Soden – Onwards…Towards the Tundra

Soden are a three-piece instrumental band from Worcester who play dark, low and slow. Their music has been described as doom rock, post metal and even drone gaze. What they do really well though is defy all those pigeon holes to forge their own post-apocalyptic soundscapes. Known enigmatically by the names, Block (guitar), Briggs (bass) and Moore (drums) this band really pack a hefty punch.

Onwards, Towards the Tundra is the bands second album following their 2017 debut Led by Foxes. It sees them soundtrack a journey across a brutal, frozen landscape.

Starting with the slowly evolving chords of ‘Onwards’ the band signpost their sonic palate for the album with the pounding drums and threatening guitars. When the song settles into its groove you soon realise you are about to be taken on one hell of a ride.

‘Towards the Tundra’ is born from the dying notes and appears fully formed as the centre piece to this album. The cinematic scale of the chord structure and volcanic build to the climax of the track is breath-taking. This was the piece which drew me to the band and I would defy anyone not to immediately fall in love with it. The video really captures the mood of the song perfectly.

Following this is a sound experiment in the form of ‘Expedition 1’. A meandering, two-minute exploration which does a great job throwing you off balance. Very clever indeed.  It disorientates the listener clearing the way for the doom anthem that is ‘Whales’.

This song is heavy. Really heavy. It’s hung around a riff so catchy you find yourself chanting along.  The production values of the album bear fruit here. The amount of different tones Block wrangles from his guitar on this one track alone is staggering. I am also struck by the drums here. Moore conducts and dictates the pace with military precision.

We stay with the oceanic theme for ‘Swim with Turtles’. For me this is a development of the sounds first heard on the opening track ‘Onwards’. The pounding drums are our constant whilst the guitars assume a really unsettling, angular tone which is profoundly troubling and yet immensely engaging.

We leave the water for the icy wastes of ‘Antarctica Lay Before Us’. This six-minute opus feels like a battle against the blizzard. A war against the whiteout conditions with only brief moments of clarity to catch our breath. There’s something Lovecraftian at work here. Something larger than our reality.

‘Cold Waters Still’ is another track where the interlocking groove formed by Briggs and Moore is core to the overall vibe of the whole song. Rather than still waters the guitars remind me of crashing, tumultuous waves threatening to engulf the song in chaos.

The album closer ‘Expedition 2 ‘starts on a very purposeful footing with a fuzzed-out riff not unlike classic Smashing Pumpkins which leads into a Black Sabbath sounding central theme. But this wouldn’t be Soden if that’s all this track was. The closing two minutes of this track is experimental rock at its finest. The interplay between all three members is incendiary.

Soden really surprised and delighted me with this album. They have successfully painted a vivid picture in my head of a journey across the icy expanses of this world. They have also reminded me of the power that a truly great three-piece band can wield when they have a singular vision and purpose.

Onwards…Towards the Tundra is out now from Dirty Filthy Records. A very limited-edition CD edition is available via their Bandcamp page and coloured vinyl edition via the label and some indie record shops.

Mark Anderson
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