While it may go against convention at our humble Village, I think, in this case, it’s best to let the album artwork do all the talking. Those (techni)colors. That monstrous chain-whipping entity. The iron-clad horde. The font. Need I really break out the thesaurus to describe what Portland’s endlessly entertaining Soul Grinder sounds like? Methinks not. This is heavy metal at its most overt, and, thus, its most...fun. From the massive drums, to the riffs, to the wretch’d screams of April Dimmick (aka Prilzor), The Prophecy of Blight encompasses and exudes the slimy excess--sonic, visual, and thematic--that we fans of the genre crave. Secretly or no. But yet, through the jubilant viscerality, Soul Grinder treat their craft with an earnest and mature confidence.
As long-time readers may recall, we reviewed Soul Grinder’s Terraflesh a while back in these less-than hallowed halls. “A wounded & angry beast of an EP,” quoteth I--and this was meant in the best of senses, I swear. Terraflesh’s greatest strength was hidden in an uncanny ability to ride, perpetually, the razor-thin line between “pleasantly unhinged” and “devolving into utter chaos.” And here, the formula remains largely the same. Thank goodness. Alex Avery’s spine-crunching riffs, straight out of the archive of your favorite 90's death metal, operate like whiplash in slow motion, while the solos rage with a Judas Priest-ian momentum. Meanwhile, the drums, massive as ever, pound with wild abandon. Here, I might note, Kevin Ross employs a variety of fresh fills, which serve well in the differentiation department.
But, as before, the true distinguishing factor is the vocals, which swing from an untempered hyena howl one moment, to a gravel-gargling growl the next. It’s vehemently acidic, wondrously harsh. While the falsettos of King Diamond don’t exactly fall into the fold, that varied and relentlessly dynamic approach to vocal delivery certainly does. Indeed, the King feels like an apt comparison across the board, from Dimmick’s delivery to Soul Grinder’s general gleeful occupation of the fringes. In comparison to Soul Grinder’s EP, the vocal approach feels...well, not restrained, but rather more purposeful and direct. These cords are operating with the finesse of a rifled barrel, rather than a sawed-off scatter, and as a result Dimmick’s range and aggression truly shine. No doubt about it: Soul Grinder is undeniably weird, and they own it inordinately well. From the simple yet bloodlust-inducing chorus of “Kill Maim Burn,” to the outward pugilism of “Thrall,” whose thrashy neck-snapping and elbow-throwing gravitas practically invites a host of bloody noses, The Prophecy of Blight is it’s own ravenous and wild-eyed animal.
The best tracks are those that feel oh-so slightly different from the surrounding environs. “Hunting the Prophecy” and “Blighted Land” are both--as the forthcoming interview notes--a little more upbeat. As such, they ooze a glorious NWOBHM ‘tude, and stand out from the crowd. “Apotheosis” goes in the opposite direction, slowly things down to a trollish death-doom gait. As such, it too stands out. The placement of this track in the midst of the B-side was a smart move, as the tracks have begun to bleed together by this point. And this leads to my sole point of contention: despite well placed solos, ample vocal and percussive dynamism, and a short run time, The Prophecy of Blight starts to feel repetitive after a point. Soul Grinder has defined their sound and identity inordinately well, and, with a little extra variety in the songwriting department, they stand to pull together the kind of image and sonic cohesion that few ever manage, let alone attempt.
But beyond all that, The Prophecy of Blight does something few album, frankly, are able to do. It reminds us that heavy metal can (and should) be fun, and adventurous, and jubilant, and over-the-top. That is a sentiment that, like it or not, we’re on the verge of forgetting. We have Soul Grinder to thank for keeping us rooted in the excitement that brought us here in the first place. We Sleeping Villagers were roused from our slumber by The Prophecy of Blight, and thus, we recommend you give this beast it’s due.
Soul Grinder - The Prophecy of Blight was released July 5th, 2019. Stay tuned for an interview with April Dimmick, forthcoming!