By now, you’re probably at least a little bit familiar with Chicago-based hard rock band Soil. They formed twenty years ago, and in 2001 they released their debut album Scars, which was an amazing album. If for some reason you still haven’t heard it, go get it. However, I’m not here to write about that album. As I said, Soil (often stylized as SOiL) have been around for twenty years, and that’s a long time. To celebrate the occasion, on September 15, they’ve released Scream: The Essentials via Pavement Entertainment and AFM Records, a sort of greatest hits album with unreleased and alternate tracks thrown in. If you’ve followed Soil‘s career at all, you’ll most likely be familiar with at least half of the tracks on Scream, and they’re just as great as you remember.
Tracks such as “Broken Wings” and “Road to Ruin”, which originally appeared on the band’s very first EP, are among the first tracks on the album, which show off their Southern Rock influence and heavy hitting nature. Remember that time Soil covered “Black Betty”? That track is on here as well, and it sounds like a glorious cross between the Ram Jam and Spiderbait versions. Next up on the album is a song I know you’re familiar with, the obscenely popular “Halo”. If you’ve only ever heard one song from Soil, this was probably it. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, because the song is great. I’ve heard it a million times and could hear it a million more, and still not get sick of it. A live version of the song appears on this album as well. Also originally on Scars is the track “Unreal”, which is about as much of a ballad as you’re going to get with Soil. Another extremely popular track from the band is “Redefine”, originally on the album Redefine (stylized as re.de.fine), which is another almost-ballad. The song begins quietly but quickly transforms with heavy riffs and some nice vocals. An acoustic version of “Can You Heal Me” appears on the album, offering something just a little different – but not too different – from the rest of the heavy hitting hard rock that Soil has been known for.
After Redefine, vocalist Ryan McCombs left the group and subsequently became the then-new vocalist for Drowning Pool. Soil had brought in ex-Diesel Machine vocalist AJ Cavalier to fill in the gap, and the band had recorded their album True Life, which contained a track called “Give It Up.” The band also recorded an alternate version of this track featuring guest vocals by the late, great Wayne Static of Static-X, and that version of the song appears on this album. Also from True Self is the somewhat softer “Let Go”. From Soil‘s second album with Cavalier are an alternate version of “Like It Is” – one of the heavier songs from Cavalier‘s stint as the band’s vocalist – and “The Lesser Man” which almost feels like it could be a Shinedown song.
Ryan McCombs caught up with the band again in 2011 for a tour celebrating the 10th anniversary of the release of Scars, and once again became a permanent fixture in the band, and the band got to work on a new album. Whole was funded via Kickstarter and an exclusive version of the track “My Time” was rewarded to backers. This version of that song appears on Scream: The Essentials, as well as Whole‘s underrated singles; the ever so slightly more somber “Shine On”, the fuelled-up “Hate Song”, and the incredibly powerful “Way Gone”.
Included as a bonus track and as a tribute to another late great, Chris Cornell, is Soil‘s faithful cover of Soundgarden‘s “Rusty Cage”, which was recorded in 2007 and previously only available on the band’s MySpace page. Remember MySpace? Now you do. Good luck getting that piece of awfulness out of your head. You’re welcome.
Now let’s back up a bit, because there’s a song on Scream that I’ve failed to mention until now, and it’s the opening track of the album. I wanted to talk about it on its own. I’m talking, of course, about the Blues Brothers and Spence Davis Group blues cover, “Gimme Some Lovin'”. When I heard that Soil was going to cover a Blues Brothers song for this album, I was excited to say the least. I heard the song, and sadly, I was a bit underwhelmed. It’s not terrible by any means – there are far worse songs out there, even in the same genre – but it just doesn’t live up. I want to like it, I really do, and you may or may not like it, but I found it to simply be mediocre. Instrumentally, it’s on point, but the vocals are where it fails to really deliver for me. I think it would’ve been much better if it weren’t for the guest vocals. While Lindy Gabriel (of Gabriel and the Apocalypse) and Cristina Feliciano (of Oblivious Signal) are great talents in their own right, I just don’t think they were the right fit for this particular song.
Scream: The Essentials is the perfect album for any Soil fan, whether you’ve been a fan since Throttle Junkies, or you’ve only ever heard a few singles you’ve liked while browsing music videos on YouTube. What sets it apart from being just another greatest hits collection of all the singles thrown together is that it not only has the band’s well-known material, but also songs you may not have ever heard before, even at a live show. If you’re a light Soil fan, you’ll be introduced to some new and fantastic songs. Even if you’re a hardcore fan, there may be something new here for you. And if you’ve been living under a rock for the past twenty years and have never even heard of Soil, you’re in for a real treat here.
Gimme Some Lovin’
Broken Wings (El Chupacabra Version)
Road to Ruin
Breaking Me Down
Can You Heal Me (Acoustic Version)
Give it Up (feat. Wayne Static)
Like It Is (Alternate Version)
The Lesser Man
My Time (Kickstarter Version)
The Hate Song
Halo (Live in London) (Bonus Track)
Rusty Cage (Bonus Track)
Ryan McCombs – Vocals
Adam Zadel – Guitar, Backing Vocals
Tim King – Bass, Backing Vocals
Mitch Gable – Drums
Written by Mitch Ellerbrock for Bloodrock Media on September 27, 2017