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(62:29, Gonzo Multimedia / Galileo Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. Checkmate 5:52 2. River's Edge 6:48 3. If 3:48 4. The Shelter 7:53 5. Pillars of Sand 9:07 6. October 1917 3:34 7. Behind the Curtain 8:46 8. Aftermath 16:43 LINEUP: Antonio Vitozzi – el. & ac. guitars Luca De Gennaro – keyboards Antonio Moserino – drums Claudio Casabury – bass Fabio Manda – vocals With: Arno Menses – vocals (8) Anno Assentato – female vocals (3)
Prolusion. “Closer to Daylight” is the second release by Italy’s SOUL SECRET. My review of the band’s debut outing, “Flowing Portraits” (2008), can be read here.
Analysis. If on their first album the Italian musicians appear as a Dream Theater clone, on this one they don’t, to their credit. To put it more intelligibly, “Closer to Daylight” finds them performing Prog-Metal of the Dream Theater variety, the one that’s somewhat closer to Threshold than to any of the other parties of the circle, albeit the vocals are still for the most part reminiscent of James LaBrie. The traces of the English band’s (approach to the) style are in abundance on seven of the eight tracks presented. However, most of those at times push the boundaries of that via involving techno-thrash, sympho-prog, folk-rock and bluesy motifs in the proceedings (and also, partly, by using string arrangements), therefore demonstrating that the shoes of imitators are already rather tight for their creators to wear them permanently. In addition, some guitar parts have that complex, rapidly played riff favored by bands such as Mekong Delta, Metallica and so on, late Dream Theater included. However, only disc opener, Checkmate, is heavy throughout, featuring crunchy guitars, pounding drums, pulsing bass notes, seemingly drowsing synthesizers (though they ‘wake up’ from time to time for fast leads) and dramatic vocals which, while in profusion here, never affect the piece’s overall picture, diversifying it instead. In their turn, The Shelter and Pillars of Sand are largely instrumental pieces, both revealing quite a few non-heavy – mainly sympho-prog, with a hint of flamenco in places – arrangements besides the album’s primary style-related ones which, though, often include an acoustic guitar. When turning to a differently structured theme, the musicians skillfully change their speed, which can range from slow to lightning-fast. This means that everyone in the band can really play – we’re talking multi-part arrangements that stay in sync, flawlessly shifting from one thematic point to another. River's Edge, If, Behind the Curtain and Aftermath all reveal an approximately equal quantity of vocals-laden and purely instrumental arrangements, at least on average. The first three of them each has a bit more definite structure than the previously described two, but there are quite a few unexpected turns too, many guitar riffs still being almost as long and complicated as solos. Luca De Gennaro’s synthesizer leads are mostly light in mood, but in delivery they remind one much of those by Threshold’s Richard West, while guitarist Antonio Vitozzi – when not busy with riffing – doesn’t bring to mind anyone else, sometimes venturing on bluesy soloing, doing so even within the prog-metal stuff on some occasions. On a couple of tracks, there are also some swirling, yet highly melodic and memorable, guitar and organ leads that might evoke those of Deep Purple. The band eases up with October 1917, a hauntingly beautiful melody provided by the singer, Fabio Manda, set against resourceful acoustic guitar passages by Vitozzi, albeit there are also moments only featuring the latter instrument. This is one of the most original as well as impressive acoustic ballads I’ve heard in a couple of years. Finally, If features some female vocals apart from those by Manda, while Aftermath is entirely sung by Arno Menses (ex-Sieges Even). Unlike many other bands that insist singing in English without proper training, Soul Secret does succeed in that field.
Conclusion. The playing throughout the album is superb; the production is top-notch; the attention to detail is perfect. For a band that’s comparatively new to the scene, they certainly play with the experience of a group much older. It’s just that most of it has been done before, not necessarily better, but it’s been covered before, many times. Anyhow, if you enjoy the brand of Prog-Metal that Threshold, Dream Theater and suchlike bands practice, don’t miss this CD in any event.
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