“The Next Big Thing: Philadelphia’s SONJA”

I just got done listening to SONJA’s debut album Loud Arriver. It is a clear, powerful and crisp succession of eight heavy metal tracks tailor-made for both rock radio and sweaty, mosh-crazed pub crowds. 

Still, even for the relatively scant bit of publicity this band has gotten (I have a feeling that problem won’t be plaguing them for long), people in the blogosphere have a way of blowing them up to more than they are. Metalsucks.net, for instance, discusses the new album as having come “in the face of bigotry and adversity.” Sure, lead singer/guitarist Melissa Moore, per her own report, got kicked out of her former band Absu, according to Revolver, because of being transgender. She got kicked out of a band, people… it’s not like she was the victim of violence or verbal persecution. Revolver claims that they channel Motley Crue. Huh? 

About 70 times more rhythmic than Motley Crue, this is epic, physical heavy metal marrying Incubus’ guitar sound and the vocal aesthetic of Lizzie Hale, roughly, full of riffs and grooves that would give any hair-metal oaf arthritis on the first gig. In other words, they’ve got the instrumental skill of, say, your average underground, hungry, up-and-coming metal band, with a key element of universality and infectiousness, which manifests in Melissa Moore’s voice. This is obviously a girl who’s been driven to outlandish mental states, in life, and so shies away from nothing in her lyrics — not sex, death or the celestial, the late-album rocker “Daughter of the Morning Star” set up like a gorgeous denouement, or resolution, in what’s otherwise a landscape of physical, sometimes meaningless, madness. 

The mid-album chunk of “Wanting Me Dead” and “Fu**, Then Die” hits particularly hard, for obvious reasons, and also for the tracks’ preternatural coat of genuineness flaunted by Moore and her passionate vocals. On “Fuck**, Then Die,” as a matter of fact, she even has a way of sounding a little bit frightened, as if it’s all become too real to her, the idea of life as a constant sequence of pleasure-seeking, the meaning of which will dissipate in the absence of this seemingly lowly quest. But Loud Arriver, mixed with a throaty punch and galloping along at the speed of our lives, is an album which will speak directly and forcefully enough to all of our frustrations and darkest urges that the result will never be semantic or problematic — this is universally enjoyable hard rock laced with an invigorating originality, ready for enjoyment, and what’s more, sure to make you raise your glass and scream. 


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