Soulmass - The Weakness Of Virtue - (9.5/10)
Published on January 22, 2019
Genre:Death / Doom
I’ve already had my fair share of doom metal for this year and it’s still only January. Heavy-hitters like Nailed To Obscurity and Candlemass (my review of which you can read here) have already set the bar for fantastic doom in 2019. However, for the more extreme stuff, I should have counted on USA death/doomsters Soulmass to deliver the goods. And deliver they have, in the most amazing, breathtaking and ultimately satisfying way possible. The Weakness Of Virtue is one of those albums that hits you square in the face, slog after slog, every massive punch reminding you that this is built to be on ‘album of the year’ lists. Prepare to be utterly drenched in darkness and despair because, after a long haul, it’s a hugely successful return to the fold for the Floridian quartet.
This record succeeds in both enveloping the listener in a creeping cloud of misery, and hammering the listener into submission with brutal force. It’s simultaneously an instant hit and a slow-burner. This is due to the sheer variety of songwriting on offer here; so refreshing and not often seen in the death/doom genre. The Weakness Of Virtue ranges from 10+ minute Ahab-esque epics that wriggle under your skin like a toxic parasite, through extensive doomy-as-fuck Candlemass-worshippers, to short blasts of death metal fury. This ensures the album has 100% replay value and never ever stagnates. Compare the rapid-fire bludgeoning that is “Praise The Sun” to the dramatic giant of “The First Sin” – both conjure up such contrasting emotions but both are laden with gargantuan riffs worthy of Leif Edling himself. (In fact, upon first listen, I thought “The First Sin” was the closing track due to its sheer theatricality at the end.)
Speaking of gargantuan riffs and Leif Edling, Soulmass have come packed to the gills with enormity in that department. Picking out individual highlights is a near impossibility because, no joke, every track contains at least one riff that will make you stare at the sky, grimace, and raise a claw in adoration. Although the 4:09 mark in “Blacksmith’s Wisdom” and 8:09 in “Embrace Of Gathering Darkness” are particularly pummeling, my favourite has to be the opening to “Remember My Name”… what a fucking steamroller! Bone-crunchingly, neck-breakingly, soul-crushingly heavy. The sheer weight of these riffs, combined with Bryan Edwards’ totally decipherable performance behind the mic, make this LP amazingly accessible. New to the death/doom community? Start here – it doesn’t get much better.
Speaking of Edwards, his vocals are wonderfully wholesome and drenched in a reverb which gives the whole record a cavernous vibe. Everything sounds massive, but still delightfully raw. The only minor complaints would be that the drums are occasionally rushed or slightly off-kilter, especially in the faster blast-beat sections (although I cannot speak ill of that wonderfully irregular groove that opens “A Once Proud Knight”). Or perhaps the opening track “To Paint A New World” takes too long to really sink in. It seemed an odd choice for an opener, but after hearing the closing 13-minute beast, the ‘bookend’ feeling totally makes sense. I may not be an encyclopaedia on death/doom (and I’m certainly not a fan of Dark Souls!) but the utter majesty of this album cannot be denied. The Weakness Of Virtue has ‘dark horse of the year’ written all over it and a better death/doom album you will not find in the upcoming months. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to listen to “Spear & Hammer” whilst forging a steel battleaxe on my mighty anvil of destruction.