Status Minor - Dialog (Lion Music)

Score: 8/10

Review

Between new albums by Amorphis, Thunderstone and Sonata Arctica, a comeback album by Stratovarius and a powerful debut from Free Spirit, 2009 is shaping up to be a very good year for Finnish heavy metal. Now you can add another name to that list - Status Minor, who make their Lion Music debut this year with Dialog, a late contender for progressive metal album of the year.

Like many (all?) progressive metal bands, Status Minor starts with a foundation based on Dream Theater's genre-defining sound, particularly early albums like Images and Words and Awake. But where Dream Theater has focused on sheer technicality and over-the-top progressive indulgence lately, Status Minor went with a more melodic and accessible approach. Guitar heroics and proggy time signatures are offset by some absolutely gorgeous and lush keyboards, melodies that often outweigh solos, and the vocals complete the picture. Markku Kuikka has an incredible mid-range voice that soars when it needs to soar, conveys real emotion and totally draws the listener into each song. Progressive metal is typically “brain music,” but Kuikka's vocal delivery on songs like “Something More” and “Fade Away” make them resonate on an emotional level as well.

With just seven songs totaling 46 minutes, Dialog is a relatively brief album (by progressive metal standards, at least), but there's plenty here for prog enthusiasts to sink their teeth into, not the least of which is the nearly 16-minute title track. The first six songs on Dialog average about five minutes in length and rely more on melodies than prog metal indulgence. “Dialog,” however, is Status Minor going all out in an epic, technical fashion. It still has the same heart and soul as the rest of the album, but this is the song that's most likely to seal the deal with progressive metal fans.

Dialog really is one of the better progressive metal albums released this year. If you're a fan of melodic, accessible progressive metal along the lines of Vanden Plas, Circus Maximus and Vanishing Point, you'll definitely want to look into this strong debut album. You might as well get in on Status Minor now. Chances are, you'll be hearing a lot more about this band in progressive metal circles in the years to come.

Hardrock Haven rating: 8/10