My 20-year-old step-son, Michael, was hit by a car. Twelve days in a coma. A shattered leg. Brain injury. And scars.

These things have now become his new identity. Sometimes he thinks he's more than he was before the accident. Sometimes, because of the lingering effects of the trauma to his brain, he thinks he is much less. And when he goes out, people see the marks, the splint, the walker, the eye-patch that he must wear for some time.

"What happened to you?" some of them ask, concerned and curious. Some simply stare...or self-consciously avoid looking at all. Others go out of their way to accommodate him, to make sure he is included, to see that he is cared for.

Because of his scars.

I watch this. And I wonder. We reach out so easily sometimes to those with scars on the outside. If only we knew more about the lives of others, would we reach out just as easily? Would I care more for the man in the bus seat in front of me if I knew he was going through an agonizing divorce? Would I be more attentive to the lady who just passed me with her shopping cart if I was aware that she had just had a miscarriage? Or if the store clerk was to suddenly turn and tell me that her father was dying of cancer?

How many of us, I ask myself, are without our scars on our heart and soul? The answer comes quickly: None. Those of us without scars are those who have not lived a life.

Would I care more? Would I be more attentive? As a young man I might have turned and run...or I might have been like those who glance at Michael and quickly turn away.

I think now, however, that I would find a way to give love, to stay all night, if necessary, to hear the story behind the scars. You see, so many tales need to be told, and all too often there is no one to hear. I've found that when you open yourself to others, they will often show their scars to you. When they do, you realize it's something you needed to see. It's something that makes you fully realize that you're talking to someone who is just as human, just as essential, just as vibrant and alive as you are.

And just as I need to hear the stories, I need to tell them, too. We all do. Michael can't hide the scars on his face. He doesn't even try. As far as I'm concerned, he can wear them with honor, because they're a symbol of his triumph over the greatest adversity of his life. Someday, he'll learn that the same thing also goes for his scars I am learning now. Scars are only a persistent memory of our greatest lessons. We should wear them well.

If you do it right, cigarette burns don't hurt. If you can hold on, and suffer through the inital burst of pain, eventually it will stop hurting completely. This happens because the heat burns away the nerve endings under your skin. Poof, no more sensation at all. This is called a third degree burn.

Cutting yourself is different. The pain stays right there with you. If you really want to leave a scar, you'll probably have to make several slashes in the same place. Serrated blades leave thicker, more irregular scars than a razor or a fruit knife, though this also depends on the texture of your skin.

A proper cigarette burn will become a blister over the next few days. If you want to pop it, I'd suggest you do it early on, before the nerves get a chance to heal. If you wait too long, it will hurt quite a lot. It will come out looking roughly the same either way.

I don't like wearing short-sleeved shirts, because people ask me about my arms. Sometimes I lie, and say that they're mosquito bites, and that I had an accident with a bicycle when I was a kid. No one who pays attention really believes this; the marks are too evenly placed to have been accidental. But they let it go anyway. Sometimes I tell the truth. I usually regret it when I do this. Unless I can see their arms too.

I do it to make the pain go away. Physical hurt is much easier to deal with. The sting, and the taste of my blood, or the smell of my skin burning, gives me something easy and real to focus on. Everyone has their coping mechanisms.

I also do it to keep the pain with me forever. Each scar is a tissue memorial to whatever I might have lost, or found. Rows of tiny irregular circles and long narrow slashes. The story of my life written in morse code up and down my arms.

Dot dot dot. Dash dash dash. Dot dot dot.

S O i L

Released: September 11, 2001 *
Record label: BMG/J Records
Genre: Heavy Metal

Scars is Soil's first major length album, and is a very impressive debut. The band has incorporated various styles of rock and metal (mostly heavy metal, anthemic rock/stadium rock and nu-metal) and have crafted a sound with all of the energy, versatility and down right shit-kicking attitude you would expect from a good modern rock band. And while they hasn't had as much success as you may expect (in the UK, anyway), they should be able to reach unforseeable heights in the future..

Generally, most of the songs on this album focus on pure heavy music. While there are quieter songs (e.g. Need To Feel, Unreal), the more frantic and up tempo ones (Breaking Me Down, Halo) are the stand out tracks. There hasn't been an album as of late that has literally made me punch a wall repeatedly while listening to it (namely Halo was the track), and there probably won't be for a while.

