Album review: SOLEY MOURNING – The Rocket Pool

SOLEY MOURNING – The Rocket Pool

Saltdog Records [Release date 29.06.15]

West Midland hard rock band Soley Mourning draw on classic rock antecedents and well crafted, passionately played songs to shape their own brand of intense melodic hard rock.

They are unafraid to tackle meaningful lyrics and add sparkling twin guitar parts and booming hooks to an album that should be of interest to all self respecting rock fans.

‘The Rocket Pool’s is also that rare thing, a set that starts off as a regulation hard rock album full of power chords, gnawing riffs and solos, but then veers into a deeper territory of meaningful songs with concise arrangements on which both the vocalist and band push themselves into uncharted territory to great effect.

It’s an album with constant surprises from the unexpected vocal duet between between Matt Partridge and This Wicked Tongue’s Tina V on the opening ‘Last Of These Nine Lives’ to the coda of ‘So Long Song’ which rounds off an interesting album.

Such is the band’s confidence that is comes as no surprise to learn that this is their fourth album.

In Matt Partridge they have an expressive singer who never attacks a song in the same way twice. His clever phrasing means his nasal voice rarely drags. On the magnificent ‘The Unmaking Of A Rational Mind’, his inventive phrasing allows him to deliver the lyrics as a rap, while on ‘Seed of Doubt’, he immerses himself in the chorus and glides into the sumptuous supporting horns.

He’s a passionate singer with a resonant timbre that can be as abrasive as it can be vulnerable, depending on the song. It’s a style well suited to material that deals with both the micro and macro aspects of life

Guitarists Andy Guest and Tone Chambers refreshingly deliver their solos as an integral part of the song, with only an occasional dip into formulaic grunge as on the title track, betraying their restless adventurous spirit.

The band continually surprises us. One moment they rock hard on the infectious fuzz- tone, drone of ‘Shark Eyes’, then they add an acapella intro to ‘Turn Yourself Around’ and slip into the mesmerising ambient groove of ‘Gumstream.’

The latter features crisp percussion,  intricately woven synth and guitar parts and some apparently optimistic lyrics for good measure: “We’re gonna row row row this boat, gently down this gumstream that’s where we’re going, we’re gonna row row row this boat back home.”

Matt’s soulful vocal sounds like fellow West Midlands vocalist Ian Parker before his staggered phrasing bring extra emphasis to the lyrics. The beautifully nuanced bv’s give the song a layered feel, while the electro drop-in is the perfect tension building device for the vocal refrain.

The band is also unafraid to take a chance and follow their hearts in the same way some of their lyrics sometimes suggest.  ‘The Unmaking of a Rational Mind’ is the corner stone of the album, as Partridge rails against the hypocrisy of modern times. His intuitive phrasing over a rocking back-beat captures the intensity of the passionate narrative.

It’s rare for a rock band to match their instrumental prowess with fiercely delivered analytical lyrics, but Soley Mourning are clearly on a mission:

“Where do we go from here when money makes the world go round, it makes the world go round, for poor the world shuts down and what do we know from here, I’ve no silver spoon in my mouth, but have a voice and how I’m gonna use it now’.

The closing ‘So Long Song’ is another example of how they surprise us by transforming a heartfelt ballad into something far grander and with an orchestral finish, courtesy of Sheena Soars’s string arrangement.

‘The Rocket Pool’ ticks all the right boxes to kick ass with a committed performance that combines their lyrical depth with a musical vision that never settles for anything less than the inspired.

This is no means a perfect album, but it burns with the kind of indignation, fervour and intensity that made rock so essential in the first place.  ****

Review by Pete Feenstra

Pete Feenstra presents his Rock & Blues Show on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio every Tuesday at 19:00 GMT, and “The Pete Feenstra Feature” on Sundays at 19:00

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