Soul Dragger – Soul Dragger (Time to Kill Records)

Sunday, 9th February 2020
Rating: 7.5/10

Originating in Rome, Italy in 2017, Soul Dragger released their debut EP Before Chaos the following year, setting the stage for their debut self-titled full-length record on Time to Kill Records. Combining a mixture of sub-genres past and present within metal, the quartet lean on a sound that contains aspect of old school and modern appeal throughout these eleven tracks. At this point in the game, it’s hard to be original – so it’s probably most evident to see if you can place your own twist and attitude on what you most love, and that seems to be a smart game plan for these musicians to lean into.

The foundation of Soul Dragger in terms of a sound employs elements of thrash, melodic death metal, and metalcore with occasional splashes of traditional eighties flavors for accenting purposes. The riffs and hooks come aplenty, the tempos varying between solid mid-tempo grooves into pummeling affairs bristling with energy, and the vocals have a duality melodic grit against some savage growls and screams. The guitar work of Alessio Pompedda and Davide Spoletini possesses the requisite circular/swirling nature for mandatory headbanging – including catchy lead breaks with harmony tricks that make “Everyday” and the instrumental “Before Chaos” two standouts, the latter also featuring some creative choppy/off-time progressive rhythm mechanics that veer into Dream Theater/Iron Maiden territories. The flow of the material has that nature that can be appreciated in the Testament/ Arch Enemy camp one moment, but then likened to Trivium or Machine Head the next – as opener “Rise” and “War Nightmare” illustrate the forceful nature with an abundance of hooks and subtle, dynamic twists. It’s evident that the band put forethought into the ‘breakdown’ parts, so as to not be blatantly obvious. A weaker aspect that probably needs a bit shoring up would be the clean melodies Alessio employs on a calmer track such as “Maid and the Beast” – it’s adequate but nothing remarkable, especially compared to the thoughtful pacing plus musical atmosphere conveyed during the verses, chorus, and instrumental break.

Soul Dragger have that proper mixture of solid musicianship and heavy-handed hooks to go over a storm with modern audiences as much as the classic thrash or melodic death followers. The future looks promising if they continue to gather seasoning and get some road work under their legs.

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