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(78:14, Musea Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. 1980 (Reasons) 5:19 2. 2005 (Alone) 6:30 3. 1949 (Lacrimosa) 1:18 4. 1953 (Natural) 4:41 5. 1993 (Countdown) 8:17 6. 2007 (Wind) 1:58 7. 1962 (Too) 6:30 8. 1965 (Breath of Life-1) 6:39 9. 1965 (Breath of Life-2) 3:58 10. 2000 (Vaguely) 7:22 11. 1960 (One) 7:00 12. 1964 (Tree) 6:46 13. 1997 (Change) 11:56 LINEUP: Gerton Leijdekker – vocals; guitars; keyboards Emile Boellard – drums, percussion; vocals Peter H Boer – bass, stick
Prolusion. SOTE, short for Songs Of The Exiles, is a Dutch trio that was formed in 1993. After issuing a 5-track demo the same year, full length albums followed in 1995, 2000 and 2003 respectively. "Reasons" is their fourth effort and was issued in 2008 on the French label Musea Records.
Analysis. It's intriguing to read about this Dutch act, which apparently has managed to make quite a name for itself in its native Holland. Many positive reviews of their previous efforts are quoted and the band has been compared to artists as different as Fates Warning, Rush and Peter Hammill, with references to bands like Dream Theater and Pink Floyd thrown in for good measure. Of the referenced artists I'd probably claim that Rush is the major influence for the proceedings here, first and foremost due to the slightly staccato guitar patterns that are a pretty constant feature on this excursion. In particular, the lighter compositions have a touch of this fine Canadian act in their expression, but with enough of an original touch to it to stay safely away from derivative territories. SOTE does venture into heavier and more aggressive territories as well, and although the guitar antics still have a touch of Lifeson's style about them also in these segments, the general sound and intensity on the heavier sounding ventures are closer to acts like Queensryche and even Dream Theater at times, but still with a sound very much their own. The compositions themselves are pretty straight forward in structure: a set number of themes are explored throughout each song, each one visited at least twice. Some instrumental passages are standalone features, but more often than not these are revisited as well, in some cases due to these being minor variations of the vocal parts, with soloing or a specific melodic pattern taking the place of the vocals. The songs as such do come across as a jolly mix of art rock and progressive metal, but while the former is a constant feature throughout the latter only appears in a select few tunes. And the metal aspects are solely riffs and riff patterns, usually slow- or mid-paced ones with a harsh and distorted expression, but there are also a few neat appearances of toned down riff patterns – usually when the acoustic guitar is given a supporting role or in segments featuring guitar soloing. And unlike most metal acts, these guys stick to melodic and atmospheric soloing – I did not notice any shredding at all on this disc. Finally, a feature on many tracks is different expressions within the individual creation. Not at all times, but differences in overall style, pace and intensity are common features throughout. And although some songs stay within either art rock or metal territories, others do venture back and forth between these expressions, most times with pretty intriguing songs as a result. The final track Change is arguably the best example of this, a delightful epic evolving in a pretty intriguing and unpredictable manner.
Conclusion. "Reasons" is an interesting and rather innovative blend of art rock and progressive metal which should appeal to followers of both these genres, and as there is a conceptual theme explored on this production those into concept albums might want to take notice as well. Apart from a few select lacklustre compositions (hence the overall rating), this is an intriguing effort by a fine and talented band – well worth checking out by those interested in the musical territories they explore.
OMB=Olav M Bjornsen: July 5, 2009
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