Status Minor - Dialog (Lion Music)

Score:

Review

It should come as little surprise to anyone paying attention that there's a lot of great metal coming out of Finland, and fortunately the folks at Lion Music have been paying attention as well (yes, I know the label's based in Finland). In signing Status Minor, they've added a band to their roster with impressive credentials. Formed in 2002 by guitarist Sami Saarinen, the band has released a pair of three song EPs before this, none of those songs being brought out again for inclusion on their debut. Up until the title song, Dialog maintains a melodic brand of prog-infused power metal. The band doesn't indulge in an abundance of showmanship, keeping things wrapped up nicely. The music is mostly guitar driven; keyboardist Jukka Karinen (also in Thunderstone) doesn't dominate the music as some of his peers, supporting the band with tasteful use of keys and piano, coming forward to help strengthen the songs where guitars might not be enough. The same can be said for Markku Kuikka's voice; there's power in there, but he picks his spots and doesn't unleash it all at once.

The songs are fairly straightforward, the band keeping things interesting with periods of explosive drumming from Rolf Pilve, solos from Sami and Jukka (or the two trading off leads) and bursts of power from Markku's throat, while bassist Eero Paakanen stays grounded throughout much of the album (although he hasn't been left behind in the mix). I've tried, but I can't really pick any of the first six songs to highlight; they're all good, solid indicators of what Status Minor are about. “Masquerade” is the most ballad-like of the songs, “Machine” features some of the album's heavier moments and the bulk is somewhere in between, moving along at a steady pace with heaviness and lightness in the right spots.

When the nearly 16-minute song, "Dialog", begins (taking up a third of the album), the band switches to a different gear and the progressive element becomes more dominant. No, I don't say this because of the song's length or that it's broken up into three 'acts', but the song sounds different than the rest of the album, pushing on the boundaries between progressive and power metal. They break through and deliver a song that can probably be compared to some of the other 'epics' in the genre. Featuring more of an emphasis on keyboards and solos, Dream Theater's influence becomes more obvious here, though Status Minor avoids sounding too much like them. For the second act of “Dialog”, Status Minor utilizes two voice actors, portraying a mother and daughter that don't seem to get along very well, if at all. Here, Pilve and Paakanen get to take control of the song, with the rest of the band coming in stronger as the act moves along towards the third act.

“Dialog” also exposes the only real flaw of the album; that a third of the album sounds distinctly different from the rest. That's not to say the album ends on a sour note. It doesn't. The shift in style and approach shouldn't scare you away. The song is well-executed and may be the highlight of the album, but seems to stray from the formula of the first six songs (in sound and structure), so I can't help but wonder if this was the desired result.

Comparisons to other Finnish bands and staples from the rest of Europe or North America can be found, but for the most part, Status Minor sounds like Status Minor rather than a clone of this band or a knockoff of that one. They already have the musical chops to get it done and they've already been writing material for their second album, with recording set to begin early next year. Dialog is a well above average debut that shows why the band has garnered attention and praise over the past few years. A great addition to Lion Music's roster, the ranks of Finland's metal scene and prog/power metal overall, this album is certainly worth picking up.

By N. Lynn