Philly killers Sonja recount life in shadow, seek bloody revenge on smoking debut ‘Loud Arriver’

Photo by Don Vincent Ortega

I don’t know what it’s like to live my life in fear, and I’m thankful for that. But that doesn’t mean that makes me feel good about our world, because there are many people who live every day unsure if they’ll survive it based on other people’s hatred. There are many groups of people who often are forced to live in the shadows, and half of the government officials in this country are trying to make that fight even harder for many fellow humans.

For Melissa Moore, she hoped she had a place among her Absu bandmates where her coming out as a trans woman would be embraced. Sadly, every member of that band but one is a fucking coward and fired her via email, and now the only label that will embrace that group is one also happily housing music from a band with nazi ties that potentially dabbled in pedophilia. Moore was not deterred as heavy metal is in her heart, and now she and her band Sonja are here with their awesome debut record “Loud Arriver,” a swaggering, steaming slab of power that offers no apologies. Moore—she handles vocals and guitars and is joined by bassist Ben Brand and drummer Grzesiek Czapla, the lone member of Absu who supported her—recounts her life when she had to live in secret and suffered as a result. She also offers messages of revenge for those who judge her and tried to destroy her life. The fact trans people are facing bullshit legislation being levied against them and still have to fear for their safety is a travesty, one of this country’s worst failures, and having more musicians such as Moore out there, in public, creating great art hopefully can help people see her and others as humans who are not to be feared or ostracized and whose work is to be celebrated like anyone else’s. Sonja’s is fucking great.

“When the Candle Burns Low…” gets things going with synth driving and Moore’s vocals sweeping in, with her voice demanding and keeping your attention. There’s a great dark energy lurking, and when Moore vows, “I will never die,” you can feel the defiance as the final blasts send extra energy. “Nylon Nights” is a killer, a track that dawns on a great riff and some lushness sitting behind the shadows. The singing even soothes at times, even when you know you’re being seduced, and Moore calls the title over and over, pushing toward great dual guitar lines and a final surge that bruises. “Pink Fog” starts with guitar work that reminds of Alex Lifeson as things get crunchy and catchy in a hurry, driving and lashing into the inviting shadows. Guitars pummel as Moore’s singing jolts your spine as she calls over temporary silence, driving the dagger into your thigh. “Wanting Me Dead” has an ominous flow as vintage riffs set fires, the playing sending your heart racing. “I’ve been waiting,” Moore warns as the bass plods, things get more delicate, and the call of, “She’s going to start killing people,” is a stark reminder not to get into path of revenge.

“Fuck, Then Die” is both fun and threatening as the guitars prick and probe, and Moore encourages the debauchery by reminding, “Because you’ll be dead tomorrow.” The sleaze thickens in the best way, the playing drives your foot on the gas pedal, and Moore wails, “Just want to fuck all day and all night,” knowing the end result is demise. “Daughter of the Morning Star” starts with the drumming taking the wheel, the vocals soaring higher, and strange tidings spreading, making your flesh go cold. The pace picks up later and catches fire as guitars lather, attitudes get nastier, and everything churns off into a puddle of sweat. “Moans From the Chapel” opens fluidly and sends shivers down your spine, combining elements that are equally breezy and morbid. Guitars glaze as Moore howls, “Tonight, she rides,” as the tempo picks up, and the promise of bloodshed is at hand. The closing title track starts with acoustics and softer tones before the pace launches, the bass thickens, and the guitars slip through the fog. Shadows emerge as wordless calls jostle, the air gets richer, and the final blows leave you gasping for air.

Sonja’s debut “Loud Arriver” is colorful, dark, and rousing, a seedy journey into true-life reality where danger lurks at every corner. Moore’s experiences with her transition, the darkness she had to encounter, and the bloody revenge that lurks in dreams and desires are tangible and get your own blood flowing. We stand with her and every trans artist trying to make an impact without judgment for who they are. We aren’t there yet, but bands like Sonja are vital in helping grow that understanding. This also is a triumph for Moore and Sonja in that they present a bold, defiant, and unforgiving record that captures real heavy metal spirit and stands as a fuck you to anyone who stands in their way, sparkly headband or not.

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