Soulmass - The Weakness of Virtue
9 songs (1:08:53)
Release year: 2019
Reviewed by Goat
Surprise of the month

Dark Souls is probably the videogame equivalent of extreme metal when you think about it; initially offputting due to the aesthetic and difficulty, rewarding when you stick with it, ultimately a struggle that gets better the longer you engage with it. And although few metal bands are quite as meta when it comes to engaging with modern topics like this, Florida's Soulmass are now on their second album of From Software-influenced doom-death, and very good it is, too. Restricting the overall topic just to lyricism to avoid any Alestorm-esque cringiness, it helps that the band are more than solid at their chosen genre, mixing atmospheric doom murkiness and riveting death intensity well - if you've never heard of Dark Souls, don't be put off, because you'll find much to like here despite that.

Ten-minute opener To Paint a New World is a glorious build-up, mixing doom and death elements well to create an atmospheric but still headbangable portrait of this new world even to those new to it, using melodic guitars and heavy riffs well and even finding room for the bass. Every track is well-written, the shorter, stompier tracks like Blacksmith's Wisdom or Praise the Sun straying closer to death metal territory with more than a little Asphyxian brutality in their DNA that serves like a punch from a mushroom-man, even without the plentiful melodic explorations. And when the band choose to explore their doom influences such as on Remember My Name or A Once Proud Knight, the results are spinechillingly compelling and a great counterpoint to the death metal bluntness that forms the band's backbone, the latter especially interesting with its more technical approach and eight-minute length allowing itself to breathe a little.

Sometimes when reviewing an album you have to look for reasons to like it, but Soulmass have made an immediately enjoyable record, even at its near-70 minute runtime. There's not a weak track present, each having its place and doing its best for jolly co-operation; highlights are near-constant, from the melodic wistfulness of When the Flame Begins to Fade to the more muscular doom of The First Sin, there's always something to keep your interest high. Even thirteen-minute outro Embrace of the Gathering Darkness mixes things up with a lengthy section of atmospheric rock fronted by female vocals before going old-school with the doom-death chugging heaviness. It's hard not to be reminded of recent Sulphur Aeon, albeit less interstellar in scope, stripped down to basics and more about this deeply annoying game series that so many of us have struggled with rather than ancient god-abominations. That Soulmass have made a terrific album nonetheless shows their talent off well; if anything they could have indulged themselves a little more and incorporated more Dark Souls influences in music as well as lyrics, but as a package this is tremendous stuff. Here's hoping for some decent Bloodborne-influenced black metal soon! Hear and buy this album here.

Killing Songs :
To Paint a New World, A Once Proud Knight, The First Sin
Goat quoted 80 / 100
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