THE SOUL EXCHANGE – Edge Of Sanity

Here’s another Swedish act that is hoping to make waves at the Melodic Hard Rock scene. However, Melodic Rock in this case doesn’t mean the Melodic Rock that comes from the 80’s AOR scene that still is very popular among Scandinavian Rock bands. The Soul Exchange gets their influences from the 70’s instead which should set them apart from many of the thirteen a dozen AOR acts that comes along every year. So with a more guitar driven and sometimes even Metal laden sound but still with big arrangements and with hooks and melody at the front, the band released their debut album Bloodbound back in 2017 to critical acclaim but still didn’t shake the world of Rock up. Personally, I had never even heard of the band prior to my reviewer’s link – so I guess the Mervilton Records’ label didn’t have the muscles to promote the band properly.

That said, their Vows Of Seth five-track follow up a few months later, now on the Pride & Joy Music label, didn’t exactly take the world by storm either. But with their brand new album things seem to have changed because prior to its release I saw lots of promotion, both online and in magazines. Today’s line-up consists of vocalist and keyboardist Daniel John, brothers Hans and Thomas Von Bell – both on guitars, Patrik Ekelöf on bass and drummer Benny White. Although the names of the guys are unknown to the public – I haven’t heard of any of them – they all have had long careers in the music biz, according to the press release. So with all this info, I sank my teeth into the new record.

Opener “Stealing My Mind” starts out with a heavy rhythm, fat riffing that even bring Thrash Metal to mind and a dark, sinister sounding keyboard on top. It’s a heavy piece whose contrasting Melodic Rock and even AOR smelling pre-chorus and chorus makes for a very memorable experience. A very cool, unpredictable and most importantly, great tune. “My Reflection” differs with a chunky, Classic Rock groove and a catchy yet not Pop melody that still comes with a slight AOR-ish vibe. Again, very, very good. “No Forgiveness” is slow, heavy and dark. The tune brings on a Metal influence but the tune itself is hardly Metal at all. The refrain is a bit faster and more punchy and comes across as very effective. A good tune. “Master” is in the same vein as the previous track – slow, dark and heavy and style wise it reminds me of Tony Martin era Black Sabbath even though the melody line is more Melodic Hard Rock than any Sabbath close by. It’s a really good song, though.

The single “Right Here” is a mid paced Hard Rock song with a big punch, pretty straight forward with chugging guitar riffs and a catchy chorus that sticks pretty much right away. Clearly single material – very good. “The Passing” is again on the slow side and the Sabbath influence is back in but I also hear Rainbow and… ahem… Axel Rudi Pell. The riffs are fat and heavy, the melody is smooth and floating and the whole thing is very atmospheric – a bit dreamy and trippy at times. Very good. “Quest For Life” comes in a mid pace but with a faster drum rhythm. It’s punchy and tough with a live fist-in-the-air vibe. It’s heavy but not Metal and it also holds a very good refrain. Good stuff.

The heavy and slow path continues with “End Of The Road”. This one’s a pretty epic track with a dark and ominous atmosphere. On the other hand, it’s a pretty soft and even taciturn tune on the Metal side of things. Also, the refrain is very memorable albeit not written for chart-jumping. Very good tune. And guess what, “Mountain” is… slow and heavy!!! The tune holds a punchy rhythm and a cinematic atmosphere and a spooky soundscape. The melody arrangement makes me think of Casablanca’s last record – catchy but never cheesy. Very good. As a closer – and bonus track – we get a cover of Pink’s “Try”. I’m not a Pink fan so I’m not overly familiar with it even though I have heard it. However, TSE have made the tune their own. It’s groovy and catchy, it’s upbeat and raunchy and it breaks the band out their box which is a good thing here. Great stuff!

Melodic Rock? AOR? Not much. The way I see it, this is melody laden Hard Rock with Metal influences with lots of hooks. If you take the songs one by one, every song here is somewhere between good and great but the problem is that the album is too samey and that almost all of the songs are shaped in the same vein and there’s not enough variation. Also, I keep waiting for the record to take off, to break out and kick some butt, which never happens. Also, production wise, the record leaves quite a bit to be desired. Especially the drums should be fatter and heavier – at times they sound like cardboard boxes here. The all over sound is too light-weight for this kind of music. Song wise a solid Hard Rock record but too underwhelming for a high score.

6/10

Tracklist:

1. Stealing My Mind
2. My Reflection
3. No Forgiveness
4. Master
5. Right Here
6. The Passing
7. Quest For Life
8. End Of The Road
9. Mountain
10. Try

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