ROBLEDO – Broken Soul

Chilean vocalist James Robledo came to most people’s attention as frontman with Sinner’s Blood, a metal band who’s debut album ‘The Mirror Star’ presented a combination of massive riffs and melodic choruses that had an old heart, but plenty of spark. Over the next few years, James kept himself busy by recording a solo album, landing the job as vocalist with Demons Down, collaborating with the often enjoyable Magnus Karlsson, and even appearing on a Michael Bolton tribute album.

Three years after the release of ‘The Mirror Star’, the world was more than ready for a new Sinner’s Blood album, but they had to make do with another Robledo solo disc. Luckily, in the case of ‘Broken Soul’ any feelings of “making do” are quickly swept aside once the title emerges from the speakers with a sizeable crunch. Much like Robledo’s solo debut, this record shifts the tone from Sinner’s Blood’s melodic metal core to more of a tough edged hard rock sound, and this track in particular plays like a Tremonti deep cut augmented by a massive melodic rock chorus worthy of Jeff Scott Soto. The blend of the two different rock styles results in something huge, which allows for a brilliant twin lead guitar solo en route and for James to really push his voice. Stylistically, there isn’t anything here that’ll be new to melodic metal/hard rock fans, but the strength in the playing sets everything in place for a great record.

Adopting a similarly tough stance, ‘Real World’ opens with guitarist Nasson exploring a sound and riff that isn’t a million miles away from a mid 80s Iron Maiden, but as the number gains traction, the main riffs take on an even tougher approach. As before, this is a perfect fit for a vocalist whom possesses some massive pipes, and as James booms through another old fashioned but pleasingly heavy hook, the listener is transported to a familiar place where a retro melodic metal sound brings out the best in the band – and, importantly, will feel familiar, even for those who missed the debut. Moving into a mood that’s not far removed from melodic power metal and applying another tuneful vocal, ‘Right Now, Right Here’ inverts an old lyrical cliché and shares various riffs that would suit Jeff Scott Soto’s SOTO project. It’s immediately enjoyable with its solid blend of crushing riffs and one of the hugest drum sounds. The band ploughs through a brilliant old school riff further suggesting this second outing from Robledo is very strong, and just as you think a massive chorus will win out, Nasson steps forth with a fretboard melting solo that shows why he’s one of the metal underground’s best players. At this point, just three songs in, if you like the sound of this album, it’s more than likely that you’re loving it.

Those looking for something a little lighter should make a beeline for the brilliant ‘My Own Hope’, where James tackles more of a melodic mood sound during the verse, with a spacious arrangement that hones in on a smart combo of clean guitar tones and deep bass grooves. True to form, of course, the quieter mood doesn’t last, and a sledgehammer of a riff crashes in for a jubilant chorus where Robledo’s take on a melodic metal sound really clears the cobwebs. Much like his busy labelmate, Ronnie Romero, he shows a supreme amount of confidence in his delivery here; the stretch from big croon to bigger roar seems effortless, and even with a heavily accented delivery, he has all the makings of one of the most flawless performers within the melodic metal scene at the time of release.

At first, ‘Fire’ teases with some cleaner tones and a vaguely prog metal edge, suggesting a love of mid period Queenryche, but this is just a ruse before Nasson cranks the volume for another round of chugging, allowing Robledo to share a booming vocal. What’s interesting about this, however, is that everything is always well balanced enough to avoid listening fatigue, and the combination of the slightly more thoughtful verse and epic chorus, in many ways, showcases the full range of the band’s talents. Frontiers Records mainstay/studio hand Alessandro Del Vecchio is credited with playing all keys, but here – and elsewhere – but he doesn’t always stretch beyond a blanket of sound. His keys are often more of a colourant than a domineering feature, but it’s likely they’d be missed if they weren’t there; in a lot of ways, his extra textures add a simple flair to the band’s otherwise dense sound.

Elsewhere, ‘Every Day’ works some heavy toms on a rhythmic verse before exploding into another loud chorus that would be perfect for Jeff Scott Soto or Goran Edman on one of their heaviest days; ‘Dead City Lights’ dances merrily with a mix of glam-ish stomping and shameless 80s twin lead guitars, creating something that really improves on similar melodic metal fare from the likes of Magnus Karlsson, and the massive harmonies fleshing out ‘To The End’ add more of an AOR tinge to a great metal track where a choir of vocals makes a big chorus even bigger. Del Vecchio makes a bigger stab of his role on this closing track, and even though he occasionally sounds like Don Airey wearing mittens, when using more of a stabbing approach, he still adds a strong counter melody against the guitar part. As expected, Nasson takes this final opportunity to throw out a really busy lead break, and although its possible to hear decades’ worth of influences within his work here, the flow and tone of the solo itself is impressive.

‘Broken Soul’ features no duff songs, and from a musical standpoint, it’s an album that provides a great vehicle for a great voice. Sure, it’s old fashioned, and often shamelessly so, but its eleven tracks more than show why James is one of the melodic rock/metal scene’s brightest stars at the time of release. Despite not always having quite as much musical crunch as Sinner’s Blood, this is still an absolutely enormous sounding disc – one that’ll please many an old school hard rock/metal fan – and with some equally big choruses on display throughout, it further paves the way for a promising future. Recommended.

July 2023