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Origami, as an art-form, is an infuriating thing to learn. It always alluded me when I was in primary school, with my pudgy fingers just refusing to correctly make the paper fold, with the right angles, to form whatever bird or chatterbox we were making. (I still get annoyed whenever I see an 8-year-old walking around with his hand gloved in some crinkled lined paper ripped from his exercise book, the smug little shit.) One reflection I did have on the craft was that, despite the unobjective beauty produced at a purely materialistic level, both the process and the art itself, had nothing of use in my life, other than being merely something to do to pass the time. Sort of like doing reviews.
Yet to too is ‘Origami’, the third full-length offering from InsideOut Records signed outfit, SOTO. It’s just something to pass the time; it’s pure background noise, with beauty and skill fading insignificantly into a world of boring prog-rock grey.
Not to be confused with the Latin rock outfit of the same name, the SOTO of today’s review is the project of Jeff Scott Soto. The former singer for Yngwie Malmsteen, vocalist for Sons Of Apollo (that supergroup featuring Mike Portnoy), Trans-Siberian Orchestra, Talisman, and even a brief former frontman for Journey as well. Completing this bands line-up here is Jorge Salan (lead guitars), BJ (keys, guitars), Edu Cominato (drums,), and Tony Dickinson (bass).
With such an impressive resume to boast from Jeff, it’s no wonder that the music that he produces sometimes has some fine chops for its soundtrack. The title track here and cuts like ‘Dance with the Devil’ and power ballad ‘AfterGlow‘ all boast their fair share of guitar shredding, drum fill galore and soaring high notes to accompany a cacophony of riffage that anchors everything down. However, despite at times inhabiting the same sonic space as power prog-rockers Nevermore and Queensryche, things never sound that angry or that daring. It mostly lacks the ‘bite’ that’s so required for these kinds of tunes to make any kind of tangible impact.
Case in point: the ironically named ‘Vanity Lane’. Penned as a man vs. man self-help journey, the result sounds like a washed out rock star looking at himself in the mirror and giving himself the “you’re made for greatness, pal” pep-talk that only makes it into the B-roll of low budget Marvel or DC flicks. (Still love you though, Ant-Man). When compared to other dynamic moments on the LP, like highlight ‘Torn’, which evokes one hell of a Dream Theater guitar tone, I have to wonder if, much like Russell Crowe’s Twitter account between 2008-2014, things were are taken just a little too seriously at certain points.
On the flip-side, consider the fact that the final track on this record is titled ‘KMAG’, serving as an acronym for “Kiss My Ass Goodbye“. It was kinda funny when Lamb of God pulled such gaffe on their debut LP with ‘O.D.H.G.A.B.F.E.‘ (“Office Dick Head Gets A Black Fuckin’ Eye”). Yet we’re talking about a bunch of 20-something upstarts there, not a middle-aged, seasoned musician with, admittedly, one seriously good resume sitting behind him. It just reeks of immaturity and myopia, something rarely found on the InsideOut label, honestly.
Don’t get me wrong, there are cool(ish) moments here and there. ‘Give In To Me’ has some grunt behind it that’s impressive, and opener ‘HyperMania’ has some cool riffs in combination with some clever synth pad use. However, aside from these seldom passes, ‘Origami‘ has about as much strength and power as the very paper such a faux-crane is made from.
‘Origami’ is a surprisingly disappointing effort from one of rock and heavy music’s most experienced artists, Jeff Scott Soto. When held up alongside recent releases from label mates like Devin Townsend, Dream Theater and even Port Noir, ‘Origami’ just lacks the excitement, power and sense of adventure that fans of this label, and this brand of music, would have come to expect.
4. World Gone Colder
7. Dance With The Devil
9. Vanity Lane
10. Give In To Me
‘Origami’ is out now.