Album Title: The Shape Of Everything
Label: Pelagic Records
Date of Release: 21 January 2022
Just like all music reviewers, I have my favourite labels and PR people; not to say that there are particularly any bad ones, it’s just that some will cater more to my tastes than others. As such, whenever I receive an email from one of these preferred sources, I feel compelled to check out what they are promoting, regardless of whether I’ve heard of the artist before. Sometimes, the compulsion will remain, even when the descriptor or genre doesn’t sound like it would be ‘my thing’. That was indeed the case here. I receive an email promoting a band that I’ve never previously heard of, one that’s described quite simply as ‘doom pop’. Square peg, round hole? You’d certainly think so, wouldn’t you? But no. Within seconds of pressing play, and hearing the tones of ‘Moment’, I’m replying to his email excitedly. He’s done it again.
The band in question are called SOM, a quintet comprised of members of Junius, Constants and Caspian. To be more exact, the five-piece features Will Benoit (vocals, guitars), Justin Forrest (bass), Mike Repasch-Nieves (guitars), Joel M. Reynolds (guitars), and Duncan Rich (drums). Apparently, in various circles, the band has been making waves over the past few years, especially since the release of their debut album, ‘The Fall’, released in 2018. Covering a Billie Eilish track is bound to make a few headlines too. But as far as I am concerned, their sophomore effort, ‘The Shape Of Everything’ is my first exposure to SOM, and I’m sold.
Referred to as ‘doom pop’, it is equally accurate to throw in references to shoegaze and post metal when describing the music on this album, music that has made a genuine impact upon me for the last couple of weeks or more.
A wall of post-metal sound, dominated by thick, distorted guitars assault the senses right from the outset. However, the churning riff, steady drumbeat, and oppressive, almost suffocating atmospheres are then joined by the voice of Will Benoit and the overall tone changes. His delivery is hushed, smooth, and almost dreamlike, turning up the melodic aspect of the music another several notches. The song is heavy, yes, but it is also highly catchy and immediate, albeit in a mature fashion if that makes any kind of sense. The shoegaze elements are writ large across what is an utterly stunning opening composition, one that hammers the listener whilst soothing them at the same time.
This might sound like a very obscure reference, but does anyone remember the band Pist.On and in particular the song ‘Grey Flap’ from their 1996 album ‘Number One’? Because that’s the vibe that I get from the song ‘Animals’, another fantastic track on ‘The Shape Of Everything’ with more of a doomy, Goth, grungy quality to it. A quiet, melodic intro is crushed under the weight of a monstrous wall of heavy guitars that march along unperturbed by the lush, warm melodies that float in an amongst the heaviness, led by more silky-smooth vocals from Benoit. The bass comes to the fore when the band opt for a short-lived minimalist section to provide respite from the slow-paced tumult.
What is clear across this relatively short, 34-minute album, is that melody is one of the most important aspects of the SOM sound, opting for a huge dollop of shoegaze rather than just a hint here and there. What it means is that each and every one of the eight songs contains within it a hook, or a melodic idea that will lodge itself in your head long after the album ceases. And there isn’t one track that I dislike either, such is the consistent level of quality and modus operandi from SOM.
I was going to say that there are slightly ‘softer’ songs on the album, such as ‘Center’, but it’s all an illusion. Yes, there are moments where the intensity drops a little to offer some breathing space, but a gargantuan riff or thunderous guitar note isn’t far away. It’s just that the combination of Benoit’s voice and the chosen melodies help with creating a lightness to the material that’s incredibly deceiving.
Do I have a favourite track on ‘The Shape Of Everything’? Well, no, I don’t. It’s impossible to pick a favourite because I keep changing my mind, almost every time I play the record. Naturally, the aforementioned ‘Moment’ will always hold a certain charm for me as it was my first exposure into the world of SOM, beginning this delightfully gratifying journey of discovery. However, ‘Heart Attack’ sticks out a little because it is arguably the least immediate and more ‘experimental’ track on offer. It meanders a little more sedately, introducing several different juxtaposing ideas in such a short space of time, from more angular riffing, to pronounced moments of slow-burn atmospheric minimalism. And the outro that unravels gently, descending into just static noise is an interesting touch. Or there’s the slightly more pronounced swagger of ‘Shape’ within the central riff, or even the effortless majesty of ‘Son Of Winter’.
I know that I say it a lot, but isn’t it magical when you make a new personal musical discovery? That feeling of knowing that your life will never be quite the same again for the better, albeit in a very small way. SOM are the latest band to give me this feeling and it’s a feeling I never want to lose, however old I get. Back to ‘The Shape Of Everything’ though, and call the music what you want, the bottom line is that it is wonderful. For once I shall bemoan the fact that it’s a short album, because I’d have loved to hear a couple more tracks of this quality. But then again, part of the success of this album is because it is so honed, so tight, so professional sounding. The succinctness works, allowing the listener to dive deeply and carefully into each expertly constructed composition and get the maximum out of each and every one. I don’t even want to guess at how many times ‘The Shape Of Everything’ will be played in my house this year…I I can say is that I hope the neighbours like it too.
The Score of Much Metal: 92%
Check out my other 2022 reviews here:
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