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(61:55, Progressive Promotion Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. Liquid Wall 9:10 2. Change 5:37 3. The Abyss 7:45 4. Hidden Brand 6:31 5. Walked by Fear 6:21 6. Endless Cycle 6:42 7. Pride and Joy 6:33 8. Poles Apart 5:16 9. I'm Your Saviour 8:00 LINEUP: Marek Arnold – keyboards Uwe Reinholz – guitars Larry B – vocals Robert Brenner – bass Robert Eisfeldt – drums
Prolusion. 2011 sees the German act TOXIC SMILE celebrating its 15th anniversary as a band. And patient followers got a nice treat for the occasion, as a new studio album by this veteran outfit was made available in the fall of 2010. Their fourth full-length studio effort is called "I'm Your Saviour", and follows seven years after their previous production, "Retro Tox Forte".
Analysis. Amongst the myriad of bands creating music to be explored and enjoyed, many are generally regarded in rather similar manners by most listeners. Subjective musical tastes will obviously be the major factor in deciding whether or not any given production is interesting, but, within a more or less detailed stylistic expression, most active artists tend to be regarded in a similar vein by those who generally see themselves as fans of that specific classification or genre. Toxic Smile is a band that has qualities that most likely will make them an exception in that particular context. Progressive metal is the name of the game on this CD, and a variety probably best described as catering for the Dream Theater variety of the genre. The songs are all above the 5-minute mark in length; staccato riffs and riff patterns backed by keyboard and organ motifs are central features, and the compositions tend to include quirky details, several different themes and a certain emphasis on constant development. And they have a lead vocalist with a good voice who easily sets his mark on the proceedings. Steady bass and drums cater for pace and momentum quite nicely, and the production doesn't leave a lot to be desired, if anything at all. And to top it all off, Toxic Smile also manages to avoid the main pitfalls of exploring this style and sound: They don't sound like a clone band or as a less talented version of what is likely a main influence on their music. But it's the manner in which they have chosen to separate themselves from the norm that I feel will make this act one where individual views will appear to be more diversified than the norm, which is to incorporate a marked emphasis on gentler, melodic passages with a distinct mainstream-oriented sound. Gentle piano motifs as a recurring effect throughout, many songs that appear to be art rock-oriented power ballads more than anything else, where individual parts adhere much closer to a soft rock or adult contemporary rock expression than one residing within the art rock universe, even a full-fledged gentle ballad with total emphasis on mood and melody is present. The end result is a sound much less original than the approach, and songs that generally seem to fall within the nice and pleasant section, at least as far as my own musical tastes go. Good atmospheres and distinct moods abound, but never of the kind that make me think in superlatives, and while instrumentally the songs are at times clever, yet they are not so to the extent that the technicality itself impresses one, nor are the quirky details utilized to provide any stunning bells and whistles to the proceedings. High-quality production and slick performances make this an album easy on the ears and probably one that will find a good home in many car stereo players; as music to listen to while driving this is among the better I've encountered among progressively-inclined productions the last couple of years, but as a creation to listen to with full concentration I'm afraid I found this disc to be less inspired.
Conclusion. "I'm Your Saviour" exemplifies progressive metal of possibly the gentlest variety possible whilst retaining ties to the genre in general and to the Dream Theater sound in particular. If you prefer your progressive metal to be hard-hitting, complex and reasonably challenging, you'd better approach this disc with caution. But those who find the concept of blending mainstream-oriented rock with progressive metal to be a sound idea, and who tend to prefer a slick production and an emphasis on easily digested melodies, will most likely find this latest effort by Toxic Smile to be one very well worth investigating.
OMB=Olav M Bjornsen: June 7, 2011
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