Band : Soma Dark
Album title : Begin
Label : Casket Music
Distributor : Copro Records – Skratch The Surface – PHD – Bertus
Release date : 17/10/2011
Release : CD

May seem weird to review an album which was released over 8 months ago, but what yer gonna do when their promotion agency send you the album? You listen to the material, check the Internet for info, and get onto the job of making the review, right? Nevertheless, I've been wondering about the delay for sending us the material. Was the original release a purely British thing, and is the album now to be made available on the European continent (and, possibly, beyond)? Are the guys planning to tour in Europe, or even in the Benelux area? None of the info I found gave an confirmation for any of those possibilities, to stop wonder why, and be glad that the promotion agency has allowed you to discover another nice British band, announced as “...a new Melodic Metal phenomenon in Manchester's vibrant music scene...”!

Actually, the band are based in Stockport, and they have been active at least since late February 2008 (at least, that's when but the guys started their official MySpace page). Probable line-up back then was the steady core of guitarists Arun Kamath & Stuart Armriding, plus drummer James McMurrough. Lead singer Mike Hardman apparently had a falling out with the other guys, and was replaced by one James Schofield, whom departed from the band on amical terms in January 2010. Following some discussions and concessions on both part, Hardman hen returned to the fold in July 2010. Around the same time bassist Joe left for personal reasons, to be replaced by one Dr. Luke Jones (no mention was made of whàt he's a doctor in, though!). October 2010 saw the announcement that Soma Dark had finished all recordings (engineered and produced by guitarist Stuart) necessary for the band's debut album Begin. Followed the mixing, of course, which took some time getting done. And then Casket Music/ Copro Records (no info was found of when the band got in contact with 'em) took some time getting the physical album out on the (British) streets.

Generally described as “Melodic Metal”, SD's music is laden with catchy groove parts alternated with nice lead guitar parts (without exaggeration of the “solo” parts) atop of a very firm and uplifting rhythm section (hats off to the very tight drummer, by the way). The cherry on the cake that is SD music, comes with Hardman's vocal stylings. Harsh most of the time, he occasionally borderlines a scream (without loosing a certain feel for melody), and at other moments takes down the intensity a bit (without for that fact loosing the harsh tonality of his singing style altogether). The first two songs on the album (“Passengers Of Time” and “Lies Behind”) are of an aggressiveness that jumps right at the listener from the first notes played, like an unexpected punch in the face, and the ensuing calmer “Mauna Kea” (is that Hawaiian?) therefore comes like a welcome breather. Mike then brings proof that he can also sing without harshness at all in the song “Breathe” (huh...okay, that's funny somehow, seen my comment on the previous song), which alternates finely between calmer and heavier passages musically (and therefore can be seen as the album's semi-ballad – it also opens acoustically, by the way). For the following two songs, “Faultline” and “Resolute”, the band again goes for the throat with both harsh music and vocals, and we find Mike going back to something that finds a middle between his harsher and calmer vocal stylings on the long-titled “A Tone Set For The Lace Skyline”. In my personal opinion, the track-list selection of the three last songs was a slight mistake. As things are, we find the band returning to the very harsh with “Forsaken And Falling”, then slowing down things with “2505” (which nevertheless has a real heavy passage towards the end), and then returning to harsher tones again with the album closing “Sundown's Last Raise”. The thing is, that last track has an open-ending appendix which starts after the 7-minute boundary (vocals have just died out, drums die out after 45 seconds, the guitars die out some minute later, and all that remains is some nice Ambient sounds – making for a total length of 13:28 on the track), which would've suited “2505” better. Had thàt been the album closer, the overall finishing of the album would also have been more acceptable, as one would have experienced a gradual calming down. Still, only a small detail, as far as critical comments go!

More important, is that one needs several listening sessions before one truly gets into the album's diverse material. With the groove thing dominating, one indeed needs to pay attention to the nice (and sometimes subtle) lead guitar diddies underneath. Also, with the groove guitar played at low tonality, it takes some attention to follow what the bassist does (and it's well-worth paying attention too, you know). In essence, this is an album which will grow onto the patient listener bit by bit...and that may be somewhat of a negative point with today's fickle album-buying youngsters, whom for the most part want everything consumer-ready from the get-go! It's a good thing a lot of those young ones get in touch with bands thanks to live appearances, and thus get acquainted with the music in a visual way as well. To enhance their chances, the band has so far recorded and released video clips for their songs “Resolute” and “Passengers Of Time” (both can be viewed at the band's own website (www.) For “mere” audio, check the links to ReverbNation (2 songs and the “Resolute” video), SoundCloud (same 2 songs plus an additional one)...and find an additional song at (www.)! Oh, and Spotify affiliated people will be happy to find the album there as well (I guess that means you can listen to the complete album before deciding to go and purchase, or pay-per-download)!