Friday, March 21, 2003

Review: Beseech - Souls Highway (2002)

Souls Highway
Napalm Records

First off, I have to say that Souls Highway is one of the most underexposed albums of 2002. Beseech  has hovered on the fringes of the Goth Metal radar screen for a few years without ever really drawing attention to themselves. Then along comes Souls Highway and I'm asking myself why they're not mentioned in the same breath as Lacuna Coil, The Gathering, and Amorphis? This disc was a fixture in my CD player for two weeks straight, and still gets a turn almost daily. Sure, it's the Spring Equinox, but this album is what I consider the perfect soundtrack to a crisp autumn night spent in a candlelit room gazing out the window upon the full moon.

Souls Highway, Beseech's third studio album released by their third label, is a superb collection of 10 melodious tales of dark romanticism. The sound presented here is somewhat different than their previous efforts. Former frontman Jorgen Sjolberg possessed a gritty baritone that could be compared to Ville Laihiala of Sentenced. Erik Molarin, who makes his debut on Souls Highway, has a deep and delightfully sinister voice much akin to Peter Steele of Type O Negative. While female vocals were a part of the mix in the past, they tended to be treated more as an accentuation than as an integral part of the melody. Lotta Hogin's part has evolved on this release to comprise about half of the vocal deliveries on the album. She's either providing a magnificent compliment to Erik or she's taking the lead - think Type O Negative with accompanying female harmonies. Beseech has really hit upon a formula that works.

It's very hard for me to pick out one, two, or even three songs to discuss for this review since every single track is worthy of mention. I've described the overall sound of the album, but every song introduces some little nuance or slight shift to keep the listener immersed in the ambiance created by these seven Swedes. I will say that above all, I find "Between The Lines" to be my favorite cut. The guitar and keyboard interplay is awesome, and the melody created will certainly stick with you. Speaking of keyboards, they are ever-present on Souls Highway but they never overwhelm. They float just under the surface, providing just enough accent to both the vocal harmonies and crunching guitars. The title track is the heaviest tune on the disc and is where Eric displays his great range of deep, clean, emotional vocals. "Gimme Gimme Gimme", Beseech's tribute to fellow Swedes ABBA, is also worthy of mention. The song is, in one word, excellent. They've done the best Goth adaption of a popular mainstream song that this reviewer has ever heard.

So, I'll stop salivating long enough to say that if you're a Goth Metal fan, or a fan of any genre of atmospheric metal, Souls Highway is a must have album. You will not be disappointed!

Track Listing
1 Illusionate
2 Between The Lines
3 Souls Highway
4 Blinded
5 Endless Waters
6 Fiction City
7 Sunset 28
8 A Season In Green
9 Beyond The Skies
11 Gimme Gimme Gimme

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