The erratic tribe of New York rockers that is Soldiers of Fortune have once again done what they set out to avoid. The devotedly shiftless seven-piece rock outfit have accidentally recorded a second full-length record, Early Risers, and we can only be amazed and grateful that they’ve caved to their label and actually released something so phenomenally great.
Soldiers of Fortune have thrown a lot of what they’ve learned from their collective decades of rocking at this album, producing something that sounds both unplanned and fabulous. After all, the group are fundamentally an ‘anti-band’ and Early Risers is foremost a jam record; complicated tangents like ‘Nails’ and ‘Cinnamon Man’ meander along according to the whims of SOF’s brilliant guitar work, and are balanced by slow jams like the introspective yet clueless ‘Santa Monica’. It’s hard to tell exactly where you’re going with tracks like these, but it’s their off-the-cuff quality that keeps them so engaging.
Early Risers’ wanderings are interrupted by more cohesive and vocally-dominated tracks like ‘Campus Swagger’ and ‘Which’. Influences from across the spectrum of rock derivatives are evident almost everywhere; while ‘Kall Me Kaos’ ventures at times toward something more hardcore, Early Risers generally appeals more to a moderate classic rock sound, as with southern-fried ‘Fatigues’ and the brilliant ‘Dog Tooth Down’, dominated by post-grunge vibes courtesy of guest vocalist Ethan Miller.
The ten track album features appearances from six of Soldiers of Fortune’s self-proclaimed ‘super tight buddies’, with input from Ethan Miller, Clark ‘Yeremias’ Bronson, Pavement’s Stephen Malkmus, A.R.E Weapons’ Matt McCauley, and prolific singer-songwriters Cass McCombs and Dan Melchior. Each guest brings with them established style and skill, but avoids over-powering the aesthetic of the band or project, creating the basis for the record’s variety.
A strong sophomore release, with truly sophisticated arrangements and rock-solid instrumental elements, Early Risers is an album that may threaten Soldiers of Fortune’s aspirations to avoid publicity and praise. Yet it’s also clear that it is these goals that give Early Risers its unique sort of focus and impressive depth.