Ryan McCombs: Vocals
Adam Zadel: Guitar
Shaun Glass: Guitar
Tim King: Bass
Tom Schofield: Drums
The secret to SOiL's fertile make-up is contained in "Inside."
Clawing to the surface of the cut's cement-mixer rhythm, Ryan McCombs' hell-hound bellow locks into step with the stuttering stun-guitar riff. "Everything that stains me breaks me," he barks with drill-sergeant fury. "Everything that breaks me stains me." He then cuts free of his bandmates' imposing march and sears SOiL's M.O. straight into SCARS's napalm heart.
"It's just a gut reaction trapped in this aggressive action."
In a mere ten words, Ryan neatly summarizes why hard-rock fans will carry SCARS with them for years. The same economy, intensity and honesty informs every note and syllable of the Chicago-based quintet's J Records debut--from the break-out single "Halo" to the epic album closer "Black 7."
For Ryan, bassist Tim King, drummer Tom Schofield, and guitarists Adam Zadel and Shaun Glass, the album's focused aggression is just a by-product of their indefinable chemistry. That force was initially conjured when King discovered Indiana native McCombs--the elusive element in an otherwise complete band--on a compilation disc.
"As soon as I heard Ryan's voice, I knew," recalls Tim. "I immediately told the other guys, 'I've found our singer. I don't care what we have to do to get him--this is the right guy.' Luckily, Ryan called me back and he was really into the songs we'd written. And when the five of us got together, it all just happened: SOiL was born. It came together so fast and easy, it was almost magical."
Despite SOiL's gentle birth in the late '90s, struggle and sacrifice were part of the subsequent equation. After generating a regional fanbase through gigging and guerilla marketing, they signed with an independent label--which folded days after releasing the band's now-coveted debut, Throttle Junkies.
The setback only fueled SOiL's resolve, even though Ryan was living in the band's rehearsal space by then. "I never doubted we'd get to the point we're at now," maintains Shaun. "I think the struggles we went through made us write better songs, and gave us greater determination."
Fittingly, "Halo" was among the first--and most effortlessly written--songs to emerge during the group's new beginning. "I will stone you, stone you, wrap my arms around you, my little halo," Ryan howls in the unforgettable chorus, before testifying "my hands are scarred with time." Though the band likes to leave lyrical interpretation open to the listener, Ryan acknowledges the irony of the song's inspiration. "I finally sat down and wrote a song about trying to make a life out of what I love to do," he says, "and that wound up being the song that's done quite a bit for us." "The reaction was immediate the first night we played 'Halo,'" remembers Shaun. "The kids were singing along with Ryan. It was apparent the song really meant something to them."
"It's great to see fans connect with something I've written," admits Ryan. "It means a lot to me that someone might listen to one of our songs and it might help them through a difficult situation the way songs did for me as a kid." The strength of the fans' reaction wasn't lost on the music industry, either. When the froth finally settled in the wake of a signing frenzy, the band had aligned with Clive Davis' new empire, J Records.
Produced by Johnny K. (Disturbed, Machine Head) and mixed by Kevin Shirley (Aerosmith, Iron Maiden), with "Halo" polished by Tom Lord-Alge (Blink-182, Green Day), SOiL's label debut, SCARS, captures the ferocity of the band's life show as well as a timeless style that Tim calls "heaviness with classic elements." "We didn't want to go overboard with in-the-now effects," notes Adam. "The songs speak for themselves."
And as you'd expect from an album dubbed SCARS, the stories aren't pretty, but they're unflinchingly honest. "All of my lyrics come from things I've experienced," reveals Ryan. "And it's always been a joke that I've never written a happy song. But that's just the reality of the life I've lived. The title embodies the whole album: Each song is an individual mental or emotional scar I've endured." Or as he shouts on "Inside": "It's just a gut reaction trapped in this aggressive action."
That flame-pure equation speaks volumes about the way in which SCARS will tattoo its mark on the world. "We've all worked very hard and given up a lot," concludes Tom. "It's not just luck--there was a lot of sweat that went into this. We weren't going to settle for putting out anything less than a great album. It was all or nothing."