The sixth Poverty's No Crime album, Save My Soul, is a continuation of the sound they developed on their three previous discs. It does not see the band breaking new ground musically, but it does have a slightly different production. They worked with Tommy Newton this time, and attained a much rawer and sharper sound. This is somewhat confusing, given Newton's work with bands like Conception, Ark, and Redemption. And I'm not too sure it works that well with Poverty's No Crime's sound -- I certainly think the three previous albums have better production. That said, musically they are quite similar in more than one way.
Given the four-year break since 2003's The Chemical Chaos, which is a solid album in and of itself, the band's small fan base was expecting some kind of a monster album from them. They were expecting a strong masterpiece that would help them stand out amidst a plethora of other melodic prog bands, but this has not happened here. Rather, Save My Soul is an album with some really strong songs and some really mediocre ones, as is the case with its predecessors. "Open Your Eyes" is one of the better songs. It immediately recalls later day Threshold for its use of synths and melodic chorus. The riffing is fierce and there is lots of double bass drumming which forms the framework for Marco Ahrens and Jorn Springub's guitar and keyboard leads respectively.
The album is split between very melodic and heavy pieces, though the heavier cuts also contain lots of melodic passages, especially in the vocal and guitar department. "In the Wait Loop", for example, is a pretty aggressive song by their standards. It brings forth pummeling drums and thick rhythm guitars with aggressive vocal lines thrown in by Volker Walsemann. That said, it does contain a nice bluesy guitar section and beautiful harmonies at the end. Similarly the heavy, chugging guitars of "The Torture" give way to melodic keyboard and guitar passages to balance the single-minded aggression out with classic German melodicism.
The most unusual song is "The Key to Creativity", which is more like a neoprog cut with an added heaviness to it. It is blessed with cool studio effects and tight rhythm movements, where Heiko Spaarman's solid bass stomps over a textural guitar harmony. This is the only power ballad on the CD, complete with an acoustic guitar solo and multiple vocals in the finale. On the other hand, there are some mediocre songs such as "End in Sight", which sounds more like a Euro power metal piece with keyboards. It does contain a little bass solo though. Also, while the beginning of the title track is quite cool, the over-repetition of the main melody becomes overkill. Too bad cause the vocals on that track are really emotive.
The longest song "Break the Spell" boasts an extended instrumental intro with nice melodies which are reproduced by Walsemann later on in the song. Actually most of these songs seem to be built around a main (vocal) melody through this album, which could be the reason why they are all so similar to each other. That said, the keyboard and guitar work on this song is really interesting, providing lots of variety with nice contrasts. As a matter of fact, the album's strongest song is the instrumental piece "Spellbound", a testament to their creativity -- it is filled with lots of layered guitars, mood-intensive synth voicings, and killer bass figures. Why they refrained from writing other songs that are so gripping is beyond me.
I'm still of the opinion that Poverty's No Crime's finest work is The Autumn Years, its weak production aside. But even that one is far from a masterpiece to these ears. It's a shame that, for a band that has been around for nearly two decades, they keep coming up with good-but-not-great albums. Then again, maybe I'm looking for something that they cannot deliver. At any rate, the new album is going to blow their fans away, but it is unlikely that it will gain them many new listeners. This is an album for fans of obscure prog acts such as Mayadome, Divine Regale, Sanvoisen, and Hollow. It's just too derivative for a band on their sixth album.
2007 has been a rich year for fans of melodic prog metal. With albums from groups like Threshold, Redemption, Sun Caged, Circus Maximus among others, it is questionable whether Save My Soul can stand out. We will see what happens.
- Open Your Eyes
- Save My Soul
- End in Sight
- The Key to Creativity
- In the Wait Loop
- The Torture
- From a Distance
- Break the Spell