Soulmass – Let Us Pray Review

In my humble estimation, Soulmass exemplify the death-doom style. Weighty, but not plodding; methodical but not overwrought. I’ve been following these Floridians for a long time and I’ve only grown more impressed with their development. Their third full-length finds my expectations too damn high, especially after the act took a massive step forward on 2019’s The Weakness of Virtue. Can Soulmass live up to the hype? Let Us Pray so.

What lurks in these Dark Souls Bloodborne(!)-inspired climes at first seems largely the same monster as on the last go-arounds. If you like a well-written, smartly-fused chimera of death and doom, you’ve your place of worship. Grinding rhythms just a touch over midtempo weave smoke and horror in every crevice of opener “A Call Beyond.” Lux Edwards’ crushing growls (Wraithstorm, Seven Kingdoms) draw death ever closer. But with as miasma almost entirely envelops the proceedings, Brett Windnagle (Lascille’s Shroud) looses a haunting melody to guide you through the dark. In fact, Let Us Pray relies more on that melody than either of its predecessors, especially in the form of piercing lead riffs. “Sympathy’s Desire” strikes this note particularly well. The track immediately establishes the lead and centers the track around spotlighting it in a handful of presentations. It might not be the album’s best track, but it’s perhaps the most recognizable.

The rub is therein: the melodic directions are rarely good enough or memorable enough to be worth the effort. They’re too safe, delving deep enough into neither the miserable nor the saccharine to work. The results often undercut the record’s brutal elements, like on should-be smoker “Vile Executioner.” Worse, nothing on Let Us Pray comes close to the huge riffs like that of “Praise the Sun,” “Spear and Hammer,” or “Chronicles of the Abysswalker.” This problem isn’t mitigated by the tracklist’s three 10-minute entries, though it is there that Windnagle does his best work. He commands every instrument behind Edwards’ vocals and dutifully supplies long-form development that feels more up to par with their previous material. “Where the Crow Feathers Fall” wields the triforce of melody, brutality, and complexity to craft the best song on the spin. “Below the Lake” and closer “Nightmares Reign” aren’t quite as balanced, but are effective nonetheless. But those songs work because of their development and variety, qualities that don’t compress into smaller packages well. Soulmass never struggled to lay down a lick before, whether somber or savage, but Let Us Pray is somehow missing that quality.

It is for this reason perhaps that Lux Edwards’ vocals are the standout performance. Their stalwart growls, brimming with cavern-deep menace and a tinge of reverb, are the spin’s steadiest source of snarl. That’s not to say that Windnagle’s performance lags behind. He resumes production duties here, and it is a testament to how far his abilities have progressed that Let Us Pray doesn’t sound like a departure from the excellent work Damien Herring did on Weakness. Likewise, Windnagle’s one-man-band songwriting grants the entire record a strong sense of cohesion. Excepting a few herky-jerky transitions both between and within songs, there is nothing to gripe about in that department.

I find something ironic about this; records of this ilk typically need more melody, not less. Soulmass previously excelled at both doom and death, but on Let Us Pray, they don’t lean far enough into either to hit the same heights. Make no mistake; the end product here is quite good, and more importantly, infinitely better than the unpalatable dreck this genre is known for producing. Let Us Pray is a strong entry, but next to what I know this act can do, I can’t help but pray for a bit more.

Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Self-Released
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: February 3rd, 2023

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