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Totalisti: Slave to None

One of the first things you notice as you make your way through the fourth album from the Washington State-based band Totalisti is the roar. A loud, gruff, nu-metal roar. And that would be OK, but Slave to None -- among the latest signings by Magna Carta -- is supposed to be produced by Queensryche drummer Scott Rockenfield. Who played on Operation: Mindcrime, man!

Staccato arrangements, vocal effects, short songs, one-word titles and that monstrous roar, however, are all simply an attempt to bridge progressive-metal with the somewhat cumbersome genre of modern metal. There are plenty of odd time signatures at play in these 12 songs, and three of the four band members sing usually in different octaves with a startling degree of harmony, melody and plain musicality. In fact, songs like "Shameless" and "Fallen," sound as if they were almost recorded by a different band than such abrasive tracks as "Severed Ties" and "House of Mirrors." Sometimes, the band combines its two diverse sides into a scorcher like "ETA." These are seasoned players who know their way around a song, regardless of what said song sounds like. To wit: "'Severed Ties" is a song that started out in 7/8, goes to 4/4 for the verse, then goes to 5/4 for the chorus," drummer and vocalist Tom Taitano explains in the promo material accompanying Slave to None, which also hails Totalisti's "snarling" sound as something "that has heretofore never been witnessed." So you can't believe everything you read.

But believe this: Using Queensryche's discography as a barometer, if you worship The Warning all the way up to, say, Empire, don't even bother with Slave to None. If, however, you thought Promised Land was the best album Queensryche ever recorded and even found some redeeming qualities on Hear in the Now Frontier, you might consider picking up this one. And Slave to None is a definite keeper if you still find yourself playing Q2K. By the way, just in case you're wondering, the band's name is pronounced "Toe-ta-list-EYE."

Track Listing:
1) Sick of it All
2) Fallen
3) ETA
4) Refined
5) Severed Ties
6) Blind
7) Dirty
8) Slave to None
9) The Call
10) Whispering
11) Shameless
12) House of Mirrors

Added: October 23rd 2005
Reviewer: Michael Popke
Related Link: Official Totalisti Web Site
Hits: 2719
Language: english

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Totalisti: Slave to None
Posted by Murat Batmaz, SoT Staff Writer on 2005-10-23 13:10:01
My Score:

Totalisti (pronounced Toe-Ta-List-Eye) is a hard rock band from Enumclaw, Washington. Their new release Slave to None caught my attention when I heard that Scott Rockenfield of Queensryche had produced it. It's not too common that Rockenfield will lend his services to other bands, so my interest my piqued. Without getting into the music, I have to give props to Scott Rockenfield for his amazing job recording the bass, drums, guitars and vocals; and Justin Armstrong for his fine mix. The sonic quality is awesome; the guitar sound is thick and full, the drumming and bass playing are skillful and the vocal harmonies are fairly impressive.

With Rockenfield involved, one would definitely look for any Queensryche comparisons, and on Slave to None there is a certain Ryche vibe going on, particularly from their post-Promised Land era. While there are plenty of time changes and various proggy parameters on this album, it would be a bit bold to call Slave to None a progressive metal release. This is more along the lines of hard rock with a lot of guitar crunch and three-part vocal harmonies generated through long hours of practise. The music is old school in style with the occasional guitar solo, but at the same time it opts for modern soundscapes with some semi-growled and semi-shouted hardcore vocals. Mark Stockwell has actually a very good voice; it is expressive and powerful. Most of the vocal harmonies he does with bassist Eric Bagby and drummer Tom Taitano are carefully arranged. They sing in perfect harmony with Taitano and Bagby often singing an octave or so lower than Stockwell to avoid syrupy AOR melodies. But Stockwell will also adapt some more aggressive and throaty vocals as on "Blind", where he will swiftly move between his clean and gruff voice while Taitano lays down a killer percussion rhythm that is both complex and catchy. This is one of the more adventurous songs on the album due to its acoustic passage and industrial overtones.

The guitar tone is often fuzzy lending a truly full sound to the whole song, best noticed on "Sick of It All" with some alternative rock tendencies. The bass guitar is awesome; it grooves from start to finish. "Fallen" is like a Tool song with a more straight-up approach to rock melody and vocal layerings. Moreover, it features a deft guitar solo. Eric Bagby is also highly prominent on "ETA" where he weaves his bass into the mix in perfect sync with the drums, stopping and starting simultaneously. The harmonies created on this song are awesome, bringing to mind Queensryche's finest stuff, until Stockwell spurts out some aggressive vocal lines. "Refined" conjures up images of Alice in Chains both in its guitar work and Staley's hypnotic vocal style. The way the guitar continually repeats the same chord gives the song a plaintive mood which is cut out when we hear an amazing drum fill. I had to think several times of Tom Taitano's drumming evoking Scott Rockenfield's rhythmic intensity. This guy is truly talented.

Unfortunately I can't stand the fast-sung hardcore vocals on "Dirty" where Stockwell employs a variation between rap-like singing and harmony vocals. This song is just too nu-metalish, its Arabic guitar theme at the end notwithstanding. Likewise, on "Whispering" the band tries out some industrial rhythms beats and incorporates these ideas into well played acoustic sections. Whether their motive was to combine modern music with classic metal influences is uncertain; it just doesn't work. One of the best songs is the title track. Its bass intro, Stockwell's Maynard Keenan-inspired vocal style where he plays with modality a lot, the thick guitar chords, and frequent changes in speed are finalised with a guitar and bass solo respectively. Totalisti are an interesting band. If they decide to strip themselves away from those few vocal styles and stick to a more defined songwriting approach utilising modern production techniques, they can be a much better band.

2004 Sea Of Tranquility
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