SOULBENDER
"Soulbender II"

(Rat Pak)

01. Turn Anger Up
02. Shoal
03. Slave to Reality
04. Seraphim
05. Fix Me
06. Clockwork and Compass
07. Rabbit Hole
08. The American Dream
09. Samsara
10. Prime Time
11. Shoot Poem
12. This Ocean
13. Hunger
14. Three Towers

RATING: 7.5/10

A decade ago, QUEENSRŸCHE guitarist Michael Wilton started a little project called SOULBENDER. SOULBENDER originally featured Wilton with MY SISTER'S MACHINE vocalist Nick Pollock, second guitarist Dave Groves, drummer Wes Hallam and bassist Marten Van Keith. Along the way, SECOND COMING vocalist Travis Bracht and none other than Tim "Ripper" Owens have fronted SOULBENDER. Even one-time NEVERMORE drummer Van Williams had a brief stint in this camp.

Wilton, Groves, Hallam and Pollock have since kicked SOULBENDER back into action, at least part-time, to lay down four new tracks for inclusion on this year's re-master of the original "Soulbender" album from 2004. Three of these bonus cuts aren't quite up to par with the main selections from "Soulbender", which is a bit heavier and far grungier than QUEENSRŸCHE and MY SISTER'S MACHINE. In other words, postulant of ALICE IN CHAINS and MAD SEASON. When in Rome, or in this case, Seattle.

Of the new songs, "Turn Anger Up" starts "Soulbender II" on an agro pump barely within reach of the original album's material. The band rides upon a steady crash and hits stride on the seething choruses where the singular verse riffs pick up steam. On the flipside, the next new cut "Shoal" lulls with a faint breeze. The guitars frolic over the slow pace of the song and become more the story than the song itself. The choruses are catchy enough, but the emphasis on jacking up the guitar tiers are the real reason to hang with the overdrawn cut, which rolls past six minutes. "Slave to Reality" is a bit meatier than its predecessors with some chiseled out verses, while the so-so but catchy choruses seem to merely pass the time. "Seraphim", the best of the new tracks (and minute cousin to "Three Towers" from the original album), rolls through trance grooves and two sets of guitar lines, one willowy and one dirty. Inevitably, the 6:26 "Seraphim" comes off like ALICE IN CHAINS, but there's undeniable focus (even with its drowsy jams) and sparkling guitar solos that should please the band's followers, particularly when the tempo picks up and rocks out.

The original cut of "Soulbender" was recorded at three different studios, yet culminating a sound derived from the surrounding vibes Seattle had to offer outside of QUEENSRYCHE and MUDHONEY. That being said, there's a solid polish and energy to songs like "Fix", "Clockwork and Compass", "Samsara", "Shoot Poem" and "Hunger" giving the album a basic entertainment value.

Story continues after advertisement

On the other hand, there's a feeling this record's going nowhere past its grunge origins, which was probably all SOULBENDER ever sought to accomplish. In 2004, ALICE IN CHAINS had seen its heyday and was still reeling from the demise of Layne Staley two years prior. Whether or not Michael Wilton and his SOULBENDER posse took it upon themselves to honor Staley in their modest way, modest is the operative word. The grunge-driven riffs of the songs are appropriately bare bones and Nick Pollock's vocals are fittingly maudlin. Michael Wilton's guitar solos are sometimes apposite spectacles, especially on "Rabbit Hole", "This Ocean", "Three Towers" and the scratchy intro and transitions for "The American Dream". Grunge as interpreted by a heavy metal migrant.

For devoted QUEENSRŸCHE and MY SISTER'S MACHINE fans, "Soulbender II" will be an oddity album to pick up for completion sake if they haven't already. "Hunger" is the closest SOULBENDER gets to QUEENSRŸCHE (barely, at that), so take it into consideration if you're a newcomer. The brisk-paced bitch-out of "Samsara" is worth dialing into, but otherwise, William DuVall's holding it down better than anyone could've expected in ALICE IN CHAINS.

COMMENTS

To comment on a BLABBERMOUTH.NET story or review, you must be logged in to an active personal account on Facebook. Once you're logged in, you will be able to comment. User comments or postings do not reflect the viewpoint of BLABBERMOUTH.NET and BLABBERMOUTH.NET does not endorse, or guarantee the accuracy of, any user comment. To report spam or any abusive, obscene, defamatory, racist, homophobic or threatening comments, or anything that may violate any applicable laws, use the "Report to Facebook" and "Mark as spam" links that appear next to the comments themselves. To do so, click the downward arrow on the top-right corner of the Facebook comment (the arrow is invisible until you roll over it) and select the appropriate action. You can also send an e-mail to blabbermouthinbox(@)gmail.com with pertinent details. BLABBERMOUTH.NET reserves the right to "hide" comments that may be considered offensive, illegal or inappropriate and to "ban" users that violate the site's Terms Of Service. Hidden comments will still appear to the user and to the user's Facebook friends. If a new comment is published from a "banned" user or contains a blacklisted word, this comment will automatically have limited visibility (the "banned" user's comments will only be visible to the user and the user's Facebook friends).