Sonja
Loud Arriver

Vengeance is a dish best served heavy. And melodic. And epic.

OK, I guess I shouldn’t assume “vengeance” as being the first emotion that would come to mind for former Absu guitarist Melissa Moore, who is jumping back into the spotlight after a very ugly and public firing from the band following her coming out as a Trans woman. This isn’t even actually her first offering since her split with Absu, with the excellent Crossspitter also taking up a chunk of her time (I’d sure love to get some more music from them sooner rather than later, as well) . That said, Sonja is the first time Moore has stepped out as a band’s clear leading force, standing firmly front and center stage with little doubt about who this project is really all about, and while it’s certainly not my place to assume her mindset or motivating factors behind this project, I wouldn’t be shocked if Moore is taking a little extra pride in what she and her cohorts have created here. And she has every right to be, because Loud Arriver is righteous as fuck.

Whether is was with Absu, or the super fun but overlooked Rumpelstiltskin Grinder, or with any her other prior projects, her guitar work has always deservedly served as a real focal point of whatever she’s been involved in, and that’s certainly no different here with Sonja. In her effort to collect all the metal subgenre infinity stones, she now turns her efforts to a more traditional Heavy Metal sound, layered with sprinklings of Goth Rock and lots of “post” undertones that kinda blanket the entire album. Backed notably by drummer Grzesiek Czapla (Absu‘s former touring drummer who was the only member to have Moore’s back during that ugly split) and bassist Ben Brand, she certainly has no shortage of talent to work with on Loud Arriver, and upon first listen, my thoughts almost immediately go to the too-short-lived Vattnet and their only post-Vattnet Viskar effort – due in no small part to Melissa Moore’s vocal tones (not to mention the spacious vocal production) sounding VERY similar to those of Casey Aylward (Vattnet, Astronoid), but the entire tone of the album itself is very similar as well. This bodes well for me, as that Vattnet record is still a regular part of my rotation, but with Moore adding more epic Heavy metal riffs to the mix, is just makes the whole thing all the more delicious.

While opener “When the Candle Burns Low” is a strong track in it’s own right, it’s on second track “Nylon Nights” that I think Sonja really hits its stride – featuring confident, strutting riffs that demand your attention, before the band breaks into a really sweet, classic Heavy Metal chugging bridge and lead section that really starts putting the band’s chops on display. They keep that energy going on follow-up “Pink Fog,” which introduces a really fun, damn-near danceable riff that continues to build layers upon the band’s sound, before the track takes a much darker turn, hitting you with another epic, building bridge that caps off with yet another supremely infectious, impressive riff at the 2:17 mark that I haven’t been able to shake from my head since I first heard it.

While I adore the mighty Heavy Metal riffs found all over the place on Loud Arriver, it’s some of the moodier, more goth-leaning elements that really give the album it’s unique flavor. The opening riff on “Wanting Me Dead” is catchy as all get-out, and the type of thing that starts to separate Sonja from other similar acts. Moments like that, along with sections of “Daughter of the Morning Star,” and the break a little past half-way through “Moans from the Chapel” somehow manage to both serve as a great contrast to some of the more muscular riffing, and find a way blend their way into even some of those burlier riffs, giving them a unique character you just don’t find everywhere. The former is perhaps the best example of the band showing off their unique brand of Heavy Metal, featuring some absolutely filthy galloping riffs and bass lines that show the band can go on attack with the best of them, but can also balance it out with some really dreamy melody just as effectively. Credit also needs to be given to Moore on her songwriting, as she seems to have tapped into a lot of first-hand experience and raw emotion en route to some really powerful lyrics. Right off the bat, the first stanza of “When the Candle Burns Low” hits especially hard when you consider Moore’s trials over the last few years:

River deep, drown me and I might dream.
Tower high, drop me down, I’ll fly.
I’ll never die.

It’s a powerful statement, letting you know that whatever fight comes Melissa’s way, and all of Sonja‘s way for that matter, they will be ready to take it on without fear. Later on, the track “Wanting Me Dead” seems to continue that them head-on, telling to story of a central character (or perhaps it’s Moore herself) finding themselves surrounded by seemingly hordes of people who are all, uh, ya know, “Wanting (her) dead.” Her response?

She’s gonna start killing people,
Only way that she’s gonna survive the night.
She’s gonna start killing people,
Feelin’ good and she’s ready to ride all night.

I, for one, am not going to fuck with Melissa Moore. No thank you.

I went into Loud Arriver with the mindset this was Moore’s chance to flip the proverbial double-birds to her former Absu bandmates, and every other bigoted, misogynistic, transphobic shitbrain who wanted to write her off and leave her for dead, but that was way too short-sighted of me. Frankly, that just wasn’t fair. Add whatever outside drama you want to the situation, but at the end of the day, Loud Arriver has nothing to do with Russ Givens, it has nothing to do with Paul Williamson, it has nothing to do with anyone except Grzesiek Czapla, Ben Brand, and more than anyone else, an unchained, full-powers-on-display Melissa Moore, who appears to be feeling more confident and sure of herself than ever. The results are, more often than not, absolutely stunning. This is a band bursting onto the scene with triumphant, blazing glory, unapologetic in who they are, and what they’re here to do, and if you aren’t on board? Just go ahead and get the fuck out of the way, because this train is barreling full-steam ahead whether you like it or not.

 

 

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Steve K
October 19th, 2022

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