Status Minor - Ouroboros (Lion Music)

Rating: ???

Review

Finnish prog metal band STATUS MINOR turned some heads with their 2009 debut 'Dialog', and now they are ready to blast the progressive scene in 2012 with their sophomore effort "Ouroboros".

All members in this band are top quality performers. Vocalist Markku Kuikka sings for fellow Lion Music progressive artists Gronholm, guitarist Sami Saarinen performs with the Scandinavian power act Tomorrow’s Outlook, and drummer Rolf Prive hits the skins with everyone, including melodic hard rock wonders The Magnificent.

While "Ouroboros" is a strong album throughout, you soon notice that three key elements are driving the overall sound. The first is Sami Saarinen's guitar work, which is dazzling and technical enough to satisfy most progressive metal fans, and subtle and steady when that's called for. The second is Jukka Karinen's keyboards, which play a huge role in how these songs sound. So often the keys can sound like an afterthought or simply echo what the guitarist is doing, but that's definitely not the case here. And of course there's the vocals. Markku Kuikka has an amazing voice and a terrific range, and he knows just when to break out of that steady mid-range to deliver some extra emphasis.

Most of the songs on "Ouroboros" clock in at the 4 / 5 minute mark, given an idea how melodic and accessible they are. A smart move, they're more effective that way.

"The Wind" and "Hollow" kick off the album in splendid 1-2 fashion, as singer Markku Kuikka lends his powerful vocal ability to two tracks that are extremely well played and catchy, featuring no shortage of blazing guitar and keyboard passages. After a riff display from the first two songs, you get into the slower piano lead of "Glass Wall", a tremendous song with plenty of emotional kick. A contender for album highlight, packing a strong commercial punch. Fans of of the excellent band Seventh Wonder would find much to enjoy throughout this track and indeed the album in general.

Midway through the CD we have guest lead vocals by Anna Murphy (Eluveitie) on the reflective ballad "Like A Dream", that stretches the sound of Status Minor into more Evergrey territory, providing Sami an opportunity to showcase his slower melodic shred skills.

"Confidence of Trust" has the piano taking the front and center again, with Kuikka doing a great job on this vocal laden song. Things pick up with a menacing uptempo display which comes via "Stain" producing a mix of all the elements that make this band very noticeable and noteworthy. The battery assault continues on the track "Smile" with the musicians flexing their instrumental chops, as it turns into riff city complemented with some great snare/double bass tempo changes.

"Flowers Die" borrows a page or two from other Prog Metal bands with a lesson in tempo shift and mood. There's wonderful slower progressive nuances on this track with dramatic crescendos all over.

The last and final epic song "Sail Away" is a mastery of progressive metal, the slow build up, the elaborateness of the keys and guitars, the smooth vocals and brooding lyrics all add to this majestic song which ends the album on a melodious uplifting note.

Status Minor has put together in "Ouroboros" a great collection of songs full of quality high pitched melodic vocals and crunchy guitar riffs, plenty of keyboard orchestrations and just enough soaring melodies to make these songs memorable.

One thing is certain about this Finnish prog metal act; these guys have solved the equation for delivering intricate riffing reminiscent of some of the more mainstream bands in genre, but the kicker is that they actually incorporate enough layers of diversity into the music to distinguish themselves from the crowd without compromising what they really are.

With a solid production and stronger songwriting than the debut, "Ouroboros" is a fantastic album from a band that deserves a lot more attention not only in progressive metal circles. Fans of Circus Maximus and Seventh Wonder in particular should definitely enjoy this one. Highly Recommended.