Acclaimed artists are often known to create a certain chronic style — a recognizable feeling or attitude that their work cultivates.
Wilmington’s Onward, Soldiers began to develop a catchy signature sound with its 2010 debut, Ghost in this Town. It was raw in its instrumentation, lyricism and emotion. With this organic and fluid introduction in mind, Onward, Soldiers’ latest album, Monsters, is perplexing.
Monsters’ nine tracks are difficult to classify as a group, even in broad terms. Some, such as “Living on the Run” and “Highway Calling,” might exist under the alt-country umbrella. Others, like “Cinder Blocks,” exhibit more of a rock ‘n’ roll sound. There’s pop, funk and tango, too.
Dive Verdict: 3 of 5 stars
This genre inconsistency is not in itself the album’s downfall. Rather, it highlights the disparity between the band’s’ strengths on the record versus stage. The title track is a circus of sound that would make sense in a live setting. But its heavily layered and exaggerated style sounds hokey in a recorded setting, deviating from what made its past straightforward approach so attractive.
On the other hand, the steady and soulful “Highway Calling” gives a taste of the band in its element. Without the background cooing and piano riffs that belong more readily in musical theater, the standout track is coherent and holistically satisfying without necessitating a live performance. Here and in other simply orchestrated tracks like “Carolina,” Sean Thomas Gerard’s vocals are more personal than showy.