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SOT - Kind Of Saltz CD (album) cover





3.99 | 27 ratings

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Symphonic Team
4 stars SOT are a dynamic trio of avant jazz metal innovators, hailing from Norway, who have released a vigorous spirited debut, "Kind of Saltz". The orgiastic music jumps in spasms with blocks of jazz epilepsy, and then entrances in the next stanza with lucid sinuous strands of tranquillity. The guitars are always on hand to bring the melodic lines from the hand of Skjalg Reithaug. The tempos are everchanging and jolt the ear driven by sporadic percussion by Anders Hunstad. The final augmentation is the low ominous tones of the tuba expertly played by Lars Andreas Haug. It is perhaps this instrument alone that elevates the music above the average band, as there are few bands who use the tuba with such finesse. As a Euphonium player from the past myself, I can really appreciate the dexterity of the tuba playing, knowing how difficult it is to handle that brutish brass monster.

The album is instrumental apart from some odd Magma like vocal intonations that come across as part of the music rather than lyrics as such. Occasionally there are some odd dialogue effects and whimsical scat vocals similar to Focus' Thisj at times. The tracks tend to utilise a variety of styles rather than maintaining the one, and this is essential to the development of the music and the sheer exploratory nature of the band. At one place you may be blasted with spasmodic jerks of guitar and then on the next track there will be passages of calm tuba. There is an infectious exuberance in the sound, a band that is clearly inspired and content to play the way they feel in a non-conformist manner, and this is refreshing.

The music is out of the box in tracks such as 'Schlatan' that opens with a cavalcade of boisterous brass seizures, and guitar distortion, until it settles on a semblance of a melody before motoring back to jump start expulsions; simply delirious wake up music. The lead break is killer and then there is a brass embellishment replacing a bassline, sounding a bit like the aliens in "Close Encounters of the Third Kind". The tempo slows down for a time until we return to the breakneck speed of the opening and then it ends abruptly; astounding music.

Some tracks are quirky and short, others are more complex and avant. It never gets too much for the ear and grows on you after a few listens. The hammering guitar riffs are off the scale in places but it is the tuba that always appeases my senses. It is such an odd instrument to hear in this style of music but it seems to work perfectly and the album would not be as endearing without it.

'End of Saltz' is perhaps the highlight of the album, opening with a familiar guitar melody sounding like the harmonics in the intro of Metallica's 'Sanitarium'. Then it moves into the jazz odyssey of outlandish avant prog, it never wears out its welcome as the tracks do not meander on one rhythm for too long, but rather lock into a melody or a densely layered time sig, and then get out without fanfare. SOT know how to bludgeon the listener with hammering riffs, and then pull back to allow the instruments to breathe sailing on the crest of a soundwave.

'Tzar Saltan' is another stand out track with an Arabian flavour initially, and then it spirals wildly into fast outbursts. It then slows back to the opening melody. Without warning, it screeches back into the frenetic tempo, before jumping to a metal rhythm and then some quirky melodies that are humorously familiar. It moves into a strong rock guitar figure, and then some high piercing vocals evolve into a new instrument; this is where I am reminded of the work of Thisj from Focus. It is a wonderful way to close the album.

The packaging is very intriguing consisting of a front cover of a salt factory expelling some kind of billowing smoke. An emu screams in terror in the foreground. The factory is oddly designed with tuba bells on either side and an enigmatic parlophone phonogram bell in the middle. This same bell appears on each illustration in the booklet. In the inner sleeve we see that the factory has lifted off as a rocket and is joining its airborne state along with some hot air balloons in the whitened sky. The picture hidden by the CD shows the phonogram bell attached to a cart in some abandoned warehouse with some emus wandering around. The back cover portrays the darkened image of the band. It is an effective design and so compelling that I wished there had been more pages to enjoy.

Overall, "Kind of Saltz" is a powerhouse debut from this adventurous trio, and the bold and brash approach to the music is inspirational. The music is replete with weird and jagged guitar phrases, enmeshed with some hyperactive drum time signatures that move well outside the standard 4/4 rock signature, and punctuated by effervescent tuba and vocals. It is tight, punchy and easy to enjoy. I recommend it for its inventive slant on the music that is always brimming over with complexity and innovation.

AtomicCrimsonRush | 4/5 |


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