Artist – Soraia
Album / Label – Dig Your Roots / Wicked Cool Records
Rating – 8 / 10
On March 13, Soraia released their fourth full length album, Dig Your Roots. If you listen to just the first track, you could easily assume it is a pretty basic, run of the mill rock album. Not even three songs later, you will see that nothing could be further from the truth.
Dangerous starts with a deep riff and a piercing wail, before settling into the sounds that takes it through the rest of the song. It bounces along while the lead singer bounces with it. The song is a basic rock and roll song in all the best ways. The syncopation in the bridge gives the song even more groove, it makes you want to get up and more around, whether that’s headbanging, tapping your foot, or anything else, you want to move. The bridge is punctuated by another scream from lead singer ZouZou Mansour, which is one of the most rock and roll names I’ve ever come across.
When the organ kicks in during the lead into Wild Woman it hits me in my soul. I truly wish every artist would use organs more, because they add a depth to a song that you can’t get from anything else. The song follows the tone of its predecessor in making you just want to move, but this time in a more chaotic way. The way the instruments slam back and forth before the chorus, the guitar solo that even the player may not know what the next note will be, how the words at the end of the first chorus hang in the air for just a breath longer than it feels like they should, even the title gives the song a frenzied energy.
The song ends so abruptly as it seems the wheels are just about to fall off. The whole thing just exudes this hectic atmosphere and it’s so good. The way Mansour sings “woman” also has almost the exact same cadence as Glenn Danzig’s “Mother,” which isn’t very important but I spent a full thirty minutes trying to figure out what it reminded me of, so I felt I needed to at least mention it.
There’s a certain swagger to Evergreen, right from the start. Mansour makes a meal out of every single word, and the backing vocals make a return, but this time in the form of yelling “EVERGREEN” before Mansour. The song takes things a little slower than before, but the energy stays right where it was. Everything lulls during the bridge, while the lyrics just drip out of Mansour, before jumping back up to 11 as she spits out “I see the fucking crisis in your smile” with as much venom as humanly possible. This song is the first that made me realize the album would not be one style. They are all rock, yes, but this is a lot closer to the 90s punk or grunge sound than the song before, which is more akin to an early 70s song with organs and tambourines.
To further cement that they will not be held to a single genre, Foxfire begins like a full-on rock ballad. The dreamy soundscape wraps around Mansour’s lyrics as she glides from word to word. The song has an ebb and flow, swelling with the chorus then receding again for each verse. There is one final crescendo as Mansour sings “Foxfire” again and again near the end, with more and more voices being added behind it with each repetition. She then switches to haunting vocalization as the song begins to dissipate. A similarly haunting piano becomes apparent as more of the instruments fade out.
The opening riff for Darkness (Is My Only Candle) brings everything back up before adding back a very prominent organ and the bouncing feeling from the beginning of the album. The song saunters its way through, before hitting the bridge, which includes what I can only describe as an angelic chorus. Every instrument drops out as Mansour lets out a defiant “No I can’t fade away” before jumping back into the song.
Nothing Compares 2 U is a fascinating song, especially on this album (and is their second recorded Prince cover). It feels like the kind of song you could hear in a dive bar in Nashville. It’s a country ballad with 70s rock vibes to it, and it works beautiful. You can hear the hurt in every word, and there’s also a tinge of anger behind them. Near the middle, the whole band begins to hit every note a little harder, like they are letting out the anger of this heartbreak. The guitar solo honestly feels like something out of a movie. You can see Mansour draped over a mic stand, pouring her heart out, then when she’s exhausted, the guitarist moves onstage and just rips it. I’ve said it twice already, and I will likely say it more, but the ability to jump from drastically different styles of music while still keeping the backbone of a cohesive sound is so impressive.
Superman Is Gone is another heartbreak song, but in a completely different vein. This is the song that got stuck in my head the most, and it is still there. Mansour’s power as a vocalist is on full display; commanding during the chorus, haunting during the bridge, and it all melds together so well. The guitar riff that echoes throughout the song gives it that feeling from the beginning of the album that makes you want to move around and dance.
Right out of the gates, Way That You Want It comes at you hard and fast. It is the “heaviest” song on the album, and while it may not have blast beats and unclean vocals, it definitely hits hard. There is an attitude to the song, not an angry one, but it’s definitely powerful. Everything seems to hunker down while Mansour sings near the end, followed by a sweet guitar solo. After this, every sound completely stops. Mansour thunders back in with “Ain’t that the way that you want in the waves” with every instrument hitting simultaneously on “waves” and it feels like it was written to be performed live, because I am sure it would be great as a hard punch during a live show.
Still I Rise is an anthem, there’s no other way to describe it. The organ that lilts over the whole song is so good, along with the vocals and the guitar that drives the song along. It is a perfect song for the current situation. It is a victorious song, it is a song of a journey that will end, and we will come out on top. “I am alive!” rings at the beginning of every chorus. “It’s beautiful and tragic.” I know this song wasn’t written about this current situation, but if you feel yourself starting to worry, or be afraid of what’s happening in the world, listen to Still I Rise. Because we will still rise, too.
The penultimate song returns to that Nashville dive bar. Don’t Have You trades the organ for an old fashioned piano, the type you’d hear in a dark and dingy saloon. Once again, the song backs the instruments off a little bit to give Mansour the full spotlight and she is makes you feel every word. After a brief spoken word section a heavily distorted guitar bursts in building in intensity, before the song evens out for the final ride home. They say to save the best for last, and damn that is what Soraia did.
Euphoria is a mixture of the best parts of the whole album. The swagger is back, the lyrics drip with a certain malice, the guitar is back to its erratic but perfectly planned solos. It has the same ebb and flow that Foxfire first showed off, but this time its cranked up even higher. The lows are just a simple guitar riff with Mansour, and the highs are the entire band jamming on top of one another. It’s another song that feels like it was meant to be heard live, with the band feeding off a crowd’s energy when they hit the notes at the beginning of the chorus. Right when it seems like the song is about to end, they jump into one last breakneck dash to the finish line. It feels like a train that is gaining speed, trying to make a turn before the oncoming train plows right into them.
I am afraid that my writing will make it seem like the album begins to fade in the second half, simply because there’s less written about some songs in the back end. I cannot stress enough, this is not the case. I could write that the song makes you want to dance, and that the vocals are incredible, and that the songs jump from genre to genre like vines on a tree, and I could say that for every single song.
This album does not let up, and it does not follow one single route to get to its destination.
Dig Your Roots shows just how versatile a “rock and roll band” can be. You go from 90s punk, to arena anthems, to country dive bars, and a whole bunch of other references I don’t even know to make. All this, while still sounding uniquely… Soraia.
At no point does it feel like a compilation of different bands. Instead, it sounds like a cohesive album, with one band dipping into multiple styles, and making them all their own.
- Wild Woman
- Darkness (Is My Only Candle)
- Nothing Compares 2 U (Prince cover)
- Superman Is Gone
- Way That You Want It
- Still I Rise
- Don’t Have You