Black Lady Soul has something really unique going here. My first listen through their newly-released self-titled album gave me some cool vibes. Overall, the album has a dark feel that keeps you grooving. After the first couple of listens, I dug into the songs:
The abstract intro to this album grabbed me immediately, and made me wish I was listening to it on vinyl, with my headphones and a whiskey. It very quickly sets a very dark tone for the rest of the album.
“Counting Sins” was another excellent ambient track, and did a great job of continuing the dark mood.
“The Fall” touts an upright bass, which comes as a surprise after the sounds leading up to it. It also does a great job of moving the song forward. While I didn’t love the high guitar notes throughout, I was very pleasantly surprised by the unique, Morello-esque guitar solo near the end of the track.
“Vice” immediately hooked me. The smooth guitar plays so nicely with the bass and drums that you can’t help but get a slow head bob going. The vocals are also the most present and hooky in this track. This was hands down my favourite on the album, with excellent all around songwriting and great dynamic shifts throughout.
“Corin” continues the theme of interesting guitar lines sitting on top of wicked bass/drum grooves. The bass hook is strong in this track, and I enjoyed the jammy bridge section, but over-all I did feel this song dragged on a bit long, mainly because the chorus wasn’t really grabbing me.
The bowed bass and cymbal crescendos gave “Anchor” a great texture early on. The drums do an excellent job of building energy and anticipation throughout the track, especially once the heavy toms kick in. I also dug the lyrics and melody in this track, but I did feel the end dragged out, and was anti-climactic after the build of the track.
“Penny Water” was one of the weaker tracks to, in my opinion. It felt a bit jammy and I didn’t get the sense of hook that I got from many of the other tracks.
I really like the verses in “When Lions Roar”, very groovy with strong lyrics. The chorus, however, didn’t really grab me, and the bridge felt like it could have been much bigger — it was almost like it was being held back. The drums and bass expanded, but the guitar stayed thin and small, preventing the track from reaching its potential for a huge climax.
“The Riddle” is another track that really benefits from that upright bass sound. The rockier groove is offset by the smooth guitar lines. The song provides one of the stronger choruses as the singer really digs into his voice. This was a good way to finish the album, as it’s definitely the hardest hitting track, and you really feel the passion in it. The yelling vocals at the end fight with the frantic guitar, and make me feel that this would be an awesome song to see performed live.
So, overall, I think Black Lady Soul has a ton of potential, as there is some extremely interesting songwriting and arranging present on this album. The lyrics are very strong, and the singer seems to put a lot of emotion behind them. The drums and the bass play really well together, and the upright bass adds an interesting color throughout. The guitarist has some great ideas, and some great tones present on the album as well.
What held me back from really falling in love with this album was largely the production. Overall, the vocals were buried in the mix, and without the lyrics in front of me I was only occasionally able to understand what was being said. This is especially a shame when the lyrics are so strongly written. I did feel that the drums, while played very well, were mixed very poorly, leaving them sounding small and closed off. The guitar tones and playing style in “The Fall” blew me away, so I was a bit disappointed when the rest of the album saw the guitarist pull back and play much more conservatively, with the only real exception being the rock out in the closing track.
Many of the tracks had sections that should have been huge, and with thicker arrangements and better mixes they could have been massive rock-out sections. Instead, the higher energy portions of the album leave the feeling of a live-out-of-the- garage recording that lacks the punch a better mix could have provided.
In general, there are some great ideas present, and I still very much enjoyed the album. I will definitely be keeping an eye on this band to see what they produce in the future.
Written by Paul Orton