"Fairer Shores" (Self-produced; 2015)

Reviewed by R. Scott Bolton

Hard Soul delivers another dose of solid rock'n'roll on this 4-track EP. Like its predecessor, "Heart of Plaster," the new EP is a varied collection of hard-edged pop rock that is best described as Hard Soul.

The EP begins with the poppy and fast-paced "The Sweetest Heart," a track so infectious you'll find yourself humming it the second it ends. Next up is the surprisingly much more slow-paced "It's All Gone Wrong," a ballad in the vein of the KISS classic "Goin' Blind." The title track is up next and it's a strange little ditty, with acoustic guitar, intensely deep lyrics (that sound a little like wedding vows) and a terrific performance by lead vocalist Johnny Salka. The final track, "Have to Be a Miracle," is a heartbroken, again acoustic, tune much like the previous track.

Every track on "Fairer Shores" is a good one, but I would have liked a bit more of the variety presented on "Heart of Plaster." Regardless, Hard Soul is a band to keep an eye on and this EP is another fine display of their talent and style.

Hard Soul: Johnny Salka (vocals/lead guitar); Nick Kossor (guitar); Ryan Klaeysen (bass guitar); Mark Podbielski (drums); Stephen Thompson, guitar/backing vocals.

For more information, check out http://www.thehardsoul.com.

"Heart of Plaster" (Self-produced; 2014)

Reviewed by R. Scott Bolton

Sometimes reviews come easy. You listen to a CD a few times through and the words just flow from your fingertips to the keyboard to the world wide web. Those are the reviews of artists you're already familiar with, or an artist whose sound is similar to another artist you're familiar with. You recognize the sound, you jot down a few lines, you talk about what is is that you hear. I won't go as far as to say those reviews write themselves but they do flow pretty easily.

Sometimes reviews aren't easy at all. Sometimes the music is so new and unique you don't know how to describe it. Sometimes it's so bland and familiar that you can only think in clichés as you write and your disinterest is plain your review. And sometimes, as is the case with Hard Soul and their "Heart of Plaster" CD, you find a CD that you enjoy the very first time you listen to it but you just can't put your finger on why. If that sounds like a bad thing, it isn't. It makes you listen to the music a lot, think about the music a lot and then finally get those thoughts down in pixels.

The first time I listened to "Heart of Plaster," I took notes indicating that it was a classic hard rock album, in the vein of Foreigner, Bad Company and the like. The second time through, however, I heard a more edgy, punk-like sound, with a driving Green Day dynamic, that enhanced the entire CD (even the slower-paced "Not the Hero"). The third time through, I caught the modern flavors of Nickelback and maybe even some Creed.

But it wasn't the individual influences that I heard that made "Heart of Plaster" so entertaining, it was the combination of those styles. The "Hard Soul" style. There's playfulness here, there's epic-ness here, there's romance here. Hard Soul tries to do it all and they pretty much pull it off. From the bouncy opening notes of "Let Go" through the throbbing Nikki Sixx intro of "Alive Today" to the powerful "This is Blood" (which could have come off "American Idiot"), "Heart of Plaster" rocks through and through and does so with its own fresh yet familiar flavor.

This is the first Hard Soul album I've had the pleasure of listening to, but it's the band's fifth release. As such, "Heart of Plaster" does just what it should do: makes me want to go back and explore Hard Soul's back catalog to see what else I've been missing.

Hard Soul: Johnny Salka (vocals/lead guitar); Nick Kossor (guitar); Ryan Klaeysen (bass guitar); Mark Podbielski (drums).

For more information, check out http://www.thehardsoul.com.

Rating Guide:

A classic. This record will kick your ass.

Killer. Not a classic but it will rock your world.

So-so. You've heard better.

Pretty bad. Might make a nice coaster.

Self explanatory. Just the sight of the cover makes you wanna hurl.


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Revised: 02 Oct 2022 15:17:13 -0400 .