France seems to throw up surprisingly few metal bands, but when it does they’re good ones. Add to the list Scarlean, another new one on us, who’ve recently released their second album, Soulmates. Fitting into the “alt-metal” camp with a sound akin to Korn and the like, their tunes are catchy, their beats are heavy and their lyrics are thoughtful.
Opener “Next to the Makers” has the head nodding within seconds as the main rhythm kicks in and the bass guitar joins the drum to set the musical scene. This is a common theme throughout Soulmates. Scarlean are all about dragging you in and making your neck crank or your toe tap. While not really a head banger, it’s certainly infectious.
There’s also a fair smattering of groovy and experimental sounds, such as the “plink-plonk” section around halfway through “Haters”. It’s enough to add a little to the track without grating on your nerves if it doesn’t work for you. It’s a little distracting, but doesn’t take anything away from a powerful number.
“Wasting My Time” features some odd sliding effects in the bridge, “Ego” some jangly clean guitars, “Our World Will Surely Stop” a mid-point break backed only by what sound like electronic drums… and so on. Each track has a little quirk to make it individual.
A definite highlight, however, is the band’s cover of Black’s “Wonderful Life” featuring Anneke Van Giersbergen’s voice and the drum skills of Eric Lebailly. It really is something special, consisting of haunting sections, heavy ones, dual vocals, solos… Scarlean have taken the (superb) original and really made it their own. In parts, Van Giersbergen’s voice takes lead, in others it’s the band’s singer Alex, in others the two are equally balanced. Their voices are perfectly accompanied by the musicians and overall it’s one of the best cover versions I think I’ve heard in ages.
There’s nothing wrong with the best track on your album being a cover as long as the rest of the material backs it up (ask Anthrax), and Soulmates doesn’t lack for good tracks. A solid introduction to the band for those who’ve not encountered them before.
Soulmates is out now