Italians Soul Dragger have joined forces with Time To Kill Records for the release of their self-titled debut album which was produced by Marco Mastrobuono at Kick Recording Studios in Rome (Hour Of Penance, Fleshgod Apocalypse, 5Rand). It follows their 2018 debut EP “Before Chaos” with the hand being put together in 2017 in Rome by vocalist and guitarist Alessio “Alex” Pompedda. Rounded out by guitarist Davide “Spol” Spoletini, bassist and backing vocalist Jacopo “Jake” Gennaro and drummer Flavio “Imperatore” Leone, Soul Dragger offer to combine traditional Eighties Metal with Thrash, Melodic Death Metal and Metalcore influences. Quite the rich melting pot.
First single “Rise” is perhaps the epitome of the sound that Soul Dragger are looking to create. It’s “Black” album Metallica era vibe is partly down to Pompedda’s pronunciation of words like “Lie” which have that distinctly Hetfield esq tone. The riffs, highlighted by some Metalcore styled lead flourishes are bolstered by an 80s verse chorus vibe that is echoed in “Damnatio Memoriae“. That’s Latin for “Damnation Of Memory” and showcases not only Pompedda’s vocal range (he has a serious Death Metal bite when he chooses to use it) but also some slick guitar solo prowess. “Angel” isn’t the power ballad the title might have had you thinking it was. Instead it has a Trivium sound to it with the accented vocals providing a catchy sing-a-long chorus and a plethora of Melodic Thrash riffs. Slowing things down for “Maid And The Beast” which is a somber tale of love lost that could be a Megadeth or Metallica track from the 80s and has echoes of the melodic parts of “Welcome Home (Sanitarium)” in the riffs, Soul Dragger manage to escape the seven seas of cheese with consummate skill.
The natural continuation of the narrative takes us to “Everyday” which is a riff fest that once again showcases some of those blacker, beastly backing vocals while keeping the grit and integrity of the material high. If you weren’t already aware, all five songs from the “Before Chaos” EP released in February 2018 are present and correct in the track listing of “Soul Dragger” having been re-recorded and it’s blistering title track (that’s “Before Chaos” not “Soul Dragger“) is a face melting Thrashterpiece of an instrumental that sees both guitarists let loose with some fast tempo shifts and skillful execution. It actually brings to mind “Madman” by Australians Silverchair with the way it flows, constantly building and rebuilding the main riff. “Alone” brings back the vocals while maintaining the confidence and quality with some fine solo work. Would you too lose your mind if you were left alone, withdrawn and constantly left starring at the past? These are the questions that the intelligently written lyrics ask. As a band with Thrash roots, we were waiting for the whammy bar action and that rears its head with “War Nightmare” which also has a tasteful bass lead part from Gennaro.
A song named after a band is always an intriguing move and as a summary of the bands sound as a whole “Soul Dragger” is exactly that. Lyrically the album is essentially concept driven with the overarching theme of a human being who has evolved into an Angel or Supernatural but who has been driven by modern society to a path of self destructive patterns. That’s something we can all relate to in this present time. Returning to those Big Four isms “Death ‘n’ Destruction” is as instantly gratifying as a lottery scratch card win as it stomps through a plentiful bounty of Thrash riffs with like a starving man tucking into a feast of freshly fallen coconuts. Yes, we just said that. Equally as violent, closer “Collapse” clocks in at nearly 9 minutes by progressing through Thrash to 80’s Metal influences in some style with some slick leads. Part of the appeal of Soul Dragger is that the band have a nostalgic quality to their sound but using modern techniques don’t sound at all dated. If you’re a lover of Bay Area Thrash and 80’s Metal then you can’t go wrong with this, it’s good time music [7.5/10]
2. Damnatio Memoriae
4. Maid and the Beast
6. Before Chaos (Instrumental)
8. War Nightmare
9. Soul Dragger
10. Death ‘n’ Destruction
“Self Titled” by Soul Dragger is out 7th February via Time To Kill Records. It’s available for pre-order over at bandcamp