This familiarity is both their strongest selling point and potentially their biggest drawback. Upon first hearing Up and Up, one of their potential singles, my first thought was that it would have been perfectly at home on radio stations in the late ‘90s. The same holds true for much of their material.
Along with the straightforward guitars and drums one would expect from such a band, Sonic Cult adds subtle-but-effective layers of production, mostly involving spacey synthesizer lines and lush string arrangements. This combination of elements gives their music a rich, lyrical, almost orchestral quality. The string arrangements of Undefended are especially evocative, mixing just a hint of Kashmir with a bit of The Cure to create weight and space within the song.
Sonic Cult is led by Ben Lorentzen, with a voice that’s a reedy alto, strongly reminiscent of former Spock’s Beard frontman Neal Morse. Despite sounding slightly weak when he’s alone with the drums and guitar, his voice blends perfectly with the full arrangements and orchestrations of the band. When the full force of Sonic Cult’s sound rises behind him, the results become nearly transcendent.
Sonic Cult’s lyrics are surprisingly upbeat, bucking the trend towards pessimism in serious pop music these days. The entire theme of Up and Up is one of overcoming challenges in life, and similarly, Great Escape celebrates finding moments of happiness in a complex world.
This is comfort music, proudly packaged for a new age. They do a darn good job of it, but their roots most certainly do show. Sonic Cult can be easily recommended to all but the most cynical listeners, and when their album hits, it has the potential to be a true bombshell.