Released By: El Puerto Records GbR
Release Date: November 24th, 2017
Genre: Heavy Metal
Iris Boanta – Vocals
Markus Pohl – Guitars
Chris Rodens – Bass
Stefan Theurer – Drums
1. Let the King Bleed
3. Promised Land
4. To the Tick
5. Take My Pain
6. Like Rain…
7. Raise the Flag
8. Fire Raiser
10. Final Stand
What would it sound like if Mystic Prophecy decided to release an entire album focused largely on slower tracks, removing most of their power metal elements and replacing them with a large amount of groove metal influence? Well, you’d probably end up with something close to War Is Coming, the full-length debut from German heavy metal band Souldrinker. The band was formed by Mystic Prophecy guitarist Markus Pohl and vocalist Iris Boanta, who I had previously heard with The Mystery. They released two EP’s in 2013 and 2014, and now they’re looking to close 2017 out in style with their debut. On my first couple of listens I wasn’t terribly impressed, thinking it often sounded too much like a slowed down version of a certain band, but after cranking the volume up some more on subsequent listens, I found myself really digging the album and I actually find it to be a fresher sounding, higher energy release than anything Markus has done with his main band in quite some time, probably since their 2006 release, Savage Souls.
As expected, this is a very hard hitting album, with the guitars packing quite the punch and some of the riffs here definitely go into thrash territory at times, though I notice more of a groove metal influence here than anything else, due to the more subdued tempos. But yeah, the guitar work is definitely one of the strong points of the album, as it’s crushingly heavy throughout, with many of the songs having a dark feel to them, making it closer to Ravenking than any other Mystic Prophecy album, except the performances all around are much higher energy than on that album, and the songwriting is more consistently excellent here as well. There’s the occasional section where the music is calmer and a bit more atmospheric, allowing for some more melodic vocals, and there’s also a couple speedier tracks with slight power metal elements, but for the most part this is a mid-paced heavy metal album with strong groove metal leanings, especially during the middle portion of the album. Songwriting is very good all around, with every song striking the right balance between heavy sections, excellent and super catchy choruses, and some great solo work.
One big strength of the band is vocalist Iris Boanta. I mentioned hearing her with The Mystery before, on their 2012 release Apocalypse 666, and while I thought she was great on that album, she sounds just as good here, if not even better! She has a very deep voice and can get very animated at times, with a very fierce and powerful delivery that makes her a perfect fit for a more aggressive metal band like Souldrinker, but at the same time she also sounds great during the more melodic and atmospheric portions on tracks like “Promised Land” and “To the Tick”. Her vocals on this album definitely remind me a bit of R.D. Liapakis, though I think she sounds more invested in the songs here than he has sounded on recent albums, making the heavier parts sound all the more fierce and powerful, while making the melodic portions all the more effective and emotional as well.
In the songwriting department, the band doesn’t take long to kick things into high gear, with lead single “Let the King Bleed” is an instant standout. It’s a very heavy track, which is mostly mid-paced, though it moves slightly faster than many of the other tracks here, and is a very fun and immediately engaging track with a very catchy and memorable chorus, excellent vocals from Iris, and an excellent guitar solo in the middle. This song immediately makes it clear that this is the kind of album that needs to be cranked up loud in order to fully appreciate it. Next is the band’s self-titled track, a very groovy mid-paced track, with a nice rhythm to it, and of course some great riffs and vocals as well. This is the first of many tracks that took time for me to open up to, but once I did I loved everything about it, especially the powerful, super catchy chorus. If anything, it’s even harder hitting than the first track, with excellent guitar work all around, and it’s definitely a great indication of what to expect from the album. After that is “ Promised Land”, a slower, more atmospheric track, with more excellent riffs and some slightly calmer, but still powerful vocals from Iris. It’s the most subdued track on this album, but it’s still very enjoyable the whole way through, with another strong chorus.
I initially struggled with the next track, “To the Tick”, another slow track which starts off feeling like it’ll be a piano ballad for the first 45 seconds. I actually liked that part immediately, especially the vocals, but then it gets heavier and I initially found the chorus to be too repetitive and even a bit irritating, but over time it’s grown on me, and the rest of the song is amazing, with some of the most punishing riffs on the album. It’s probably the most groove influenced track here, which could be why it took more time to grow on me, but either way, it’s a great track with excellent guitar work, especially in the second half where they add in some extra melody during the solo section to make it all the more memorable. Next is “Take My Pain”, which picks up the pace a bit and is another pretty heavy track with a super catchy chorus, as well as some very emotional vocals from Iris, which helps make it one of my favorites here.
From that point on, the rest of the album is a nice mix of mid-tempo tracks and slightly speedier tracks, and it’s all excellent. On the slower side, we have “Like Rain”, “Fire Raiser” and “Voices”, all of which have the right mix between heavy, powerful verses, and great melodic choruses, with “Fire Raiser” in particular being super catchy and addictive. The second half of the album also has the two speediest tracks here, the first of those being “Raise the Flag”. This is a nice uptempo track with some nice grooves throughout, as well as some speedy sections during the verses, with more driving guitar work, as well a typically intense and powerful chorus, and a great solo section. It’s definitely the most Mystic Prophecy sounding song here, and it especially sounds like some of their thrashier songs, which tend to be my favorites, so it’s no surprise this track is my favorite on the album. Lastly, we have closing track “Final Stand”, another pretty fast-paced, thrashy track with excellent riffs, and a more melodic chorus, to go along with the expected great riffs.
Overall, War Is Coming is an excellent debut from Souldrinker, offering some very powerful and intense groove influenced heavy metal, that definitely deserves to be played at a high volume. It’s a very a high energy release, with excellent, passionate performances all around, and it’s a consistently entertaining album the whole way through, with nothing but excellent tracks to be found. Hopefully, Markus Pohl can find the time to continue with this band in the future because this is a very promising album and I’d certainly be happy to hear some more albums that combine his guitar work with Iris Boanta’s excellent vocals. Highly recommend for anyone looking for some killer, hard-hitting heavy metal.
Written by: Travis Green