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Fall of the Rebel Angels might be one of the most unexpected albums of 2012. Relatively few people heard about Soulstorm (recently or at all), and fewer heard about this album. In my opinion, it might be one of last years’ best jewels bearing the industrial metal signature.
Founded in 1991, Soulstorm is a name that circulated in the decade, for its avant-garde/extreme edge (at the time) was easily comparable to the big names in the genre, such as Godflesh and the industrial albums of Today is the Day. Soulstorm’s first album, Darkness Visible, came out under the Metal Blade Records label in 1993. A second album, From Euphoria to Paranoia, followed soon after, in 1994 under the Cargo Records banner. Then, although it stayed active later in the decade, we completely lost track of the band, and almost forgot about it.
Fall of the Rebel Angels came as a wakeup call. It is mostly addressed to ol’ schoolers who grew up in the 1990’s with extreme metal labels Earache and Relapse in particular. It speaks to an exploration of new textures and soundscapes in these years, and the rise in popularity of the industrial genres. It is not meant to be an easy listen, despite its simplicity, and its relative monotony will weight on many newcomers to the genre. However, for anyone who enjoys this style, Fall of the Rebel Angels is a breath of fresh air.
Soulstorm uses different ingredients among the many definitions of heaviness. The guitars are saturated with distortion; the bass is guttural but very audible, the bassist playing with a pick and adding a dose of distortion; and the electronic-sounding drum has accents of a heavy piece of machinery. Also characteristic, the grooves of the music are closely locked with the drum patterns; this leaves a lot of room for the guitars and synth to create atmospheres, and for vocals to become a central element. Drenched in various effects, especially the robotic ones, they give an extra dark touch to this heavy industrial music.
After many listens, I find Fall of the Rebel Angels particularly diversified. We have the adrenaline-pumped songs such as “Soulless”, mechanically-driven songs such as the title song, and the depressive “Descent Into Desolation”. While the album was written by founder Nick Sagias (who played with Toronto’s Overthrow and with Netherland’s Pestilence for a few months), the full line up includes musicians from Wetwork and ex-Woods of Ypres: Chris Mezzabotta, Shawn Stoneman, and Bryan Mallon. It also features Sacrifice’s Rob Urbinati on one song.
Like a direct continuation unto the 1993 Darkness Visible musical direction, Fall of the Rebel Angels is better constructed, and heavier than anything else Soulstorm did previously. This angrier-almost-death metal sound is particularly experienced through the guitars, the lower vocal tone and the smaller range of effects put onto it.
Fall of the Rebel Angels is not an album that will appeal to a lot of people. Metal has gone a long way since the mid 1990’s and the aesthetic of Soulstorm is not one that is popular today. There is nonetheless a vibrant niche for it, and I believe it will be very well received and highly appreciated by many amateurs of industrial metal. After a few weeks, this has quickly become one of my coups de coeur.
[Originally written for blog.metalmadeincanada.ca]