Words by Thea Martin
An intoxicating exploration of the "breakdown of the psyche," When the Warden Calls is the best-recorded representation of all that Soda encompasses to date. After having been premiered on Three D Radio 93.7FM on the 3rd of this month and, officially being released a week from today, this new track brings together all the elements that have made Soda such a popular live act in the Adelaide scene. When the Warden Calls exemplifies Soda's dedication to continuing to push their own boundaries in terms of the explicitness of their message, as well as the scope of their creative vision.
If you've spent any time at all delving into Soda's world you would know that their vision doesn't stop with just the music. As noted by lead singer Cameron Henschke, "Looking back on how we started as a band; meeting as photographers and videographers through film school, I knew that what we brought to the table from a visual perspective would be incorporated within the project." As a result, Soda have been taking on the ambitious challenge of creating a concept EP that spans across mediums of music, film, photography, graphics and prose, entitled "How to Navigate Your Breathing," of which When the Warden Calls forms 'Act 1 Part 2.'
From the first line "this'll be the last time I pass out" we are drawn into the smooth, minimal instrumentation that forms the foundation of the track. The clicks on the backbeats give the opening an almost sultry feel, evoking the atmosphere of a deserted dimly lit bar in the early hours of the morning. Despite the steady pulsing of the opening, when tuning into the lyrics we quickly realise that sentiment behind the words is anything but steady, notably evident in the haunting final line of the first verse "we are only human clones.”
When talking to the band about the inspiration behind this track, it is evident that there is a lot of emotional intensity behind the music, referencing "the isolation of mental illness" and the "mistrust of yourself and perception of reality." However, Soda are quick to add that the song deals largely in terms of metaphor, leaving room for the listener to interpret their own meaning. When we listen to music each of us will hear and feel something different, and for me, perhaps as a result of the multi-faceted project Soda have been building, I find it impossible not to think in terms of images when listening to their music, with When the Warden Calls being no exception. The best way I can describe how this track feels for me personally, is as though I am existing in a slow-motion subset of a world of intensity lying just beyond reach. This can be largely attributed to the level of self-restraint evident in the production of the song; nothing is over-done which allows the full impact of the lyrics to be felt. The climax of the track is an immensely satisfying moment, I only wish that Cameron's vocals would let go into something a little more uncontrolled before the epic guitar solo that feels similar in energy to that of their previous release 'Beautiful Anxiety'.
And just as it started, the song comes full circle in its closing moments, slowing to a halt and marked by a final strummed chord by the electric guitar. The choice to finish with the major chord is a nice touch, seeming to suggest some hope or optimism to be able to push through the challenges the song alludes to. Summarising the track, Soda say "This is the valley of death moment within our story, but there is an attempt within that to work through conflict, not necessarily resigned yet to fate." It's a hard-hitting new single that Soda have delivered, and is an intriguing glimpse into what is to come for the band.
Be the first to hear their new single on the 31st through Soda's socials that can be found here: https://linktr.ee/sodabandofficial, and keep your eyes and ears peeled for the mini-festival being thrown for the release of When the Warden Calls, details here.
When the Warden Calls was recorded at Wundenberg Studios, mixed at Forbes St. Studios and mastered at Shoehorse Sound in Sydney by Michael Lynch. I'd like to thank Cameron Henschke for the quotes used in this review, and Soda for the images used.