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(70:37, Melodic Revolution Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. Question Irrelevant 5:34 2. Outcome Inevitable 2:02 3. Fall Schedules 4:50 4. I Know 4:43 5. Human Again 5:37 6. Singalong Deathtrap 5:36 7. Walking Graveyards 4:06 8. Too Many Regrets 6:47 9. Moral Oxidation 4:04 10. Replacing People 6:10 11. Designed Instincts 5:09 12. Recipe for Eternity 6:00 LINEUP: Shir Deutch – vocals; ac. & el. guitars Opher Vishnia – lead guitars, e-bow Shai Yallin – keyboards Yaniv Shalev – basses Yatziv Caspi – drums With: Neta Cohen-Shani – violoncello Daniel Tanchelson – viola Maya Lee Roman – violin Dror Lellouche – violin
Prolusion. Following "A Prescription for Paper Cuts" from 2005, “Natural Causes” is the second full-length album by Israel’s SOLSTICE COIL, released in 2011. As you can see above, there are eleven tracks on this 70-minute output.
It was too hasty of the band to describe their new effort as Dream Theater-meets-Radiohead. The music of the former act is way more complex, both compositionally and technically, than that of the latter, whilst there’s nothing intricate here at all, and although some of Shir Deutch’s vocals do indeed evoke James LaBrie’s, it’s certainly not enough for making such unwarrantably brave statements as the above one. Compared to Solstice Coil’s debut effort, “Natural Causes” is by and large a much more accessible affair. At first, the band plays on territory that’s normally associated with Tool or the Lava-Records period of Porcupine Tree, otherwise standing for the most part in the field of even more accessible Radiohead-inspired quasi-Prog, with a song-oriented modern approach not unlike the same Porcupine Tree, only circa “Lightbulb Sun”, or the most recent RPWL. On the three tracks that the album begins with, Question Irrelevant, Fall Schedules and Outcome Inevitable, the sound is for the most part heavy and aggressive, but isn’t too varied, suggesting Neo Prog-Metal or even Nu Metal in places, as some of the sections contain no guitar solos. Surprisingly, the last-named tune (which is the sole instrumental here) turns out to be the most contrasting among these in structure, since it begins and develops at first as an acoustic guitar-driven piece. Later on the band only one time returned to the heavy sound, on Too Many Regrets, but with a much better approach, to say the least. Looking back at the band’s first album, it would be safe to mention that on most of the other tracks (I Know, Human Again, Singalong Deathtrap, Walking Graveyards, Moral Oxidation, Replacing People and Designed Instincts) the band dispenses with Symphonic Progressive in favor of something like Art Alternative with a distinct modern feeling. In other words, to what appears as the post rock-meets-alternative format the band has added progressive elements, namely some graceful keyboard patterns and the vocals, which are some of the most inventive pop-art vocals I have heard in recent years. To be more precise, the first two or three of those pieces are pretty basic, but each of the following ones (save Replacing People) is better than its predecessor, surpassing that in interesting ideas, revealing more and more effectual instrumental interludes, the latter two the ones that are flavored with orchestral arrangements. The melodies are strong, the arrangements are clever, the atmosphere is pretty magnetic (at times reminding me even of that on “A Deeper Kind of Slumber” by Tiamat), and yet the overall musical palette isn’t too varied to stimulate me to play the pieces again, as already by the second listening almost every song is distinctly memorable. Only on Recipe for Eternity, the last track here, the band plays as if it has suddenly bethought its art-rock roots. Featuring organ, acoustic guitar, cello and a few violins besides the standard rock instrumentation, the composition very frequently changes its outlines and has everything to be liked by sympho-prog lovers. Along with the aforementioned Too Many Regrets, this is one of the two tracks here that are really or, say, classically progressive.
This collection is not quite up to the level of Solstice Coil’s previous release. At first it might seem that the band’s high-class performance and melodic songwriting indicate that lineage. However, it soon becomes evident that something has been lost. Gone are the intricate arrangements and musical evolution that typifies "A Prescription for Paper Cuts". Instead the musicians lean more towards a modern approach, with melodic hooks aplenty. On the other hand, if I view “Natural Causes” from the Alt Rock and Neo Prog-Metal perspectives, this is a pretty good album, filled with taste and elegance. All in all, I can’t rate it lower than I did.
Conclusion. This collection is not quite up to the level of Solstice Coil’s previous release. At first it might seem that the band’s high-class performance and melodic songwriting indicate that lineage. However, it soon becomes evident that something has been lost. Gone are the intricate arrangements and musical evolution that typifies "A Prescription for Paper Cuts". Instead the musicians lean more towards a modern approach, with melodic hooks aplenty. On the other hand, if I view “Natural Causes” from the Alt Rock and Neo Prog-Metal perspectives, this is a pretty good album, filled with taste and elegance. All in all, I can’t rate it lower than I did.
VM=Vitaly Menshikov: April 3, 2012
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