earMUSIC [Release date 01.04.16]
Soto’s debut album ‘Inside The Vertigo’ came and went early last year, and judging by the critical reaction perhaps splitting some of the core JSS fanbase as it marked a return to the more hard-hitting metal that he’d fashioned with Yngwie three decades earlier and continued more recently with his solo album ‘Damage Control’.
Jeff Scott Soto’s music is always grounded in melody, so this second album – ‘Divak’ – merely stretches this approach started a year ago and further establishing his latest band concept. Fans will detect echoes of earlier work and should revel in pieces like the anthemic ‘Weight Of The World’ and ‘Unblame’.
The first single ‘Freak Show’ is, typically, a riff-fest and – as with the previous album – has an underpinning Pantera-heavy rhythm but arguably more accessible whilst ‘Paranoia’ and the gut churning ‘Forgotten’ and ‘SuckerPunch’ continue the wonderful riffage and, naturally, topped with stellar vocal delivery.
This time Soto has eschewed the trappings of A-list metallers, so ‘Divak’ features exclusively his band, and rightly so. Anyone who saw Soto on his last brief sojurn to the UK (2014) will know that Messrs. Cominato, BJ, David Z and Salan are a tightly knit unit capable of real musical fireworks. They have also contributed the lion’s share of the writing.
The debut album featured a couple of standouts in the form of the mid-tempo ‘When I’m Older’ whilst the long ‘End Of Days’ even featured proggy elements. On ‘Divak’ the band have played fairly safe, without any great stylistic diversion save perhaps for the folksy premise of ‘Misfired’ although still grounded in heavy metal. It’s pretty much heavy riffage all the way, only broken by a superb piece like ‘In My Darkest Hour’, the album’s one extended ballad but – blimey – it’s a killer.
We gave the debut album five stars and if anything ‘Divak’ tops this and is more consistent. Fans should be aware that there are bonus digital only tracks (live versions of ‘Vertigo’ tracks) and two exclusive iTunes downloads.
When we chatted to JSS early last year he had high hopes for his new venture and – given the constraints of modern music making in terms of viable touring – he has done well to move on to album number two, and therefore building a more solid body of work to promote and away from his usual legacy. And hopefully in the UK again, as soon as viable. Simply wonderful, engaging, music. *****
Review by David Randall
David Randall presents ‘Assume The Position’ on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio every Sunday at 22:00 GMT.
Album review (Inside The Vertigo, 2015, and interview)
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