Jeff Scott Soto is prolific, having been involved in the release of over 100 albums. SOTO is a project that he uses to share his heavier side, with this being the third album from this venture.
“HyperMania” features an electronic opening that had me wondering what I had gotten myself into… A catchy guitar riff is soon overlaid – this wasn’t what I was expecting. Jeff Scott Soto’s vocals are clear and easy to access. This track reminded me of what is used to accompany a training montage in a movie – not in a particularly bad way, it just sounded like that. I was a little rankled when “nobrainia” was rhymed with “hypermania”.
“Origami” unfolds with an intriguing pitch that then builds up to thrash metal. The stop – start nature of the riff is clever, with vocal screams peppered throughout. There is an inspired use of background effects and layers in this track. The guitar solos have not only impressive pace, but a wide spread of techniques. The finish to the track draws the elements together expertly.
“BeLie” has a melodic opening, that then includes some clever pinched guitar work, masterful solos and interwoven guitar harmonies. The bass line is muscular and the tight nature of the band is apparent.
“World Gone Colder” begins fast with a complex guitar riff. The arrangement is based around an intricate rhythm that really showcases the skills of the band and their connection with each other. Again, the guitar solo is skilled and engaging.
“Detonate” opens with a sigh and some guitar picking that builds expectation. Piano notes tighten the tension and the track explodes with guitar wails and a booming bass line. This has a time bomb inspired feel that resonates well with the subject matter of the track. The premise is that we are often ticking time bombs – this is one to which we can all relate.
“Torn” rips open ominously, with voices in the background and deep rumbles. Clean guitar notes then appear, along with a pulsating bass line. The pace is slower and the bass line is the star, along with surprising percussive elements. The guitars then drive in and add density. The track has a galloping quality and I really enjoyed it. It did give me a feeling of anguish and the finish of it gave me an impression of regret.
“Dance with the Devil” is a demonic follow-on to the slower last track, with a thumping riff and bass intensity. The lyrics will resonate with many, questioning reality and our perception of it, as well as putting up with things over time, only to eventually unleash the devil we have inside. This track features another intense guitar solo.
“AfterGlow” sheds a different light on the album, with a distortion heavy riff. It has a heavier feel and includes an orchestral element. One one point, I thought I heard spoons… If not, I was probably thinking about needing to unpack the dishwasher later. If so, that is awesome! Again, the lyrics are clever, speaking of the link between the truth and what we feel. I loved this track.
“Vanity Lane” had me checking for a camera in my house that the band had surreptitiously placed to gauge my reaction to the record. As this track started, I wrote, “A bit busy and confused.” This track is about someone who is so vane that they don’t see things as they are, particularly in a relationship – they are confused about many things and have many disguises. To compose a track that instantly generates such a response in the listener is impressive indeed. This track has a smooth sound and excellent riffs. And, I did check. There’s no cameras.
“Give in to Me” is a cover of a Michael Jackson song. Doing a cover is a delicate balance – we have so many preconceptions about the track that the band must either be faithful to the original, or make it their own. SOTO pays homage to it, without butchering it. It starts slowly and clearly, but they soon put their stamp on it. The vocals are plaintive and their guitar work is masterful.
“KMAG” (Kiss My Ass Goodbye) has a sci-fi like opening, with some organic elements in the background. Guitar wails are used well and there’s always something happening. It’s a great way for SOTO to end the record, leaving us with an agreeable taste in our mouths, forgetting the “Kiss My Ass” bit, of course…
This is an album of muscular melodies. It is at times slow and thoughtful, inspiring sharp emotions of regret, frustration and lashing out, after putting up with challenging situations for a long time.
As an album, it takes many different twists and turns. A number of styles are explored and if you listen to the album from start to finish, the album slowly builds in intensity, leaving you feeling appreciative of the journey that you have just experienced.
However, I found myself a bit disconnected at the start of the album – it took me a good bit of time to bond with it. The last few tracks seem to give the album context and purpose and really hooked me in. I then listened to it again straight away.
I can see this album as polarising opinion. It’s not metal, it’s not rock, it’s not revolutionary.
It is clever, it testimony to what a band sounds like when they play as a unit, it is a record that deserves to be heard from start to finish.
Review by Greg Noble