“The Sinner Takes it All? I really hope this isn’t some tribute to ABBA.” Thankfully not and it’s merely a pun. What makes former Band of the Day South of Salem endearing from the initial listen is their brand of hard rock isn’t the usual we’ve heard from British bands in the past five years. Instead, they opt for a more traditional rock sound but add a thick layer of metal and add in some punk for good measure. It’s too rock to be metal but too metal to be rock.
Opening track “Let Us Prey” immediately gives you a sense of what this band is about and what you can expect for the next 40-his minutes. Big, hard-hitting riffs mingling with vocals which are part-drawl, part-snarl. Meanwhile, “The Hate in Me” doubles down on that but adds in a healthy dose of swagger and “No Plague Like Home” is reminiscent of early Bullet For My Valentine (when they made good albums) with its soaring chorus and anthemic feel to it.
Aggression continues in “Made to Be Mine”, albeit, not quite as forceful as the proceeding tracks. Its spoken word intro eerily evokes similarities to the opening of Queen’s “Gimme the Prize”, but in this case, it’s not lifted from Highlander. Elsewhere, the momentum found at the start of the record is mirrored in the last three tracks with “Another Nail in My Coffin” being the highlight of the entire album. However, closing song “Dead Hearts Don’t Break” crashes to a sudden stop, ending the bulldozer effect the album had been building upon and feels quite jarring to the point where you expect another number to follow it.
That said, the band do know how to bring down the mood with the subdued “Demons Are Forever”, bringing back that early Bullet For My Valentine sound and mixing in hints of Metallica’s first iteration of “The Unforgiven”. However, the guitar solo plays like a Use Your Illusions-era Guns N’ Roses to bring the rock side back into play. It makes for a palette cleanser after “Cold Day in Hell” which is laced with more bitterness and hate than a tweet by Piers Morgan.
Backed by pounding drums and chugging riffs from the start, South of Salem’s music is some of the most ridiculously catchy I’ve come across in some time. While the lyrics themselves may not handle some of the bigger topics artists are taking aim at currently, they still have something to say as they approach relatable and human topics we’ve all experienced. It never feels like they’re trying to beat a dead horse and instead, they explore various elements of light and shade within, combining forcefulness and openness with hints of theatricality.
The Sinner Takes it All isn’t your modern standard paint-by-numbers hard rock. Even reflected in the artwork, it suggests there’s more to the album than meets the eye and several listens in, it’s completely true. While the album may not push the genre forward and you can’t definitively call them rock or metal, it doesn’t become a hindrance and South of Salem know this. But it would seem they also know that they’re damn good at what they do and aren’t afraid to showcase it without straying into arrogance.