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(67:06, MALS Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. The Land Derailed 7:33 2. The Last Night 8:43 3. Quicksand Lies 5:29 4. Crystal Territory 7:15 5. Splinter 7:12 6. Other Line 7:45 7. Unholy Ghost 6:12 8. 911 9:01 9. Thin Ice Crawling 7:56 LINEUP: Constantin Glantz keyboards; vocals Yevgeny Kushnir guitars Irina Sherr vocals Max Mann bass Oleg Szumsky drums With: Valeria Kaplan backing vocals Teddi Shriki percussion (1, 2, 7) Stas Gorodov saxophone (8, 9) Michael Rosenfield backing vocals (1)
Prolusion. The Israeli outfit SOUL ENEMA was formed in 2001, and is a project led by composer and keyboardist Constantin Glantz. After an initial demo was scored in 2003, Glantz has been working steadily to develop his band's full length debut, "Thin Ice Crawling". The album was finished in late 2009 and after the band's signing to the Russian label MALS Records was released in April 2010.
Analysis. Band names can be fun. The best of them can be intriguing and provoke curiosity; the worst of them deter it; others are so unassuming that you never notice them. Soul Enema is probably amongst the bands that won't draw in curious potential listeners by choice of moniker alone, mostly due to the latter part of it. At least some of the reference persons I tested this assumption on proved me right in that respect, an experience I assume holds good for the average Joe too. But this choice of artistic handle is also just about the only flaw I can find on this highly promising debut effort by Glantz and his fellow musicians. That and the hidden section covering the last couple of minutes of the final, title, track Thin Ice Crawling, a composition that should have been allowed to clock in at just over 3 minutes, as the following minutes of silence followed by whacky theatrics are detrimental to the album experience. Musically we're dealing with a rather complex, highly demanding and fairly eclectic slice of progressive metal. Those familiar with the fellow Israeli band Amaseffer can use it as a reference, but add in a plethora of additional stylistic seasonings, a higher degree of innovation and a more liberal as well as adventurous approach, with eastern and Hebrew flavors appended to a progressive metal foundation as the common denominators. The individual compositions are elaborate affairs, twisting and turning from one style to another, with frequent shifts of pace, mood and arrangements. Themes and motifs are presented, most often repeated later on, and bound together by a small myriad of brief instrumental pieces. The composers love of symphonic progressive rock and vintage progressive metal is arguably the key element in the proceedings; Middle Eastern folk-inspired motifs are frequently inserted, and there's also room for ambient (Vangelis style) themes, medieval-sounding parts of a more classical music-inspired origin as well as spacey synth textures, jazz-inspired motifs and modern electronic sound effects. All of which is seamlessly joined together, in a manner that is both intriguing and surprising as well as coherent and, in hindsight, rather logical. Irina Sherr is given the honor of handling the vocal duties, which she handles with great care and passion. The lyrical part of this production is a conceptual one, and she manages to convey the strong emotions in this dark and grim story in a manner which indicates that she feels passionately about the topics covered. It's easy to lose oneself in all the changes and the sheer variety provided on this CD, and those with a keen ear for details and an interest in analysis should have a field day with this disc. And when good and intriguing melodies lie at the heart of the proceedings, the end result is a strong production not quite managing to reach the dizzying heights of pure genius, but pretty close.
Conclusion. "Thin Ice Crawling" is an elaborate production sporting complicated structural compositions and a variety well above what's common for an album exploring the progressive metal genre. It's a demanding but also highly rewarding experience, and should be high on the list for anyone with an interest in progressive metal crafted with a great deal of finesse and an emphasis on variety and surprising developments.
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