Soul Secret - Closer To Daylight
Galileo Records
Progressive Metal
8 songs (62'31")
Release year: 2011
Reviewed by Erik

Some bands just have that balance. In the case of Italian progressive metal band Soul Secret, it's nearly a perfect blend, as demonstrated ably on their sophomore release Closer To Daylight. For those of you scratching your head right now, they released their debut Flowing Portraits back in 2008 to rather positive reviews, unveiling a pleasant mix of Fates Warning's syrupy-smoothness, Symphony X-style keyboard backdrops, and a very competent rhythm section. While it didn't blow me out of the water like, say, Seventh Wonder's Mercy Falls, it remains a great album to throw in when you just want to hear some great music.

The same could be said for Closer To Daylight, despite the changed lineup. New vocalist Fabio Manda sings on every song except the final track, which is performed by Arno Menses. In addition, Claudio Casaburi replaces Lucio Grill on the bass. Heading into the opener Checkmate, it's easy to see that the changes actually have improved the band. The riffs are more powerful, the vocals are stronger, and there seems to be a fresh dimension to their overall sound. While there may be some similarities to other bands in general, Soul Secret seems to have found their own unique style.

Manda's vocal range is a bit higher than previous singer Michele Serpico, and it serves as an asset rather than a liability. Despite the rather pop-ish sound he utilizes (which is a far cry from the usual prog/power vibrato you hear everywhere else), it seems to offset the extremely crunchy guitar sound that undercuts the rhythmic attack. Pillars Of Sand really accents this trait well, after a very beautiful ethnic intro. Something you'll notice with Soul Secret, particularly toward the end of the album, is guitarist Antonio Vittozzi's affinity for a great variety of acoustic or clean effects. Details make a great band.

Worth noting are a few guest spots. Anna Assentato provides some brilliant singing on If, which began in a very pleasant new-age form, making me think my player had skipped over to Stream Of Passion or something. Also, Marco Stogli (James LaBrie) lays down a great platter of axe mastery with River's Edge, which throws in some modern-sounding chorus shouts. Behind The Curtain is another amazing, driving cut, effectively setting the stage for the closing number.

Without a doubt, the album highlight is the epic, war-themed final track Aftermath, and this alone is a solid reason to pick up Closer To Daylight. Arno Menses (Subsignal, ex-Sieges Even) is the guest vocalist here, and I get the distinct sensation I'm listening to Andre Matos (ex-Angra, Shaman) during the verses and Jon Anderson (Yes) harmonies on the chorus. The mellow, high-register singing is sublime to hear and gels very well with the rest of the song. A few things that stuck out in particular were the atmospheric guitar harmonies that start around 4:40, some gamer-sounding spoken bits about halfway through that had me envisioning Call Of Duty, and the final two minutes, which are a perfect resolution if there ever was one. I would have to liken this track to similar lengthier masterpieces such as Seventh Wonder's title track on The Great Escape, in that it's very well put-together, interesting to follow, and technically proficient. Multiple time changes and non-intrusive keyboards simply flow by in such a way that the running time feels much shorter than it is.

Nothing on this album is a complete shock, albeit with no filler whatsoever. If you've already heard Flowing Portraits, you'll know what to expect, and yet it still garners repeat spins. This is without doubt a talented band, and they seem to have a promising future ahead if they keep producing quality material like this. Comparisons to Seventh Wonder, Vanden Plas, and even some Flow-era Conception don't come lightly, at least from me, which puts Soul Secret in the "Must Listen To" category. Take a look at that cover art, too -- WWII meets Tim Burton/Zach Snyder?. Unlike a lot of overly-complicated prog offerings, this can be played at full volume like power metal, and it goes down easy like a smooth mix of your favorite beverage.

Killing Songs :
All, but Aftermath stands above the rest
Erik quoted 90 / 100
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