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South Of Salem – The Sinner Takes It All Award winner

South Of Salem
The Sinner Takes It All
by Kenn Staub at 18 September 2020, 8:43 AM

Though “The Sinner Takes It All” (due out September 25) is SOUTH OF SALEM’s debut release, it is far from what one might expect of a freshman effort. Rather, the album is a well-produced 10 song collection that shows SOUTH OF SALEM to be a polished quintet, seemingly near the top of their game for what they do. And what this Bournemouth, UK band does is play a glam-based style of metal, complete with rhythmically earwormish refrains (can’t shake the song “Cold Day In Hell” as I write), catchy hooks, and stylistic guitar solos. Not only do the instrumental arrangements stand out, Joey’s vocal performance fits nicely over top of and along with what the band is laying down, completing the total music package.

Let Us Prey” opens the album with the sound of pouring rain. Any thought that this song (or the album for that matter) might be all wet is quickly disabused by Pip’s drumming, with the man-on-the-stool setting a speed metal-like tempo. Though the percussive explosion abates after that initial blast, the song remains uptempo, with the bass and guitars seamlessly joining in to produce a solid rhythm that runs throughout the rest of the track.

Following the opener, SOUTH OF SALEM throws down the gauntlet with a three-track run of almost perfect metal. “The Hate In Me” kicks off the stretch, setting the tone with a funky guitar groove reeking of attitude and reminiscent of 1980s-style swagger. The track features the first guitar solo of the album. Far from bombastic, the solo fits the structure of the song so that the rhythm complements it and it, in turn, complements the rhythm. The band is full speed ahead right from the start of “No Plague Like Home.” The lyrics are clever, as they are in most of the album’s songs, making use of interesting phraseology and sly plays on words. As in any song about being stuck in a life you don’t want, the music momentarily slows and turns darker, though SOUTH OF SALEM rewards the listener with some excellent interplay between the tandem guitars. A guitar into sets up “Pretty Little Nightmare,” a song of lamentation that includes a nice sing-along chorus. While the guitars wail, especially during the solo, the track is intermittently highlighted by almost delicately played interludes.

Made To Be Mine” begins with what sounds like a hard-boiled detective monologue before transitioning into a driving rhythm. The well-written lyrics have a morbid edge, which goes along nicely with the eventual foreboding tonal shift. The sixth track, “Cold Day in Hell,” is my personal favorite off the album (I’m already looking forward to hearing this one live). It’s hooky with a catchy chorus that begs to be sung along with. The guitars settle into a groove as the rest of the instruments join in. A guitar solo adds to the song rather than becoming the focus.

Demons Are Forever” is a bit different from the preceding tracks, being somewhat slower and gloomier (almost atmospheric) at its outset. The guitar solo fits the initial mood perfectly, though it does mark somewhat of a transition point, as afterwards the song almost becomes uplifting, reversing the downward progression into darkness. Any lingering feelings of despair are obliterated with “Another Nail In My Coffin,” an engine of a song with a cool little call-and-response break. SOUTH OF SALEM finishes the album strong. Based off a grooving rhythm, “Severely Yours” has some of the more clever word play that’s heard on the album. “Dead Hearts Don’t Break” is another driving number, with a repetitive riff leading up to a concussive conclusion.

I liked this album the first time I played it through. I liked it better and better with each subsequent listen. Though I came to favor some songs over others, there is not a wasted or weak track in the bunch. These are obviously skilled musicians who know what they do best, putting that on display in well-structured, lyrically creative songs. “The Sinner Takes It All” commands attention, revealing SOUTH OF SALEM to be musically slick with a funky, dirty little edge.

Musicianship: 9
Songwriting: 9
Memorability: 9
Production: 9

4 Star Rating

1. Let Us Prey
2. The Hate In Me
3. No Plague Like Home
4. Pretty Little Nightmare
5. Made To Be Mine
6. Cold Day In Hell
7. Demons Are Forever
8. Another Nail In My Coffin
9. Severely Yours
10. Dead Hearts Don’t Break 
Joey – Vocals
Kodi – Guitar
Fish – Guitar
Dee – Bass
Pip - Drums
Record Label: Independent


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Edited 07 February 2023

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