Soto

SOTO – Divak

soto_divakcover-200x200Ever since I first heard Jeff Scott Soto sing on Yngwie Malmsteen’s Rising Force’s almost instrumental self-titled debut album – Jeff sang on two songs – he has been one of my favorite singers and I have followed him throughout his career. From Talisman, Eyes, Axel Rudi Pell, Soul SirkUS and his solo career to later day projects such as Gus G, W.E.T. and Joel Hoeckstra’s 13. Some of the projects has been really great, some not so great, but nothing he have put his voice on have been bad. But today, Jeff have seemed to put most of his efforts into his own band – actually the first time have have started his own band from scratch – that bears his last name and with it he has gone all in on heavy metal. See, most of Soto’s projects have been more in the AOR / melodic rock vein – some classic hard rock as well – but metal have been absent in his music since the early 80’s and Yngwie Malmsteen’s band. Now Jeff and his band – Edu Cominato on drums, BJ on guitar, Jorge Salan on lead guitar and bassist David Z – are about to release their second album, the follow-up to their debut Inside The Vertigo from last year. I liked that album, but it never got past good in my book. To me, it felt like Jeff and the guys put more focus on being hard and heavy than to write songs that stuck, so despite most of the songs were good enough, they never managed to be great and when it comes to Soto, I kind of expect things to be great, good just don’t cut it. Therefore I crossed my fingers that this second album would take them at least some steps up on the ladder to greatness, that the guys had become a tighter unit after a year together, when it came to song writing. As musicians theses guys are all faultless.

The opening intro, which is also the album’s title track (I have no clue what Divak means, feel free to fill me in on that) and for once we get an intro that actually deserves a name of its own. It is powerful, big and dramatic and it brings up an atmosphere for what’s to come. First single “Weight Of The World” is next and after the big intro the song turns into an anti-climax. Not that the song is bad, but the monotone and repetitive riffing doesn’t bring the song up. It’s heavy and hard and somewhat noisy, the chorus is good but it’s not memorable enough. Still, it works in the way that it sets the standard for how the album will sound – heaviness is the key word here. “Freakshow” is much better, heavy with both riffs and melodies very catchy and the chorus have a somewhat Eastern touch that brings Rainbow’s “Gates Of Babylon” to mind. Just the vibe, not the actual song structure. “Paranoia” is also a good one, a heavy hard rocker where the verses are a bit forgettable but the great chorus makes up for that. “Unblame” is the best one so far. Very catchy and memorable and I’m thinking of a more metal Talisman here – way to go! “Cyber Masquerade” is ok but it passes by unnoticed and I really can’t remember anything of the song once it ended. One of the finest moments on the whole album is the beautiful ballad “In My Darkest Hour”, an extremely memorable tune, totally cheeseless that sounds like a meeting of Symphony X and Jeff’s side project W.E.T. where Jeff does some really amazing vocal work. “Forgotten” is a big riff monster that reminds me of Alice Cooper’s “Brutal Planet” albeit with a more melodic rock refrain, a good song for sure. “Suckerpunch” is dark and heavy, riff-happy with a melody and arrangement that is almost pop, it’s a good enough song without being impressive. “Time” rocks in a slower pace, still heavy but with a melody that really sticks. But again, it’s only good, not great. Together with “Unblame” and “In My Darkest Hour”, “Misfired” is the best track on this record. The song goes in a more melodic hard rock vein, the stuff that Jeff usually does – it could have been written for one of his solo albums – and in my opinion, this stuff fits Jeff much better than the metal stuff. But “Fall From Grace” falls back into the same trap many of the songs are already in – it’s an ok heavy rocker, nothing special, not bad but goes in one ear and out the other. But the guys closes the album – if you don’t get any of the deluxe editions, that is – in a great way. “Awakened” is a really angry metal tune with lots of attitude, but there’s enough catchiness in there to not let the song slip into a “heavy, but nothing more”-tune. There is also a classical piano break towards the end and after that the song turns into a pop song before it gets a bit heavier again – killer mold breaker and an unpredictable move.

There is a deluxe edition, of course – well digital only tracks, to be precise – and if you get that one there are five live tracks, including “Stand Up”, the Sammy Hagar written tune that Jeff sang for the movie “Rock Star”. For hardcore fans, it’s a no-brainer, but I would probably not part for the extra green over it. Same thing if you get the iTunes edition, two original studio tracks extra there. “Cracking The Stone” is nothing but a standard heavy metal tune that deserves to be put back as a bonus track and nothing I’d pay extra for and “My Life” is a good melodic hard rocker, but again, it’s not solid enough for any extra cash. The thing is, Divak is a good album and this is a solid band, but it is a good album while listening but as soon as the album ends, I have no desire to pick it up and listen again. When it comes to Jeff Scott Soto, my expectations are high much because I really dig almost every one of his other projects, but with this band it feels like all gun powder is used on being hard, heavy and aggressive while the actual songs are lacking, songs that are memorable. Jeff needs a song writing partner that can help him write hits and classics, who can bring in the hooks to all the heaviness. If that someone shows up, Soto the band have every possibility to be a really great band.

6/10

Other Soto reviews:
Inside The Vertigo

Tracklist:

1. Divak (Intro)
2. Weight Of The World
3. Freakshow
4. Paranoia
5. Unblame
6. Cyber Masquerade
7. In My Darkest Hour
8. Forgotten
9. Suckerpunch
10. Time
11. Misfired
12. Fall From Grace
13. Awakened