Written by Zac Djamoos
In the same way that emo means something different to true believers today than it did in the ’90s–more math riffs, less wailing over arpeggios–so too has grunge evolved beyond the Seattle scene of three decades ago. Ever since Nevermind, there’s been no shortage of bands influenced by Nirvana’s groundbreaking formula, even if few sounded quite like any of the originals. Of late, though, an increasing number of bands have looked to borrow, both sonically and aesthetically, from that era. You could reasonably blame it on Basement’s Colourmeinkindness, which earned acclaim for its blend of grunge with space rock tones, shoegaze atmosphere, post-hardcore grit, and pop-punk melodies. Texas’ Narrow Head is likely the best-known of the bunch–but Soul Blind is the most successful.
With their debut full-length Feel It All Around, the Hudson Valley-based group homes in on everything that makes them stand out in the crowded field. Like Narrow Head, their early work displayed a lot more shoegaze influence that, in the intervening years, has been pushed aside in favor of heavier, more straightforward grunge tones, and Feel It All Around distills that to its purest form. To set the tone immediately, “Seventh Hell” opens with a throaty bark that hints toward some of the alternative metal elements that’ll bear fruit later on in songs like “Stuck in a Loop” and “Ain’t Hard to Tell” while a whirring, overdriven breakdown plays the track out into the more accessible “Bruise the Sore”: a mid-tempo tune with an instantly memorable hook. It helps establish the album’s sonic palette and dynamic boundaries while demonstrating that the band hasn’t forgotten how to write a massive melodic chorus.
Following the twin assaults of “Stuck in a Loop” and the Deftones-tinged “Tribe” lies “Everyday Evil,” something of a turning point on Feel It All Around. The guitars are as crisp and pummeling as anywhere else on the album, but Soul Blind pushes the vocals front and center. After the track’s chorus, they pull things back, slowing to a crawl and thinning things out to just a smear of reverb under a crooned verse. While things build up again for a towering, metallic coda, it’s an unexpected moment of dynamism for a band typically concerned more with untrammeled aggression, and it foreshadows the subtle turn that comes after “System (Failing).”
The four-song closing run of Feel It All Around is where the band gestures towards dreamier, hazier tones that defined their past EPs: dialing back the belligerence and zeroing in on the atmosphere. “In the in Between” is structured similarly to “Everyday Evil,” juxtaposing powerful, in-your-face riffs with crystal-clear vocal hooks; “All in Time” finds Soul Blind at their most melodic, turning in about as close as grunge can get to power balladry. While it’s far from the band’s wheelhouse–more “Stars” than “The Pod”–it’s an impressive display for the four-piece. The succinct “Sparkle” also deviates from the album’s established formula, with thin guitars forced to the back of the mix behind a lazy, plodding beat. It’s more of a bridge between “All in Time” and the title track than a song that stands strong in its own right, but it’s a worthwhile interlude.
At four and a half minutes, “Feel It All Around” is an epic by Soul Blind’s standards (their previous longest song didn’t quite reach the four-minute mark). It’s a classic closer: the slowest track on the album, it builds to a spacious, soaring outro. The final minute or so of “Feel It All Around” is the first time the riffs err on the looser, more playful side, and it gives the song a unique feel both on the album and in Soul Blind’s catalog. It’s a statement of a finale: from its crescendo to its clean hook to its last seconds.
The grouping of the four most melodic, slowest tracks at the end leaves Feel It All Around feeling somewhat disjointed, like two EPs released side-by-side. Its first two-thirds push the band further down the path of their darkest and heaviest impulses, while the latter portion is a return to—and evolution of—the sounds of Third Chain and their two-song 2019 demo.
It rarely detracts from the overall experience, though. It’s a minor quibble when all the songs are so strong. Soul Blind’s previous work was all excellent, and as a debut full-length, Feel It All Around makes good on the promise of all those EPs. And, best of all, it only feels like a hint towards their full potential.
Zac Djamoos is an editor at The Alternative, and his writing has appeared in Merry-Go-Round Magazine, AbsolutePunk, Funeral Sounds, and more.