Mastering the traditions of metal to the point where a band can integrate the best aspects of the genre with the vibrancy of their own songwriting is no easy task. How do you create music that gives a graceful nod to the forerunners of your work — the ones that inspired you to pick up an instrument in the first place — and simultaneously weave your own fresh narrative?
It’s a question that knows no borders. Everywhere in the world, artists are faced with the challenging prospect of solidifying their craft and leaving their mark in its canon without ripping anyone off. Hailing from Bangalore, India, the five men of Whitenoiz have done just that, delivering Sovereign Name, a debut album that rivals anything released by their compatriots — and not just in the States — in recent years.
While it is certainly metal, Sovereign Name skips deftly across genre lines, fitting for the collision of the different cultures the music represents. Elements of speed metal and thrash are scattered throughout, echoing the work of artists such as Extol and Living Sacrifice. More “modern” riffing and breakdowns nod to August Burns Red, As I Lay Dying and Impending Doom. David Crimson’s guitar playing is strikingly powerful at times, intimate and plaintive at others.
Drummer Joe Jacob almost dances his way through the ten-song album, kicking powerful blast beats, staccato, choppy rhythms and intricate fills as though he were merely keeping time, while Godson Gigin fills out the low end with liquid bass lines and rumbling grooves.
The strains of more melodic heavy bands such as Killswitch Engage and Demon Hunter can be heard soaring above the storm in the vocals of Taz James, whose hands also coax the sounds of heavenly choirs and majestic string players out of the keys. He’s a fitting complement to Sam John, whose low, gravel of a scream and searing highs deliver the band’s heartfelt lyrics about life and faith with power and poise. More importantly, though, without proselytizing.
With Sovereign Name, Whitenoiz have toed the hard line of heavy, beautiful, powerful, emotional — and it’s everything you could want in a metal album.
Or any album, really.