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Uriah Heep - Sonic Origami CD (album) cover

SONIC ORIGAMI

Uriah Heep

 

Heavy Prog

3.18 | 126 ratings

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TCat
Special Collaborator
Eclectic / Prog Metal / Heavy Prog Team
2 stars 'Sonic Origami' is the 20th full-length studio album from Uriah Heep. This one was released in September of 1998. At this point in the band's history, the members were seeing more consistency in their line up than they had for a long time. Lead singer Bernie Shaw had been the lead singer now for almost 10 years, and would continue to be up to the present day, making him the lead singer longer than any other previous vocalist for the band. Mick Box (guitars) of course is the one constant force behind the band. Phil Lanzon (keyboards, vocals) has been in the band now since 1986, and continues to the present day. Trevor Bolder had been playing bass for the band since 1983, and Lee Kerslake (drums) was still going strong as he had been since 1981. Unfortunately, this would be Lee's last album even though he would remain with the band until 2007, bad health would force him to quit the band before their next album 'Wake the Sleeper' would be released in 2008.

This album would only be released in Japan initially, and didn't see a released in the US until a year later. The band was still continuing to follow the pop/rock style that they had been chasing for several years now, and their 'unique' sound of the 70s was long since abandoned. However, there is a degree of nostalgia here as the first track 'Between Two Worlds' was dedicated to the original lead singer David Byron, who died in 1985, and Gary Thain, the bassist who was with the band in their peak, who died in 1975 after being fired by the band and died of a heroin overdose later the same year. The track is emotional sounding enough, but it is quite straightforward hard rock-pop that they were playing at the time. Shaw's vocals are great however, and it seemed that the band had at least settled on a vocalist that could do justice to the legacy of the band that started with Byron. Otherwise, the track has all of the features of a great hard rock song with a killer solo from Box at the final part of the track.

So, everything is sounding promising at first. The album cover is tasteful, some of the tracks have durations over 6 minutes, and the album is following the decent 'Sea of Light', so the expectations were high for this one. Most of the tracks are consistently written by Box and Lanzon, except for a few, one of which is the 2nd track 'I Hear Voices', which is written by Bolder. This one, however, is totally commercial sounding, very typical arena type hard rock. 'Perfect Little Heart' follows in the same formula, and it seems we are back to mediocre rock/pop music. 'Heartless Land' is more acoustic driven, but follows the same style, sounding more like 'Survivor' than the classic 'Uriah Heep'.

As the album continues on, you once again come to the realization that the band is still only interested in playing accessible rock/pop, and, other than the first track, can't even be considered hard rock. One mediocre, uneventful song follows another. Even the longer tracks don't carry enough weight or reason for the extra time. Nothing continues to stand out on this album. On 'Change', they try to have a symphonic feel to the track during the synth heavy instrumental break, but it seems quite watered down. On 'Across the Miles' the band even pays homage to the band that it is trying hard to be like as it is a 'Survivor' cover. Shaw does an okay impression of Steve Perry here. But it's just more mediocrity. 'The Golden Palace' is a long 8+ minute track that makes an attempt at orchestration, but even though it's a nice attempt, there is nothing progressive about it, and it has too much of a religious overtone to it to be appealing to me.

It's a shame that the band had to go on this long trying to chase down a comeback that wouldn't happen, especially when they were trying more to sound like 80s and 90s rock/pop bands than they were trying to resurrect their unique sound. The band had a lot of hope for this album, but it ended up not charting in any country, and the band stopped releasing new studio material for 10 years. As much as the fans wanted to have a real comeback album, nothing they could say or do would change the fact that the band couldn't replicate their popularity of the past. The music just lacked the spirit of their past music, and the fact that they were trying to copy other hard rock bands to try to get some sales by using their formulas just wasn't going to be the thing that would bring the band back into notoriety. The album just ends up being another mediocre attempt to bring back their glory days, but it sounds nothing like what they did back then. This one is only for lovers of soft, arena rock.

TCat | 2/5 |

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