We Are Sovereign – ‘Step Out Your Comfort Zone’

By Fiachra Johnston

Oh, the 2000’s, it’s finally your time to shine again. Although the Y2K fashion style was a questionable foray into the wide world of low-rise denim and peep-toe pumps, the explosion of emo, nu metal and scene music will undoubtedly bring a nostalgic tear to many eyes. While the question of how well these genres have aged in the following decades will be up for eternal debate, their impact can be seen so clearly in the artists of the modern era. We Are Sovereign are one such quartet of artists wearing their throwback roots on their sleeve, and their debut record ‘Step Out Your Comfort Zone’ attempts to once again find that lightning in a bottle energy the frantic 2000’s scene first managed to capture.

Most prominent throughout the album will be the duo vocals from rough vocalist Laura Russell and clean vocalist Ash Ho, both of whom contribute significantly to that old school energy the album seeps from every pore. Russell leans into the raw harshness of their screams to emulate those great vocalists of the 00’s scene, while Ho pulls off a balance of modern metalcore clean vocals and more emo wails. Lead single ‘Bridges Burnt Lessons Learnt (Betrayal)’, including a guest feature from Fit For A King’s Ryan “Tuck” O’Leary, is the best display of both their styles with Ho’s unique cadence blending well with Russell’s raspy interjections. There are moments the band dip more into the current metalcore fashion, such as ‘Don’t You Dare Quit (Resilience)’, which sees Ho pulling off a traditional ‘soaring’ chorus as Russel compliments throughout with some weighty screams. Should the band ever move to a more modern sounding style, they’ll still be comfortably in their wheelhouse.

Strazzanti and Shiers on bass and drums respectively keep the energy going on the back-end, channeling early Enter Shikari in their instrumental intensity and fusion of synths and prog guitars (the ‘REFLECTION’ interlude almost feels like a 00’s dancehall number with it’s keys). ‘Nostalgia (Acceptance)’ jumps around in pace with such abandon it’s hard not to get invested, while the wailing, syncopated guitars of ‘These 4 Walls (Torment)’ pick their moments to move to the back to let the thundering drums take a moment in the spotlight. It’s a roaring good time, but some messy production and mixing means that a lot of the impact often gets lost in the chaos, especially in the g8uitars. ‘This Farewell Is Our Fate (Heartbreak)’ has some cracking lead guitar that gets drowned out entirely by an overpowering set of vocal lines and synths. The spoken word samples will likewise often overpower or get jumbled underneath the main instrumentation of the track, diluting their effect. When it all balances out though, such as in the closing ‘Time Can Be So Short (Loss)’, the dueling vocals and heavy instrumentation really sell the 00’s energy of the whole album.

Incorporating elements from the popular genres of old can take many forms, but to dedicate yourself to a style like We Are Sovereign have done with ‘Step Out Your Comfort Zone’ requires heavy investment from all involved. While it’s raw around the edges, there’s a lot of heart to be found in the quartet’s debut, and with a powerful pair of vocalists and a clear love for the throwback years of the scene, you’ll be hard pressed to find a more impassioned record this year.

FIACHRA JOHNSTON

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