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7/10 Avi

SOLSTICE COIL - Commute - CD - Indie - 2015

One step forward, two steps back. That's the story of this Israeli proggy, alternative rock band. Whereas the 2011 Natural Causes showed improvement over its 2005 debut, this third Solstice Coil release is a somewhat of a recoil.

An independent release, Commute feels a bit half baked. We got used to that fact that the band's songs typically require multiple listening sessions, but at this point it seems like an excuse. There are not enough engaging melodies, and truth be told, the vocal delivery is just not good. The ineffectiveness of the vocals can be sampled on "Meltdown": it is one of the lesser dressed songs here, relying mostly on keyboards to deliver the setting, and as such it leaves the front stage for the vocals; alas, the singing is pedestrian and does not evoke emotion.

The production is also problematic at times. Some of the songs could have used trimming, whereas the entire album ends abruptly; and a few moments seem amateur, especially on the acoustic guitar feature "Anywhere" (otherwise, a well written piece) and on "Forget You Ever Saw Us" which comes off quite messy.

But complaining aside, there are undisputed moments of beauty on this album. The aforementioned "Meltdown" has a wonderful guitar solo, and there's excellent guitar work on some other tracks, occasionally with a nod to Genesis' Steve Hackett (on the instrumental "An Oldie (But Your Kids Are Gonna Love It)" as well as on "Shuffle The Cards").

The true star of this recording, however, is keyboardist Shai Yallin (who is also a member of the metal outfit Subterranean Masquerade). Yallin shines right from the very start, supplying a lively, melodic line on the opening "New Eyes" as well as nuanced shades using his Fender Rhodes. On "Shuffle The Cards," arguably the best song on the album, he contributes an essential sense of harmony; on "Her Silent Silhouette" his work is as attentive as it is colorfully imaginative; and on "The Bargain" he provides some deadly synth firings.

While we recommend this for fans of Porcupine Tree and Marillion who are willing to take time and sink into their music, we also recommend that Solstice Coil will embrace a more naked approach for a follow-up. The band has already proved that it can richly decorate its songs - now it's time to tune the songwriting and vocal performance, and make the songs a bit more catchy for those who will not dwell on the band's albums as long as we did in order to find the curiosities. (7/10)


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