesthetic. The variety of riffs and approaches the band took to their songwriting only furthers this notion, plus the down to earth feeling this album has. The band aren’t afraid to throw a few spanners into the works and strip things away to give audiences a more streamlined assault, which is certainly telling of an old school vibe. Ultimately, Anthems From The Abyss is a grand time to be had and is going to make many people happy, as well as open up their minds to the fact there is a German band out there named Soul Grinder.

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