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Tracklist: 1. Kiss And Kill 5:07 2. Snowflake 5:20 3. Dead Man 5:13 4. Velvet Thorns 4:49 5. Virtual Steps 3:17 6. Bustale 4:12 7. New Horizon 3:38 8. New Angel 3:28 9. New Narrow Needle Groove 3:44 10. My Aching Pain 7:19 Line-up: Rune Sorheim - vocals Tommy Nilsen - guitars Knut Bergaust - bass Per M. Bergseth - drums Jan P. Ringvold - keyboards All music & lyrics by Sonic Debris. Produced by Nils H. Mehlum & Mr. K. Recorded & mixed at "MLP" studio, Norway, November 23, 1999 to February 1, 2000. Engineered by N. H. Mehlum & J. A. Narum. Mastered at "NOMIS", London, UK.
Prologue. The release of "Velvet Thorns" - the debut album by Norwegian band Sonic Debris - was the starting point for Dutch "DVS" label's further activity on the progressively aggressive frontline of Rock.
The Album. Apart from a couple of Progressive Rock bands (White Willow and Fig Leaf), the other Norwegian performers I've heard before played either brutal Black Metal or even more brutal music once named as Death Metal. So with the addition of Sonic Debris to said "duo", whose creation is well known to this writer (unfortunately, though, I haven't heard such significant Norwegian bands as Kerrs Pink and Akasha, to name a couple), my knowledge of Norwegian Progressive Rock movement is now enlarged by a whole one third. Looking at the traditional line-up 'formula', used by the majority of Prog-Metal bands (as well as by most performers of the Classic (Art-Rock) Progressive camp, though), in the booklet of Sonic Debris's debut album "Velvet Thorns", I was already prepared to hear little more than traditional contemporary Prog-Metal, and I was right. On the other hand, is it really a bad thing to hear anything that sounds 'traditional' today, when lots of bands of all Progressive and other 'Rock' genres go by well trodden paths laid years ago? I don't think so, while just a few contemporary bands really invented new forms of Progressive Music. So the main significance of bands that play within the frames of already known genres, sub-genres and styles, would be the presence of some distinctly own ideas in the (traditional, on the whole) music they play. Although there's just a handful of innovative ideas in the traditional Prog-Metal performed by Sonic Debris, their presence here looks much better than the absence of them. Unlike Into Eternity, who have bravely brought a bunch of Death Metal's vocal and instrumental tricks in their (also, on the whole) traditional Thrash-based Prog-Metal, Sonic Debris prefer to have pure progressively aggressive musical structures, without any side makeweights. All the first four songs on "Velvet Thorns" have keyboards in intros - either only piano, like on Kiss And Kill and Velvet Thorns, or 'synthetic' backgrounds for a guitar's heavy riffs, like on Snowflake and Dead Man. As well as in the case with "Into Eternity" album, lots of short synth flashes or piano roulades are found on "Velvet Thorns" throughout, but the only long and incredibly virtuosic keyboard solo belongs to New Narrow Needle Groove (track 9!), though, as a little addition, New Horizon contains not too long yet effective an interplay between electric guitar solos and nice keyboard roulades. While Tommy Nilsen riffs on his guitar tirelessly and has time to use his fingers for doing fast and virtuosic solos at least once on each track, he also plays the acoustic guitar and some of the passages he does on it are excellent. Although I find some similarities between the vocal intonations of Rune Sorheim and Geoff Tate of Queensryche (they're just relevant, though), Rune's voice, in itself, is highly original. Like Tim Roth (of Into Eternity), most often Rune too sings kind of apart from instrumental parts, i.e. just in harmony with them, but while Tim sings always quite smoothly yet always in a strong and stable way, Rune, who can use his singing in a wider range, - from a whisper (like once on Dead Man) through unnatural (like on New Angel) to high-pitched (like on a kind of ballad Bustale, where he sings being accompanied by a few of his own backing vocals), - actually does it too rarely, in my view, whereas there are enough of his monotonous refrains in about a half of the songs to consider them productions of a Neo Prog-Metal band. Also, the work of the rhythm-section is merely good, but not as diverse as I could hope it might be. Fortunately, here we have enough changes of themes, tempos and moods, rich and tasteful instrumental arrangements in another half of the songs on the album to make up for the demerits of "Velvet Thorns" on the whole. These songs are Dead Man, Velvet Thorns, New Horizon, New Angel, and New Narrow Needle Groove, though the best of them (i.e. the most progressive compositions on the album are the last three (tracks 7, 8 & 9 respectively).
Summary. Bearing in mind that "Velvet Thorns" is just Sonic Debris's debut on the progressive scene, this is really a good album. Also, quite a unique case, when a half of the songs obviously originate from Neo Prog-Metal, and the other half have more classical metal ingredients in their structures, the album as a whole may attract attention from most Prog-Metal lovers in general. Overall, the melodic sense is always a priority on the album, while the main credit the band deserve for crafting five excellent, truly strong Prog-Metal songs, mentioned above. As for more accessible songs, hopefully Sonic Debris on their next album will throw all these trial balloons to the wind. See you soon in the Classic Prog-Metal camp (at least I hope so).
VM. August 30, 2001
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