I truly can’t remember when I last heard a great Hard Rock/Metal band from Sweden that dwells both in the 70’s and 80’s with influences from bands like Black Sabbath, Rainbow, Dio and Ozzy Osbourne. I think of Saffire and Avatarium but I can’t in the back of my mind think of any other bands. Well, apparently, The Sonic Overlords is supposed to be one of those. Formed in the ashes of guitarist Morgan Zocek’s last band Sideburn, The Sonic Overlords was from the beginning a trio called The Sonic Temple and consisted of Zocek, former Fatal Smile singer Thomas Emblad (aka Blade) who also held bass duties and Corroded drummer Per Soläng. Emblad had to bow out due to other non-musical projects so Zocek turned to his old friend and singer in his Ozzy The Coverband outfit Marcus Zachrisson Rubin to take the place as the band’s lead vocalist.
Bass player Daniel Ramirez joined in and it was decided that the band’s name would be changed to The Sonic Overlords. If the reason was something to do with any rights to the name Sonic Temple (it’s the name of The Cult’s most successful album but it’s not like The Cult owns that name) or not, I have no idea. As I really dug the last two Sideburn records, I was really looking forward to see what this lot would be able to create but that it was gonna be something on the heavy side kinda went without saying. The record’s been a long time coming for me, the debut video has been out for over a year now so I was really itchy to sink my teeth into this.
The album opens with the massive mastodon second single ”Utopia”, a 70’s smelling Classic Rock bouncer with a big nod to Black Sabbath. It’s a heavy number with a whole sack of chunky riffing – at times Sabs ”Children of The Grave” comes to mind there – a muscular, solid rhythm and a damn strong main-melody. It holds a big, fat chorus with a distinct hook that hits right where it should. A stellar opener indeed. Released as a video a year ago, the doom-dance that is ”In My Darkest Room” follows. Slow in pace, heavy, dark and gloomy, the tune treats us with some fat, beefy riffage, a monster drum beat and a roaring organ that dwells in the background. Released, I guess, more as a statement than a hope for a hit, this heavy grinder do bring on some immense and strikingly memorable melodies both in verse and in the chorus. A splendid tune.
”Fools” speeds up the pace, going for a faster tracked Metal belting vibe with a punchier and more straight ahead outlook. The razor-sharp guitars and the steady-as-a-rock rhythms on the threshold between 80’s and 70’s Hard Rock gives the tune a raunchy edge and combined with the almost uplifting, in a dark way, melodies creates a touchable dynamic. Without going for a hitty touch, the chorus hits bullseye right from go. Very good. Taking the tempo down again, the doomy and ominous ”Lords Of No Tomorrow” is sniffing around the early 70’s with a Master Of Reality (Black Sabbath, 1971) vibe and also a touch of Candlemass. The inserted keyboard broadens the soundscape and a rhythmic stomp also makes for a varied experience. Big on memorable melodies in general, the refrain is direct and etches itself to the brain right off the bat. I dig.
”World On Fire” opens stripped-down, earthy and mellow with a melancholic outlook with only acoustic guitars and vocals. When the chorus comes in the song transfers into a heavy, 70’s sounding ballad. The chorus melodies are actually very catchy, with an instant hook that goes for a more 80’s laden twist. The contrasts between the verses and the chorus makes for a dynamic experience. This is bloody awesome. ”Sands Of Time” brings on some more held-back yet darkening atmospheric verses where the Tony Martin era Sabbath comes to mind. The dark, ominous feel stays on when the powerful groove of the chorus steps in and the song goes for a more classic, 70’s laden Sabbath influence – doomy, heavy and slow, very distinct and in-your-face. Traces of both Trouble and Candlemass is also audible but there’s also an intriguing main-melody and a stand-out chorus-hook involved. Killer stuff.
They keep up the dynamic contrasts with ”Shine”, an upbeat, heavy and punchy rocker that blends 70’s Classic Rock, Metal vibes and 80’s melodic Hard Rock – and it works like a charm. The verses takes a bit of a held-back structure while the pre-chorus takes a bumpy and chunky path only for the chorus to explode in a crescendo of pure catchiness. Unexpected and unpredictable – and so tremendously good. ”Children of The Night” is a gloomy doom-fest, fat and heavy with gritty and chuggy guitars, a thunderous bass-line and a drum beat here to hurt you. It’s a stone-hard metal-belter where Sabbath meets Judas Priest with strong vocal-melodies and an 80’s metal-fused solo-part. Read this again and say it doesn’t sound fab. Because it is.
”Eternal Heroes (Last Days Of Babylon)” takes the uptempo, more pure hard-rocking route and throws some solid, edgy rhythms our way which bears the rowdy guitars and the powerhouse vocals. It’s a vigorous and menacing rocker with distinct and effective melodies all over. The atmospheric and mellow breakdown is a nice breather and the slightly Yngwie influenced guitar solo is masterful. What’s not to dig about all this, right. The album closes with heavy puncher ”Past The End Of Time”. It comes from the pocket of Sabbath’s The Eternal Idol album and what could be more fitting than a guest appearance from said band’s vocalist Tony Martin himself. The held-back verses oozes of Martin era Sabbath without going clone on us and the stunning chorus floors me with a muscular yet melodic melody-line. It’s a real killer and a perfect closer – and Martin is of course awesome.
Just to make one thing clear, all the references to other bands – especially Sabbath – doesn’t mean TSO is a big clone, they’re there to give a wink to which direction the music is heading. TSO do have their own identity and personality. With that out of the way, I can only state that this is a damn fine Metal meets Hard Rock album. What makes TSO stand out from many of the doomier, gloomier bands out there is that they’re not afraid to throw in different influences into the mix. A Melodic Rock sounding chorus? Inserted. An accessible and more easy-listened melody? Let’s go. Memorable hooks? Hell yeah. Still, everything here is heavy and the darkness and gloomy inserts only adds to the sonic dynamics. The guys are all stellar musicians but most importantly there’s no song here worse than good. I already look forward to the next album.