Rob Johnson & Co. are back with another classy concoction of melodic prog-metal, this time kicking the hooks up a bit yet still retaining their heavy & technical edge. Lead singer Corey Brown really shines on the bands third release, as his melodic and powerful vocal passages refuse to take a back seat to Johnson's shredding Yngwie Malmsteen-meets-George Lynch guitar histrionics.
The first two tracks, "New Dimension" and "Lies Within the Truth" are blistering heavy rockers, with just enough crunch and technical interplay to fall into the prog-metal camp, but the catchy hooks are simply irresistable and they are what really grabs you and never lets go. "Facing the Unknown" again features the strong vocals of Brown, plus great backing vocal harmonies from the whole band. Here, straightforward guitar riffs , symphonic keyboards, and pounding rhythms support the melancholy lyrics, driven home perfectly by Brown. At times I was reminded a little bit of vintage Dokken on this cut, thanks to the vocals and the blazing guitar solo from Johnson. I get a similar feeling when hearing "To Find A Reason", a very heavy track but with a memorable and hummable chorus, as well as the moody and atmospheric rocker "Walk Through the Fire", a tune with a jaw-dropping guitar solo and emotional vocals.
"Dead in Their Tracks" is a relentless neo-classical speed metal feast that will appeal to fans of Symphony X and Stratovarius, with blinding double bass drums, chugging rhythm guitar, high pitched wailings from Brown, and neat keyboard/guitar interplay. The band slows things down a bit on the plodding yet intricate "Changes", a song that has some of the crunchiest guitar on the entire CD. Symphonic metal meets complex prog on the atmospheric "Torn", featuring tons of keyboards, crankin' guitar work, and Brown's pained, emotional vocals. "Thirty Days of Night" is a powerful rocker, squarely in the Dream Theater mold, and the closer "Sands of Time" is a gorgeous piece that has it all, hooks, crunch, complexity, and wild solos. Just when you think it is going to be mainly a tender ballad the band crashes in with some heavy riffing and intricate interplay.
Magnitude Nine's third might just be their best, and while they have moved away a bit from the constant shredding, I think the added dose of commerciality really suits them. This is one of those CD's that pulls you in, and you automatically keep hitting the replay button-it's just so damn addicting. In a time where great melodies are sometimes hard to find in progressive music, these guys keep my hopes alive. It's early, but I think Decoding the Soul will be on many Top Progressive Metal picks for 2004!
1) New Dimension
2) Lies Within the Truth
3) Facing the Unknown
4) To Find a Reason
5) Walk Through the Fire
6) Dead in Their Tracks
9) Thirty Days of Night
10) Sands of Time