Album: Get Well Soon – EP
The greatest moments and most beloved people we encounter throughout our lives never truly stop or leave. Nights you wish would never stop, people you want to spend the rest of your life with—even as the moon fades and the sun rises, or even as those people leave your side or this world, they never stop being. They are perpetually present as mementos: items we attach significant memory to, things with sentimental value enough to turn what others consider trash into your own treasure trove. More often than not, we hold them dear and think back on people and places fondly—but sometimes, fondness fades to bitterness, and bright, vivid memories become morose. The debut EP by Soulkeeper, titled Get Well Soon is like listening to your favorite memories burn and melt away until only ash remains. With frantic, energetic instrumentation that combines bouncy, progressive metalcore with breakdown-friendly deathcore and catchy nu-metal both, and vocals that grate your ears as their lyrics shred your heartstrings, Soulkeeper is a display in brilliant musicianship and creative poetry both—making it an EP you will be sure to hold dear.
Equal parts catchy and crushing, Get Well Soon is a misleading name for a release that will infect your ears like a plague and bludgeon you like a baseball bat. Musically, Soulkeeper use both haunting, eerie leads and aggressive, downtuned grooves in brilliant contrast to bewilder the listener. This is evident from the pummeling percussion Tom Jefson lays down from the very get-go of “Drain.” Jefson’s drumming is the soundtrack to an epileptic seizure, with his jarring blast beats on “Sentiment” rattling the listener’s brain about as the stuttering breakdown that is “Coma” practically puts the listener into one. All the while, his excellent drumming is accompanied by bassist Niko Simning, whose slithering grooves coat every one of Jefson’s kick drum smacks with a hearty layer of sludge. Together, Simning and Jefson make Soulkeeper’s more atmospheric parts smooth and fluid, but add dissonance and depth to every one of the band’s devastating breakdowns. They are the dynamic duo that allows guitarist Scott Gilmore to give a genre-defining display of neurotic fretwork that is simultaneously progressive and punishing. Tracks like “Linger,” as well as the lead single “Ultraviolet” showcase this well: Gilmore chugs and grooves away with a boisterous series of brutalizing spats of heaviness while a haunting, serene lead slinks in the background. Even where Gilmore avoids using a high-fretted lead to add dimensionality to a track, his well-harmonized grooves see him working closely with Jefson and Simning to bounce and swing at the listener like a sledgehammer coated in rubber.
While Soulkeeper’s brilliant instrumentation is enough to keep the listener engrossed in Get Well Soon, their excellence doesn’t stop there. Frontman Zachary Zaijian puts on one of the best vocal performances since Barrier’s Colin Sharkey on Dark Days. His lyricism on “Sentiment” is enough to bring a tear to The Hulk’s eye, while his incredible vocal effort during “Beloved” touches on shrill shouts and low bellows alike. Zaijian’s incredible vocal and poetic lyricism (“Linger” and his use of dark and light is especially relevant here) adds more to Soulkeeper’s already packed dynamic than any listener could even predict. With perfect endurance and incredible patterning, Zaijian’s zealous and strung-out vocal performance is what makes Soulkeeper’s debut more than just memorable—it is legendary.
Get Well Soon is a haunting, harrowing collection of emotionally compromising lyrics over a musical canvas of pure bitterness and bold aggression. By the time “Linger” reaches its end, the listener is practically convinced that when Zaijian said he was falling apart, he meant it and cannot go on—only for “Sentiment” to kick in, providing an additional exposé into his suffering. Intelligent and catchy, Zaijian’s vocals and music are a perfect complement to Soulkeeper’s snappy instrumentation. “Sentiment” and “Ultraviolet” are both great examples, with lightning-like blast beats quickly cascading into stuttering breakdowns before the listener can even find the tempo. Like this, the quartet bounce boldly back and forth throughout Get Well Soon, keeping the listener on their toes but still loving every second. A poignant and stinging soundtrack to loss and self-loathing, Soulkeeper’s debut EP is something fans of heavy, bouncy metalcore will no doubt cherish throughout 2016 and in years to come.
For Fans Of: Barrier, Terraform, Reflections, Sworn In
By: Connor Welsh