Well, looks like I’m not going to be bored of prog metal any time soon… so, reviewing prog albums is like eating a chocolate cake for me and this one was another yummy piece… Their sound is quite accessible for prog-heads yet even if you are not one, it’s also a definite grower…
The sound is fairly consistent over the course of the album. It’s downright prog with some jazzy sections as a bonus. While the sound is consistent, the tone and vibe of the sounds is a different matter. It definitely gets better with more listens. Also, this cake has dense, small bits of chocolate chips scattered inside in the form of short, different genre sections inside the songs giving you a quirky, instant and surprising delight. I mean, although they appear in the traditional prog league, they also seem to differentiate themselves with this little quirk. The songs flow into these little choc-chips teasing you and flow back effortlessly regaining the epic prog sound. Their rhythms have the same thing in a smaller scale leaving you smiling from time to time with the odd play here and there.
I can tell you one thing, it works very well! The variations and the little quirks are just the perfect amount. Well, I asked about these – and some other things – to the band and you can find the interview here.
On to the songs!
Checkmate starts with very nice drum work and it has a rich sound with the guitars and keys. Vocal and guitar melodies are nice and full of catchy hooks. It definitely is a good introduction to the band’s sound and leaves you with the desire to check out the rest of the album. Laughters are a fun little touch as well… Oh, and the story is important as well – the song is about a rebel who goes out to fight “the system” – you know, the classic revolutionary.
River’s Edge is dark and aggressive – just how I like my guitars. The song gets a bit jazzy in the middle (around the 4 minute mark) with drumming and the loud bass along with some old school keys a la The Doors and a blistering solo – now wait for it – by Marco Sfogli!!! Yess! Very cool indeed and I’ve grown to love this song a lot. With its instrumental section, this song as a very high replay value. One little guitars & vocals unison, at the 3:24 mark, is quite charming – very impressive and they actually do it quite a few times throughout the album.
With If, a completely different sound and a female vocalist catch you by surprise. Now, that is quite a twist… You are definitely listening to another type of metal now (see “Pillars of Sand” below for the answer to the very obvious question that pops into your mind by now) and Fabio chimes in for a very tasty duet. Keys, the duet and the vocal melodies are great… Our lady covers the high notes smoothly and we’re in for our first mini solo keys…
The Shelter pays an obvious homage to our very own Dream especially with the opening piano and the key works at around the 3:50 mark. Could be a tribute to their sound? Praise in my book!… But I have to say, although you can hear some occasional influences here and there, don’t think that the whole song is Dream Theater-like or anything. My fave part, the rocking instrumental section starts at the 5: 30 minute mark… and they twist a lot in mid-sections which creates an expanding and crunching feeling all at the same time. These sections keep you at the edge of the seat, so to speak with so much energy, such great riffs, and surprisingly catchy melodies. With this song, Soul Secret are kind of proving that they can write good heavy songs, with lots of wonderful melodies.
Pillars of Sand has a definitely interesting introduction – it starts off as a ballad and then turns into something with a bit of flamenco flair. I almost can hear you say – “Dear Lady, haven’t you just said that the sound was consistent throughout the album?” Yes! This is their pattern, me thinks, their signature sound! Hold on to your horses for a second or two and the song will become a prog epic! It is clear that this is their thing – you know, the chocolate chips. They basically experiment, twist and move in surprising ways and come back to ‘the cake’… Prog I mean. It basically tries to be a collection of soundscapes with hooks, which is a neat idea!
October 1917 is a straight up ballad. Nope, not kidding. Although it changes into something else at the last minute. Still a ballad though. This is the simplest tune in the album and my first listen made me think the weakest as well. However, a few more listens show me that it is my own addiction to strong riffs, dark guitars and heavy sound works. The song is of high quality and I reckon those who like the classical guitar sounds will love this as well. It is also thematically linked to the next song; both songs are about the brilliant George Orwell’s Animal Farm.
After the Old Major dies, starts the story of Snowball and Napoleon that eventually turn into a story of decline and corruption in Behind the Curtain. The song has a very tasty extended intro with its delicious guitars and keys. The song works very well with the deep, dirty riffs; blading bass lines; and soaring vocals. Chorus is actually the same with October 1917 ensuring musical continuity as well as thematic.
Aftermath closes the album (and the circle, but I’ll come to that later) gracefully. It is a competent epic with a good surprise in there! OK, you know I will spoil it for you! Haha! Arno Menses (Subsignal, formerly Sieges Even) makes a cameo with his beautiful voice. And yes, the circle… You remember the rebel who left his home to fight the good fight, right? Well, this song is about his partner waiting back at home for the rebel. Tastefully closing the album and the circle…
As for the vocals, Fabio has a very proggy voice but at the same time his voice reminds me of Andy Kuntz whose voice definitely not the typical prog vocals… what? Again this is high praise coming from me! Means that I’m very impressed! Overall, there is a difference in amount or should I say, scale of progginess (is that even a word?) between the first and second halves of the album. Second half is slightly less proggy and that may just be the goal to attract a larger audience. To sum it up, neat job – brilliant tunes, performance and very good production. I can see myself coming back to this album often…
Enjoy the songs I chose for you!
Luca Di Gennaro – Keyboards and Programming
Claudio Casaburi – Bass
Fabio Manda – Vocals
Antonio Mocerino – Drums and Percussions
Antonio Vittozzi – Guitars