Nate Laban was born to rock and roll. He’s been an integral part of the Seacoast music scene for more than 20 years, always with a contagious smile on his face. His career has spanned a multitude of solo incarnations and bands including Brook, Bear and The Elephant, The Frosting, and Wallos. Over the years, he’s done it all, from anti-folk to skate punk to country; his quirky storytelling works in most any genre. When ex-Satan’s Teardrops drummer Jason Lara steered Sam Hill, their newly formed group, toward playing metal, it was a natural fit. Their debut album, “Sonja,” is a fresh throwback to metal’s classic days of mythical creatures and tales.
It’s not surprising Laban’s vocal stylings and pop know-how work well over galloping riffs and Tony Iommi-influenced solos. His powerful voice and registry have always been suited for metal. Never one to settle into a genre or project for long, Laban indulges in this chance to let loose a torrent of epic songs. The result is an inventive alchemy of an accomplished songwriter’s take on a new genre. Recorded by the band, “Sonja” has a slightly lo-fi sound that gives it a nostalgic feel — think “Day of Reckoning”-era Pentagram meets newer Saint Vitus.
The opener, “37 Rings,” is a stoner metal jam that chronicles a tree being cut down in winter; it doubles as an introspective story and features a chorus that shows off Laban’s hook-y aptitude. “Scourge of the Warm Blooded” displays his writing chops in an epic about a frozen giant who has come to destroy man: “He has had as much as he can take, enormous the patience, equal in rage.” And their cover of Black Sabbath’s “Electric Funeral” is spot on. In Sam Hill, Laban has found a transcendent medium for his harder-edged endeavors. Let’s hope it lasts