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Album Review: Black Lava - Soul Furnace

Review by Brady Moody

For this review, we’re going to take a trip down under...

Black Lava, an Australian Blackened Heavy Metal band, are another band born from the frustrations of the restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Releasing their debut album ‘Soul Furnace’ in November 2022 through Season of Mist, they describe this album as “a searing 34-minute aural assault that conjures up nostalgia while still sounding fresh and current.”

But does the album live up to these claims?

Beginning our journey is the track Origins; an almost 3-minute-long instrumental track.

An album opening with an instrumental track is always a risk. You’re taking almost 3 minutes to introduce a core part of your sound to the listener, by which point you could have already lost them.

I appreciate the musicianship put into Origins. It’s punchy, engaging and sets the tone for much of what’s to come. However, it’s a little too long for my liking. I feel these talented musicians could have achieved the same impact in less time, allowing us to get on with what we really came for.

Part of my issue with the length of this introduction is that it makes me wait for their strongest song of the album, Aurora. The transition to this groovy-yet-heavy song is seamless, allowing the carefully crafted riff with masterful drum fills and a crushing bass time to immediately get your blood pumping.

Rob does a wonderful job at making his powerful voice cut through the mix and grip your attention. Whenever I see a band describe their sound as experimental, I normally roll my eyes. However, this track certainly shows that Black Lava are not one for playing it safe.

It's hard to follow such a strong track – I worried here that the album had peaked, unsure on if the rest of the album would live up to this high standard.

Black Blizzard certainly went some way to ease any concerns I had. What I love most about this track is it showcases that you’re all individual musicians, adding your own style to an incredible sound.

The musical partnership between Tim and Dan, on bass and drums respectively, elevates this sound to the next level. Black Blizzard is THE song I’d show someone if they asked me what Black Lava is all about.

Baptised in Ice uses vocals sparingly. Some may wonder why. The answer to this is simple. The vocals are not the focus of this song. It’s clear from the beginning that the riffs take centre stage for this song.

Using vocals where appropriate to engage, tell a story and add dynamics to the song. As a listener, Baptised in Ice is an auditory treat. You’re treated to something that sounds absolutely incredible.

Listening to this as a musician, you understand why it sounds incredible…because it is. The level of musicianship that’s gone in to composing this is nothing short of outstanding.

Let’s move on to what is, at the time of writing this review, Black Lava’s most streamed songs. Achieving over 20,000 streams, let’s introduce Eye of the Moon.

Listening to this was enjoyable, but not as much as the previous 4 tracks. They did well to not overcomplicate things here, as tempting as it probably was. It’s hard to pick many faults with this track. I found the vocals were overprocessed and it took a little of my connection with this song away. I still found this to be one that gets the head moving and foot tapping. It just didn’t excite me as much.

Listening to Dan on Northern Dawn was the highlight of what I found to be an otherwise dull song. It’s a similar issue to Eye of the Moon, in that it just feels like it’s not quite as good as the rest of the album.

But hey, not every song on an album can be mind-blowing. Afterall, a high-standard was set early in this album.

Necrocatacomb captured my excitement once again by offering the same brutal sound with an added bit of wow. However, I’m still left wanting more. Waiting for something to happen that takes things to the next level.

The exhilarating riffs, technical drums and attention to detail here makes for a great track, one that I feel would sound even better live.

There’s two tracks left; do I get the ‘more’ that I so desperately seek?

Nightshade is not the track to give me more. If anything, this feels too much like I’ve already listened to it three times throughout this album.

It’s a solid sound but it’s feels almost dull in comparison to the rest of the album. Can the title track help round of what has been an excellent album?

Soul Furnace feels like it has a nice nod to the elements which so impressed me throughout the album. It really reminds you what this album is all about – leaving a lasting impact on your mind.

Putting Soul Furnace as the final track was a very smart move. Nightshade didn’t quite feel at the same level as the rest of the album but have no doubt, this album has an incredibly strong finish.

Overall, this is a superb album. A real pleasure to listen to. Not only do they demonstrate a clear understanding of the origins of the genre they represent but they also pioneer a way for the genre to go forward and progress.

Whilst the vocals are powerful, I feel they’re a bit safe in this album. Safe isn’t bad, it just isn’t fully maximising the potential. Other than safe vocals and some elements feeling a little overused, this album is phenomenal.

Black Lava, I hope when you read this that you focus on what you’ve done right because what you’ve done right far outweighs any areas for improvement.

Well done and keep it up.

Watch 'BAPTISED IN ICE' here

Soul Furnace is available via Season Of Mist

All formats (CD Digipak, Digital, Merch) can be found HERE

BLACK LAVA ARE Dan Presland - Drums

Ben Boyle - Guitar

Rob Watkins - Vocals

Tim Anderson - Bass

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