With bands as new as Sobriquet, it’s best to get as much contextual and peritexual information as possible before going into the music. Obviously that shouldn’t be used to shape opinions as much as buttress them, but there’s at least a great deal of intrigue to be gleaned from this EP’s accompanying promo photo, in which frontman Ludovico Fahey looks as though he’s wandered in from a completely different band entirely. That in itself makes it hard to anticipate what a band like Sobriquet have to offer; a man decked out in full Dani-Filth-via-Chris-Motionless getup alongside what could be any group of Britrock niceboys is quite the oddity, even in a musical landscape looking to break down as many walls as possible. If nothing else, it bumps up the intrigue for A Hundred Thousand Tongues for no other reason than to see what this actually is, especially when Sobriquet’s previous EP Akeldama really didn’t hit any radars when it was released in 2017.
When it comes to Sobriquet as a band though, that image might be a bit more accurate than first thought, because A Hundred Thousand Tongues paints a picture of a band who’s mismatched through more than just aesthetic. The sad fact is that there’s a lot of genuine promise here, with concoctions that do hold a certain amount of uniqueness and individuality within post-hardcore, especially in a branch of the genre where the cues are often more throwback-dependent. Even if that can still be identified though, there’s a finish that’s still needed for A Hundred Thousand Tongues to be able to reach a peak it certainly feels capable of; as refreshing as it is to see a band like this having more than just one or two sources of inspiration at their disposal, the fact they’re yet to find a useful way to use them all is what’s ultimately holding Sobriquet back.
That can be pegged down from the very first track 僻 -HIGAMI- too, where Fahey’s guttural shrieks are paired with a chunky easycore bounce that simply feels too light and upbeat for the effect that’s trying to be achieved. On the whole, it’s not unlistenable, but there’s definitely a disconnect there, particularly when Fahey’s delivery has an almost necro quality to it in its rasps and pockets of breathlessness, which obviously refuses to plug into a bounding pop-punk-adjacent instrumental. Sobriquet’s main issue generally feels tied to not knowing how to work what they have to the best of its abilities; it’s good that they’re actually pulling these sounds together, but it doesn’t feel all that cohesive, especially when the vocal production on Eros sounds shockingly flat in the vein of underdeveloped pop-rock that its mid-level bounce can sometimes fall into.
But even among all of that, A Hundred Thousand Tongues isn’t a bad listen at all. It might be visibly flawed more often than it should be, but as far as glimpses of potential go, Sobriquet really are doing a good amount here. The best example comes in Benighted, where the jagged spikes of guitar and pounding drums feel like a far more natural backdrop for Fahey, and the excellently-timed dip into solemn, ominous melody adds another layer onto where this band is going to properly build their songs up. It’s a much more visceral prospect overall, and when buffered by the charged punkiness of Epiphany that allows Fahey’s spontaneity to really shine. That comes alongside production which, to Sobriquet’s enormous credit, is a far cry from the padded thinness or cheapness of a lot of new bands, rather going for an overtly heavier sound akin to 2000s post-hardcore bands like Finch (along with a lyrical set from the same time period that is a bit by-the-books), but with just enough modernity to avoid sounding dated. It’s actually rather impressive how good this EP sounds, not only when accompanied by the caveat of ‘for a new band’, but in just how heavy and vital in its own right it actually is. There’s a notable element of professionalism in how Sobriquet choose to present themselves that swiftly avoids dulling the energy that’s so key for them.
It’s all got the makings of some genuinely good stuff, let down by loose ends and rough edges that don’t correlate with everything else that Sobriquet are aiming for. It’s definitely explainable, and that’s really all that’s holding them back (particularly when placed next to other bands of their size where the issues are a lot more prominent), but there’s definitely still quite a bit of work that’s needed if Sobriquet truly want to live up to every bit of potential they have. As far as post-hardcore goes, this could be something great and unique within the modern scene, but while Sobriquet continue to lack some focus and allow some instances in need of tightening to slip through the cracks, they aren’t going to be able to rise that standard. Still, there’s no doubt these are issues that’ll be ironed out over time, and even for an EP that’s a good distance from the finished article, this feels like a band worth keeping a close eye on to see where they head next.
For fans of: Finch, From Autumn To Ashes, Thursday
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘A Hundred Thousand Tongues’ by Sobriquet is out now.