"Forever Defiant"

(Worldchaos Production)

01. What Remains?
02. The Price of Life
03. To the Death
04. The Devil's Hand
05. Of Liars and Thieves
06. As Darkness Dawns
07. D-Composition
08. The Hunt (Subtle)
09. Deadly Sins
10. Betray the Light
11. Prey on the Weak
12. Dead to Me
13. Straight To Hell

RATING: 7/10

Chances are, if you've seen a touring metal band hit Cleveland, Ohio any time in the last coupla years, you've seen these guys open for them. SOULLESS are "that band" for northern Ohio — the scrappy, hard-working, consistently impressive local act that always seems to be a day late when it comes to getting attention from the metal labels. It's taken a Japanese outfit, Worldchaos Production, to take a chance on the band's energetic thrash and give them a shot — probably the best place for them, given the label's fervent devotion to all things that rock with the old-school attitude (to clarify, their last record was eventually licensed by Crash Music for the USA).

Not that SOULLESS can be lumped in with the burgeoning retro '80s thrash movement (and it'll be a shame if they get ignored in favor of a whole crop of new 'bangers in that sub-scene). While there's plenty of thrash, mostly of the Euro variety, coursing through the veins of this band, they meld the old school rhythms and nonstop barrage of thrash with plenty of impressive melodic guitar work. It's all a bit Swedish, although the band's assault is refreshingly less polished and more frenzied, with enough wild-eyed mania and forward motion to keep things from getting too derivative or stale. The vocals are a banshee shriek (think the dude from SADUS) and the riffs just never quit — aside from a short acoustic interlude halfway through the record (an intro for Side Two in an earlier age), "Forever Defiant" just hammers and hammers, thrashing (not blasting) with a death metal attack that's simple, infectious and ferocious.

SOULLESS are definitely not the most original band you'll ever hear. But, and this is gonna sound like a slam when it isn't, they're unoriginal in a whole different way than their peers. They're not entirely rewriting the KREATOR and DESTRUCTION playbook, nor are they slaves to the now-stereotypical Gothenburg sound, and they don't rip off the death metal stylings of their countrymen. SOULLESS choose to exist at some point on the map where all three of these sounds intersect, and most importantly, they play their death/thrash hybrid with unshakeable, utterly frightening conviction. The end results are quite enjoyable, and if it's not quite as intense as the band's live show, it's definitely more than enough bait to lure you to your doom before the stage.


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