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(47:01, Progressive Promotion Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. From Inside Out 6:57 2. Barfeooted Man 8:28 3. Needless 6:24 4. Love without Creation 5:41 5. Rayless Sun 8:00 6. King of Nowhere 3:56 7. Afterglow 7:35 LINEUP: Larry B – vocals Uwe Reinholz – guitars; vocals Marek Arnold – keyboards; saxophones Robert Eisfeldt – drums Robert Brenner – bass With: Cat Henschelmann – violin
Prolusion. The German band TOXIC SMILE has been an ongoing venture for almost 20 years, and while the album title might indicate that this is their seventh album to be released, that is not quite the case. It is their seventh release in total however, but as far as full length albums are concerned this is their fourth one. Still, the album is called "7" and was released through the German label Progressive Promotion Records in 2013.
Analysis. Progressive metal is the name of the game for this German band, and they have a preference for exploring a fairly accessible version of that style that is based on the first generation of progressive metal bands. Which is rather logical, considering how long this band has been active. When that is said, Toxic Smile shies away from exploring their brand of classic progressive metal in its initial form, and does add a few additional details to the proceedings as well, and combined with good quality production this comes across very much as a contemporary production rather than one that might has been made back in the day. Arguably the mix and production are the main qualities responsible for crafting a contemporary sounding atmosphere admittedly. The band alternates between compact and powerful riffs for their compositions, the former tending to be used in quirky patterns with an arhythmic structure, while the latter tend to emphasize the big guitar sound metal fans generally tend to find favorable. The verse parts tend to be toned down though, to make room for the excellent vocals of lead singer Larry B; his slight accent just about the only quality that potentially may be seen as an extremely minor negative by a select few. As far as progressive music and progressive metal go he is a good vocalist though, of the kind that easily can carry a song by himself. The interesting tidbits for fans of this kind of music are the additional elements used throughout of course, and Toxic Smile liberally coats their compositions in alluring layers of Mellotron and organ, the latter for the good, old organ and guitars power effect, while the former adds a warm, organic and melancholic touch to the proceedings. An additional nice touch that appears here and there are delicate, light toned piano motifs, which add a cold, frail touch to the compositions that creates a striking contrast with the more powerful guitars and the overall metal oriented sound. A nice touch I have heard a few other bands employ to good effect as well, so those fond of music with details of that kind might note this album down as one more to inspect in that category of productions. Otherwise I noted a nifty funky bass detail on opening cut From Inside Out, and that the second song Barefooted Man managed to incorporate both a striking sound that came across as a blend of Porcupine Tree and Ayreon, and a few jazz-oriented details within its progressive metal context, and that the funky vibes reappear on Love without Creation, a song that also features several saxophone sequences in its progressive metal meets jazzrock meets mainstream pop/rock stylistic blend.
Conclusion. "7" is a high quality production by the German band Toxic Smile. Their accessible take on progressive metal has really hit the mark this time around, with a fine, good quality mix and production managing to get the best out of the compositions. While not a perfect album as such it is a strong and solid production, and one that merits a check by those who prefer the progressive metal to be accessible and melodic also when they are including the occasional quirkier details and including elements from styles outside of the metal spectrum per se.
OMB=Olav M Bjornsen: September 20, 2014
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