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Metal/Prog Metal CD Reviews

Slave to the System

Slave To the System

Review by Gary Hill

How you feel about this album depends on a lot on what you are expecting going in. The math seems simple enough. If you add two Queensryche alumni to two members of Brother Cain and throw in one more member, what do you get? Well, the answer isn't as clear as it would seem. The truth of the matter is, the result is more like a little Stone Temple Pilots, a little Guns and Roses and a lot of Velvet Underground. Mathematicians take note, it doesn't make sense, but it's a fact. There is little Queensryche here, but instead a lot of modern alternametal with some gritty rock thrown in for good measure. It's definitely easy to take, and quite listenable, it's just way too familiar. If you are looking for a healthy dose of that sort of alternative rock sound, though, then Slave to the System should fill the prescription. If what you are looking for is prog metal, you will probably be disappointed as there is little of that on order here.

The players on show here are Ryche drummer Scott Rockenfield, former Ryche guitarist Kelly Gray and Brother Kane's Damon Johnson (vocals and guitar) and Roman Glick (bass). The unknown variable comes in the personage of guitarist/singer Scott Heard. This CD will definitely entertain. There's not a song here that doesn't come across as very listenable rocker. They just play it too safe, and while they say they were trying to create music without borders seem to have wound up in a fairly tight box along with a lot of other music. Don't get me wrong, they do it better than most of these artists, it's just there's nothing groundbreaking here.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2006 Volume 1 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Stigmata
They waste no time getting to the part that rocks, this comes in gritty and a bit dirty with a riff that's a cool groove oriented, nearly stoner metal. The vocals here feel a lot like Axel Rose. This one is a strong opening number. It's got enough familiarity to be a pretty easy one to catch a grip on. The instrumental break has some cool moments and the crunchy main structure is fun.
Ruby Wednesday
This comes in more metallic yet with a more nu-metal sound. They drop it back to just percussion and vocals for the verse, but this really sounds like a hundred other bands. Still, the chorus comes in with a very catchy hook. The vocals here are different from the first, but again not unlike those we've heard in a hundred modern bands.
Love This Life
An electronic blipping sound starts this, then it comes in as an acoustic guitar based ballad. This has an interesting vocal arrangement, and while still having that alternative rock basis, feels a little bit prog oriented at times.
Slave to the System
Another with a strong metal edge, this one is pretty firmly in the nu-metal vein, but there is one killer Sabbath like riff entrenched in this one. As they drop it to run into the instrumental break, this feels like it could have come right out of Sabbath's Volume IV. They also throw some smoking guitar solos over this backdrop.
Cruze Out of Control
This is another fast paced one that feels a lot like Stone Temple Pilots and their ilk. It does have some meaty guitar sounds and a little bit of punk attitude at times.
Abyss
This comes in as another acoustic based balladic number. It's a pretty typical track for the genre, but they do a great job at creating power and drama from it. It also gets rather heavy towards the end.
Disinfected
Now, this one comes in super heavy and frantic. It's one of the most metal moments of the album, and a killer rocker. This doesn't break any drastically new ground, but it definitely is a smoker.
Gone Today
A rawer hard rock alternametal sound shows up on the intro here, then they drop it down towards the classic rock arena ballad style. The arrangement throughout is pretty cool - not earth shattering, but definitely solid. They put in a killer high energy jam a couple spots in the midst, though, that is pretty impressive. They turn this into a smoking outro, too for the fade down.
Will You Be There
They drop it back down to another ballad like number, this one rather bouncy and classic rock in texture. They crank it out later, but it's still pretty typical of this type of song.
Leaves
This is probably the most creative track on show here. It comes in with a cool, almost funky groove, and these guys pull an awesome texture out of this mellower rocker. They turn in a bluesy, mellow fusion like instrumental break later that is very tasty. This one is my favorite cut on the disc.
Ragdoll
Here's another point where they change the game around a bit coming in with a mysterious sounding killer modern rock sound. This one cranks into a chorus that is probably the most Queensryche like music on show here. It's a tasty and cool song, it just that again, it's not all that fresh. It feels like a number of modern rockers, with even a little Nine Inch Nails thrown into the mix. The vocals here call to mind the Rolling Stones just a bit.
Walk the Line
This one comes in tentative and blues oriented, and they start it off in more or less a ballad mode on this backdrop. No surprises here, they play this one by cranking up the modes they've started, but it does include some exceptionally tasty guitar work.
 
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