Souls Harbor's latest set boasts more catchy hooks, muscular anthems, and tight arrangements than old-school fans might expect. If the band's debut full-length, 2006's Writing on the Wall, retained some of their brash teenager attitude and angst, the new songs reveal more maturity, determination, and focus.
Led by singer Doug Marshall and guitarists John Fenin and Tony Bigley, the veteran Beaufort group sounds all grown up, well-versed, and downright intellectual. They still kick out the massively distorted guitar rock, but they've incorporated more elements of '70s hard rock, '90s power-pop, and the heavier side of modern alternative music.
The current lineup includes two relatively new players — drummer Justin Long and bassist Alan Price (of Quench, Number One Contender). Together, they sound like a combo that's been grinding on the same set for years.
Recorded in Atlanta's Black Dog Studios with engineer/producer Rick Beato, the 10-song collection has more sheen than previous efforts. The title track is the storming lead song. Dynamic, tight, and fuzzed-out with immaculate studio production, "Anxiety Society" is a solid kick-off.
Marshall can get a little croony and breathy when he's at his most brooding (as on the mid-tempo follow-up "Changes"), but he sounds best when he's shouting out the big, high-toned choruses and holding his notes way out. "Run" features one of the more grimacing riffs of the album ; it's down-tuned, slowly syncopated, and Sabbathized. Cleverly arranged, fluid, and dynamic, the song demonstrates the band's smart songwriting.
Away from the more metallic stylings, the straightforward "Farther from Home" — a perfectly melodic pop song revved up with smacky drum rhythms and harmonic, dual-guitar interplay between Fenin and Bigley — could easily work on a Cracker or Bush album.
Marshall delves into contemporary politics with some heavy-handed lyric metaphors on the boot-stomping anthem "End of War." The rhythmic patterns of "In This Time" get funky and complicated, but never too off-track to distract from Marshall's singing. The dirge-y riffs and sing/scream delivery on "Silent Masses" give way to Souls Harbor's youthful headbanging style. (myspace.com/soulsharbor)
Souls Harbor shares the stage with Lynam, Kelen Heller, and Confliction at a CD release gig at the Music Farm on Fri. Oct. 1.