And while this may sound inviting to some people, be warned: there are a couple of tracks (Unreal, for instance) that maybe a tad too nu-metal for your tastes. So if you like your metal loud, abrasive and occasionally depressing, buy this album. If you are not sure, then the best thing to do is either borrow a copy of the CD and listen to it, or pop over to and listen to some small snippets from each song.

  1. Breaking Me Down
    The opening track is one hell of an opening. The starting riff gives you no time to breathe, letting it all go in one big wallop. A lot of kicking, screaming and loud and screechy lyrics assault your senses in a way that can't be described.
  2. Halo
    And the energy doesn't leaves during the transition into the album's second track, Halo, which also happens to be the best one. It starts with a pounding drum beat, leaving lead vocalist Ryan McCombs' screaming voice and Shaun Glass and Adam Zedel's guitar work to take over from there. The twisted lyrics only add to the sheer frantic nature of the song ("I will stone you, stone you / My little halo"). The best way to experience this song is with the video really, so try and dig it up somewhere.
  3. Need To Feel
    This song uses more of an anthemic tune and solos then down-tuned riffs and screaching. It's a suprisingly slow song, and while not as insane as the previous two tracks, still manages to flow with the rest of the album very neatly.
  4. Wide Open
    Right back into heavy metal territory, wide open is one of the heaviest songs on the album. The vocals are different to the other heavy tracks on the album as Ryan's voice is more melodic during the verses, and the screaming is very brief.
  5. Understanding Me
    A little more up tempo than Wide Open, but almost as heavy. This song is one of the better ones on the album, with some brilliant riffs and pounding drums. The chorus and verses blend very seamlessly, which is used to great effect.
  6. My Own
    Now grazing into nu-metal, the lyrics are very "woe-is-me" and the song is quite sub-standard anyway. The chorus is a mess, and while the instrumentals are nice, Ryan's vocals are not up to standard with the rest of the songs.
  7. Unreal
    Definately the most nu-metalish and consumer friendly song on the album. It's actually very good, believe it or not. The guitars churn out some nice stuff, and Ryan's vocals make it even better. Both come together into one hell of a rocking chorus. It may be a bit too friendly for some people's tastes, however.
  8. Inside
    This is a good example of how Soil combine stadium rock with heavy metal. The chorus simply soars head over heels of the rest of the song, and some trademark shouting and screaming help top it off. Quite slow, but still head banging good fun. And the bit in the middle of the thrid verse ("Come on!") is unforgetable.
  9. Two Skins
    Uh....yeah. This is a bad song. Nothing really works, and Ryan's vocal job is just appaling. Really, he screams and shouts too much on this song. It really is just recycled metal hogwash. Avoid like the plague.
  10. The One
    Starts out quite slow, but suddenly the drums kick in and introduce some more up beat anthemic riffs and melodic lyrics. A little more radio-friendly than usual, but still quite good.
  11. New Faith
    Bass and Drums introduce this song with a fast beat, while the guitars start churning after a bit. Muted guitars accompany Ryan's voice, which is a tad rubbish by the way. But the epic chorus saves this one from rock hell, so all is forgiven.
  12. Why
    Meh. This is quite good, but reminds me of Static-X and Rammstein a bit too much. Loses some of Soil's unique feel, which is quite a disspointment.
  13. Black 7
    This is good stuff, as well as a great way to end the album. It starts off kind of like Tool's Lateralus, but kicks in with some good old fashioned heavyness. A lot slower than other Soil songs, with what sounds like real emotion from Ryan's voice. It sounds a lot more epic as well, but not in an anthemic way (more like, funnily enough, Tool, except less technical and a lot shorter). Just when you think it ends, it kicks back in unexpectedly for a minute or so. Fade out. End. Worship. Repeat.

Final thoughts? Really, if you enjoy metal and hard rock in it's many different forms, you should invest in this album. It isn't very original, emotic, nor is it going to change the face of music forever. But it's a damn fine example of artistic ability. KILL for it, if you have to. Just get it.

* That must have been a bit of a heavy blow to the band.

Produced by Johnny K
Written and Performed by Soil

Soil are:
Ryan McCombs: Vocals
Shaun Glass: Guitar
Adam Zendel: Guitars and Backing Vocals
Tim King: Bass
Tom Schofield: Drums

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