|The gloves are off, and Soil have come out swinging.
From the first shards of opening track "Fight For Life," to the firestorm that follows in lead single "Give It Up" and the bitter litany of "Threw It Away," one thing is perfectly clear about Soil's third full-length album, and first for DRT Entertainment: Mixing metallic slabs of blinding fury with melodic interludes of passive restraint, True Self is the coming-of-age of a band hell-bent on making hard rock and heavy metal take notice.
"The whole premise of this new record was to take the elements that our fans knew and loved about Soil and bring them to a new level," says bassist Tim King. "Musically, the same core that Soil has always had is still intact, but we've added a new dimension lyrically and have taken things further—But instead of taking one step forward, we've taken five."
The "new level" King is referring to came in the form of frontman A.J. Cavalier, who played his first show with the band in Dec. '04. The impact of his vocal and lyrical range can be heard throughout True Self, which builds on the rock-solid foundation Soil have laid with previous releases Redefine and Scars, taking the band to heavier depths and more harmonious heights.
In the wake of "Let Go," possibly the most melodic song Soil have ever recorded, and "Forever Dead," which ranks amongst the band's most furious, "Last Chance" melds the extremes into a sonic flurry of thick grooves and racing guitars. But it's closing track "One Last Song" that best exemplifies Soil's songwriting progression and musical marriage, climbing epic heights as it showcases the breadth of their talent and depth of their roots. Cavalier's vocals run their spectrum atop music that is classically metal and unabashedly modern, and the results are spectacular.
Recommended by Static-X namesake Wayne Static and DamagePlan front man Pat Lachman, there was never a doubt that Cavalier was the missing piece Soil had been seeking. "It was like getting handed a diamond and going, 'Is this thing real?'" recalls King of their initial meeting with the singer. "Personally, musically, vocally, he was everything we could have ever wanted. It happened so fast, and was so perfect; it's as if it was meant to be. Sometimes fate just comes knocking at your door, though, and we just decided to go for it."
The decision proved a good one. The first song the band wrote was "Give It Up," which ultimately became the lead single from True Self. "The music for that song was written in the spur of the moment, and then we sent it to A.J.," recalls King. "It was the first song that A.J. wrote lyrics to as an audition for a band that he wanted to be in, and now it's our first single—You can hear the magic and passion come through the speakers when you hear that song."
he premise was very simple, and the song came to me in a snap," says Cavalier of the cut. "Anybody who's ever worked in a day job has had someone in their face who they can't stand—This song is about venting your frustrations without having to go to jail for it. I have a pretty violent nature, but thanks to music, I can keep it in check. That song is a pure release of anger and hostility, without having to lash out at people."
Dealing with hostility and anger are nothing new to the front man, who teaches street fighting and is a student of the martial arts himself. "Those all tie together to who I am and who I want to be," he says. "I'm not perfect, I'm still trying, but I see my true self, and I know that I've learned well."
Hence, the title track of the new album, which could also be said to carry a separate connotation for the band, who feel like they've found their "true self" with the new release. "Everybody wants money, everybody wants fame, and everybody wants their artistic expression, but at the end of the day, this is a band, and that's why we've been able to stick together for so long. It's good to have someone with us who shares that frame of mind," says guitarist Shaun Glass. "We're comfortable enough where we're at to keep going, but we're still hungry enough to achieve and want more."
More pronounced musicianship. More solos and guitar leads. More key changes. And more of the components that make True Self a testament to the hard rock and heavy metal ideals that the members of Soil were raised on. The addition of producer Ulrich Wild [Pantera, Rob Zombie, Static-X] proved the final addition to an already incendiary mix. "Instead of trying to rework and remold the songs we had, he embarked and embellished on what we had, made it stronger, tightened it up and added his little flair to it," says King, with Glass adding, "He just let us go and be ourselves. He would tell us if he thought we were going too far, or if he had a problem with song structure here or there, but he never asked us to stop being ourselves, and that method ruled."
Friction seems to be the key to Soil in 2006, whether it is the change in labels or members, or the abrasive nature that claws through the surface of the band's songs. "Anger, riffs and grooves…" sums Cavalier of the music, and he's not far from the mark, as True Self build upon all three in becoming one of the most jarring metal albums in recent memory.