|Album Title: Endgame|
|Label: Galy Records|
|Primary: Melodic Death|
|Production: ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● (100%)|
|Songwriting: ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● (90%)|
|Muscicianship: ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● (100%)|
Comment: "Possibly the best release of 2006."
+: Thrashy riffing,melodic keyboards, extremely catchy
-: Typical death metal/uninspired vocals
I could literally tell from the first palm-muted chords on the opening song "Identity" that this record was going to be heavy as hell. Those chords not only built up the first song but set the tension for the thrashiness of the entire record. Endgame never let up.
Hailing from Canada, Soulscar certainly live up to the good company of fellow countrymen Annihilator. While not a pure thrash record, Endgame blends an accessible hybrid of thrash riffing and bombastic soloing with melodic death metal's hallmark leads, tremolo picking, vocals, and synthesizer embellishments. The sound could be compared to that of a slightly thrashier Arch Enemy.
The guitar-work is undeniable from start to finish. Andrew Staehling's, the guitarist/singer, not to mention mastermind, of the band, axe skills are showcased consistently. His lead work, while not overly shreddy, is done very tastefully and is always extremely catchy. However, what stuck out to me as a critic was the rhythm guitar work going on here. Every single infectious riff on this disc causes you to break out into a head bang. If you're a fan of chunky, palm-muted, thrash-goodness, these songs have in it surplus.
This record contains a few elements not regularly seen in most melo-death; the use of keyboards and a female singer. Neither of said elements are used to excess (or even in every track, for that matter) and are not overly annoying or cheesy, but both add a layer of catchiness and accessibility to the music. Hearing a keyboard break (see "Phoenix Tears") after a session of unrelenting riffing just makes the experience that much more enjoyable. The occasional employment of female vocals (see "Endgame I") are equally well-placed and create greater depth to the songwriting.
Speaking of the songwriting, its quality is fully evident in this latest offering from Soulscar. The music is very cohesive-sounding, due in no small part to Staehling being the primary songwriter as well being responsible for guitars, vocals, and synths. Although much of the riffing has a down-tuned feel to it, it is not done in a nu-metal fashion and actually does serve to augment the overall heaviness of the album. The album's instrumentals such as "Phoenix Tears" and "Synesthete" are some of the best pieces on the disc, containing passages of insightful, melodic guitars and keyboards to contrast the flying solos and badass riffing.
The vocals are fairly typical melodic death metal affair. While growled, much of the lyrical content can be understood, which is always a plus. However, they are nothing particularly notable.
As an aside, I felt the drumming to be rather enjoyable on Endgame. Although not stand-out in the way that say Chris Adler or Mike Portnoy are, the drumming here has a very solid feel to it. Despite not being overly flashy or over-the-top fast, it does a pleasing job of anchoring the guitars and keyboards down, often syncopating with and accenting the rhythm guitar.
I would go as far to say that Endgame is quite possibly one of, if not the best release of 2006. Although these guys aren't currently on a big name record, I would not be surprised if they aren't on one soon (I'm betting Century Media). Soulscar are able to have an incredibly edgy and riffy sound that still remains accessible enough to attract listeners of genres outside of the Gothenburg sound. Recommended for fans of old In Flames, Arch Enemy, Testament, etc.