Live Music + Gig Reviews

Soil @ Garage, London

27 February 2004



When Soil deposited themselves on MTV2 in 2001, they found a captive audience in those who missed the old skool heavy metal aggression of bands like Pantera and latter-day Corrosion Of Conformity and the songwriting skill of early ’90s Seattle legends Alice In Chains.

Two years on and there’s a near palpable feeling in the air that this Chicago quintet is about to make it big, really big. This much was in evidence at tonight’s intimate and sold-out weeks ago show at the Garage, still one of the few venues in London where punk and metal fans can really let loose, get on stage with their heroes, and then promptly dive off again to show their appreciation.

Put simply, this was one of the best metal gigs the English capital city has seen in ages, and one of the roughest too, although these things tend to be correlated.

The principal difference between Soil and a host of other wannabes is purely in the quality of the songs. Tracks like Breaking Me Down and Understanding Me from major label debut Scars are superbly crafted blasts of smokin’ guitar riffs, groovin’ rhythyms and the essential ingredient of massive choruses. And of course, as often distinguishes metal from other musical genres, these guys can play them live and make them sound even better than on record.

Soil also have the special weapon of frontman Ryan McCombs. What he lacks in physical stature, he more than makes up for with sheer vocal power, ’50s-style mic in his hand, bellowing out note-perfect song after song in James Hetfield meets Layne Staley fashion.

Although the majority of the set was drawn from Scars, inevitably the band gave us some sneak previews from their forthcoming follow-up album. Newer songs like the title track, Redefine, move even more towards Pantera in the riffs department (they even teased us with a few bars of Walk at one point), but perversely have more melodic choruses. In short, it’s the recipe for broadening Soil’s appeal without compromising their sound and no doubt it’ll do the job appropriately.

By the time their almost-big hit Halo has wreaked havoc amongst the moshpit, you’re almost ready to believe the band’s on-stage claims that England is their spiritual “home” and how chuffed they are that Redefine is being released here before the US, even if it’s by “only one day”. If the songs on Redefine are half as good as they sounded tonight then believe me, that extra day could prove very handy indeed…

So overall, we came, we saw, they conquered. It would appear that sometimes being Soil-ed and damaged is a good thing. You should try it next time they’re in town.

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More on Soil
Soil: “We don’t always want to rip your head off” – Interview
Soil – Redefine
Soil @ Garage, London