All Souls – All Souls
Label: Sunyata Records
Release Date: February 9, 2018
Ever a student of the various sonic pockets which dot the musical landscape of this fair country, I have to admit that seeing the phrase “LA-based” on promotional material for a new band will typically cause me to read the rest of whatever is written from beneath a single, warily raised eyebrow.
I’m not suggesting that the Los Angeles area hasn’t produced a wealth of great music over the years, it’s just that you never know if you are going to get something that feels organic and homegrown or a flavorless slab of radio rock that sounds like it was slapped together by a “talent” agency who only employs dude-bros wearing flat-billed hats & wallet chains who also insist on keeping their sunglasses on at night and/or at the UFC fights they regularly attend. And, in my experience, the latter is much more prevalent than the former. So it’s probably a good thing that the promotional email I received a few weeks ago beckoning me to check out the eponymous debut from a new band called All Souls mentioned that the band traces bloodlines to criminally underappreciated alt/stoner/sludge heroes Totimoshi before branding them with the dreaded “LA-based” moniker. Hey, I’m not always proud of my predispositions, but at least I own up to ‘em.
All Souls consists of long-time collaborators Tony Aguilar (guitar/vox) and Meg Castellanos (bass/vox) playing alongside scene veterans Erik Trammell (guitar/vox) and Tony Tornay (drums), and I have to imagine one of the biggest challenges inherent to creating a band where 50% of the members hail from a band as revered as Totimoshi–which Aguilar & Castellanos played in together for over a decade–is forging a sound which honors that proud lineage while also standing firmly on its own, a fact which Aguliar readily acknowledges:
“Once we figured out what the lineup was going to be, we sat around and discussed what we wanted to sound like artistically before even jamming. It gave us a really great grasp on the artistic angle. It was almost like forming the painting before it was brought to life.”
After several listens to All Souls, it’s apparent to me that this album was indeed created through a heavy spirit of collaboration. The foundation of the band’s sound is definitely hard rock which has won the band stage time alongside the likes of Kvelertak, Red Fang, and Torche, but All Souls isn’t near as sonically straight forward as any of those bands, instead drawing heavily on the combined experience of all involved parties to produce an album of exceptional diversity.
For a lot of bands, that sort of approach would pull things apart at the seams, but decentralization seems to totally work for All Souls, and it’s clear that they didn’t let the fear of coming off as unfocused or aimless deter them from exploring whatever sonic realms suited their fancy at any given time. From the spindly guitar leads and lively hand-claps that adorn “Party Night” to the driving riffs and thunderous drums (courtesy of Tool’s Danny Carey) that punctuate “Sadist/Servant”, and especially on the record’s best track “Rename the Room” which evokes the sultry grooves of Chris Isaak’s “Wicked Game” while also kicking ass, it’s clear that nothing was off the table when these guys set about the task of writing this thing.
Clearly by design, distilling All Souls’ sound down to any sort of readily consumable descriptor is a bit of a challenge because the band doesn’t overly dwell on any one source of inspiration, and the honest truth is that I figure any self-respecting music fan would have a much more enjoyable time mining the album’s depths for themselves than they would listening to me spout platitudes. But, if I were the guy responsible for writing one of those one-line promotional headlines for All Souls, here is what I’d say: “All Souls is the sound of The Pixies wandering into the desert and doing bong rips with the crew from The Desert Sessions!” That description more or less sums it up for me—but if it does absolutely nothing for you, now you know why I don’t write one-line promotional content and, hey, at least I didn’t describe them as “LA-based”. At any rate, All Souls 9-song debut is a well-written, well-executed hard rock gem full of vibrancy, melody, whimsy, and weight—and it is certainly worth your time.
One unfortunate side-note is that the album is a bit hard to find as of this writing. It appears that the only way to get ahold of it is to download it from Apple Music or purchase the CD, either directly from the band through Sunyata Records, or via Amazon. They do have a small handful of tracks available via their Bandcamp page, and I imagine they’ll post the full album there soon enough. In the meantime, have a listen to lead single “Never Know” below!