Losing a key band member at any time is difficult to deal with but losing a significant pillar of a band can be nearly impossible. But Somos dealt with the unexpected death of their guitarist Phil Haggerty last month in the most human and sensitive, by releasing their new album Prison on A Hill, early.
Initially formed in Boston in 2012, Somos released their debut album in 2014. After an unexpectedly short break, they returned in 2017. Since then they have worked deliberately and slowly to find the sound that they have always wanted to hear and it seems that with Prison on A Hill, they have found it.
A head-bangingly incredible intro links straight into a monotone voice that sets the tone for “New Blood.” This track is a prime example of how far Somos has come, musically surprising, no matter how many times you listen to it. The guitar line on the track is what really sticks out. Haggerty’s fast-moving riffs give movement and speed to a track that ran the risk of sounding like a peak emo-punk ballad. But it is Haggerty’s ability to engage his audience with a cacophony of intricate string work that makes this the musical highlight of the album.
Another track that boasts Somos’s musical prowess is “Temporary Hope.” Starting with the simple guitar of Haggerty, this track is slow and lazy in its introduction, but with a driving drumline, it soon gets into full swing. With a fully rounded guitar-driven pop-punk ballad sound, this track has a hidden sadness. The initial upbeat melody is broken down by the trickling guitar and drumline. The melody is what Somos seems to be wading through with their melancholic lyrics striking hard at today’s weird political landscape. It is a realistic and honest track that engages with the desperate inability that everyone feels.
Melody has never, however, been Somos main concern. Their lyrics can be soft on first listen but biting when listened to on repeat. Starting with echoed guitar, “The Granite Face” is a blasting opening track. But it’s sentimentality doesn’t last long. Syncopated drums lure you in, while beautifully honest guitar riffs sit over it. While the entire track is heavy metal in its use of guitar, the subtle synth line that seeps in and out of auditory range adds calm to the track. Musically the track has been mixed to near perfection, its lyrics that really strike home. Political unrest, past, present, and most worryingly the future is the basis for this capitol poking anthem.
While their music sounds meticulously produced and music-focused, it is really Somos’s lyrical prowess that hits hard. From lyrics pointing at the establishment’s inability to listen to its people to the mental anguish that comes with it, Prison on A Hill is a social narrative on our current world order.
It is tragic, and we might not know what Somos will do next, but either way, from anecdotes and the music itself, it seems like this would be an album that Haggerty would have been proud of.