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SL Theory - Cipher CD (album) cover

CIPHER

SL Theory

 

Heavy Prog

3.00 | 1 ratings

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TCat
3 stars "SL Theory" is the solo project of self-taught, multi-instrumentalist Sotiris Lagonikas that he formed in 2009. The project is a Heavy Prog style based on improvisation. Since 2010, he has released 4 studio albums and 1 live album. His 4th album called "Cipher" was released in December of 2019. On this album, Lagonikas plays the drums and has recruited other musicians to play all of the other instruments, namely Mike Karasoulis on lead vocals, Alex Flouros and Giannis Nigdelis on guitars, Manos Gavalas on keyboards, and Chris Kollias on bass. Margarita Papadimitriou and Anna T. Tarba both provide backing vocals. Lagonikas worked with most of these musicians on the projects previous album which was a live performance of "Progressively Dark", but other that, has always performed all the instruments on past studio albums. So, this is the first time he has recorded in studio with a complete band. The album is made up of 12 tracks and has a total run time of almost one hour.

The album starts out with the 10-part suite called "The Life and Death of Mr. Ess" which is over 13 minutes long. With part that include several voices, it begins sounding like a choral group and the beat seems to be a rocked-out ragtime, but this soon changes to a more progressive sound which reflects the heavy side of the genre, including some powerful guitar riffs and swirling synths. The vocalist is pretty good and the choral parts help add some power and variety to the vocal sections. It's hard to tell where the several sections are divided, but all 10 parts have names, and the meter, tempo and styles change several times. The music also tends to be structured as a neo-prog feel, but as I said, it is on the heavier side. However, there is a great mix of guitar and keyboard solos throughout. It's also quite ambitious to cram 10 parts into only 13 minutes, but he does so quite well as the music runs quite smoothly from one part to the next.

The other 11 tracks are individual tracks mostly staying around the 3-4 minute mark, with 2 of them going over 5 minutes. The next 4 tracks fall into a straightforward hard rock sound with not much in the way of progressive music. The song structure and sound is just a typical rock sound, upbeat with some heaviness, guitar and key solos in the instrumental breaks, nothing unique that stands out at all.

At this point, the album turns to its dark section with slower and heavier music. The music slows to a more ballad style on "If It Wasn't for You", which goes by without hardly any notice at all. "Anyone, Anymore" begins slower, but turns dark with heavy guitar chords and a bit more progressive sounds as the band comes in. It's much more interesting after sitting through the previous mediocre tracks. The band tries again for a darker sound with "If You Saw Me Dead", which has some corny lyrics, but the guitar at least reaches for some chunky chords. It's not bad if you can get around the lyrics, but tries to sound like black metal and doesn't quite pull it off. The slow-dark ballads continue for the next couple of tracks, and they all begin to sound too similar.

The next track is "Happy" and it tries to cheer you up with a upbeat track full of heavy bass and brass, but it comes off sounding like a cheap imitation of "Chicago" at their worst. The last track is an alternative version of the cheesy "If You Saw Me Dead". This time it is more washed in synths and electronic beats, but kicks in for more solidity in the chorus and has a nice guitar solo.

In the end, there are only two really great tracks here, the beginning suite which gives one a lot of hope for the rest of the album, and "Anyone Anymore". Other than that, the music is quite straightforward with the upbeat tracks in the first half and the slow, dark tracks in the 2nd half. I kind of like the choral style of the background vocals that appear throughout the album, but by the middle of the album, even these are getting tired. You won't get a lot of progressive music here either except in the two tracks that stand out. However, these almost get lost in the mediocre compositions that take up most of the album. Yes its great if you like your rock heavy, but not so great if you expect a lot of progressive sound once you get past the suite. 3 stars.

TCat | 3/5 |

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