Sweden-based SOARS (Kristian Karlsson of Cult of Luna and pg.lost) has released its second synth driven Post-Rock record, Repeater - a sublime collection of cinematic and grandiose songs. While there are the occasional vocal melodies sprinkled throughout, these Post-Rock instrumentals with a synth driven twist conjure dark atmospheres and bright pinnacles.
Over more than two decades, Post-Rock acts have been pushing boundaries - even down to how exactly to define the genre. While there are definite calling cards (tremolo picking clean guitars into a distorted crescendo, for example), not every Post-Rock artist abides such strictures and SOARS is no exception. Synth arpeggios and cinematic melodies define much of the record, often building to an ascendant, powerhouse climax. SOARS’ label describes the music as “uplifting” (perhaps a play on the project’s moniker) and that adjective is spot-on.
As one fifth of post-metal legends Cult of Luna and bassist/vocalist of pg.lost, Karlsson is no stranger to the studio. With SOARS, he takes ideas that seemed to not fit with his other bands and gives them life through a project of their own. We’re very glad he did.
Opening track “Repeater” definitely sets the tone for this record: it’s epic and bold, but also in turns haunting and subdued. An ‘80s style bass synth pushes the listener along and one would be forgiven for thinking we’re headed into Depeche Mode or Nine Inch Nails territory. But then the beat hits us hard and a sweeping, ghostly synth lead reminds us we’re in Post-Rock land.
“Uprise” combines heavy riffing bookended by a synth arpeggio and a plaintive melody formed through a heavily processed vocals. Tense drums and a sturdy bass line build tension through the track.
Melancholy but uplifting, “The Waiting” amps up the cinematic vibes - it’s theme music for the action hero’s triumphant montage after an epic battle to defeat the evil doers. The ending suggests this was but a skirmish, with its incessant, pounding intensification.
“Old & Heavy” plunges us back into the mire with a classic synth intro giving way to a slow, driving beat with a piano melody layered on top, reminiscent of Post-Rock stalwarts Mogwai. It’s easy to see why they chose this as the lead single - it’s catchy, serious, and ethereal.
The downtempo, almost ambient intro of “Grow” moves from a humble beginning to a grinding, thunderous conclusion. Karlsson seems to wear influences on his sleeve here, from synth pioneers like Jean Michel Jarre and Vangelis to Post-Rock acts like God Is An Astronaut and Caspian.
Like a video game synth unleashed from its glowing, coin-sucking box, “Unfollow” starts with a wild synth arpeggio giving away to more 80s inspired electronica and eventually riffs its way back to Post-Rock. It’s a unique, genre-expanding take that propels the record into even more interesting territories.
Closing track “All Ends” treads briefly into Industrial territory with a glitchy beat (likely another influence) before a buoyant piano melody catches the listeners’ attention, instilling an appropriate melancholia for an album closer.
While SOARS haunts less heavy territory than its sibling Cult of Luna, Karlsson still manages to cut a wide swath of amazing sounds across the horizon with his vintage-inspired synth sounds and modern Post-Rock sensibilities.