Soul Cages - Craft


Year of Release: 1999
Label: Massacre Records
Catalog Number: MASS CD 213
Format: CD
Total Time: 47:23:00

Soul Cages is one of those prog metal bands that always seems to put out quality disc after quality disc, but for some reason never catch on en masse. With the established list of prog metal heavyweights, it seems that bands like Soul Cages go pretty much unnoticed, and I'm sure that distribution and availability have something to do with it, although how the band ever ended up on Massacre Records is beyond me, as they seem to favor heavier bands over the more melodic, less heavy types; but who's complaining? They've got themselves on a large label, now all they need is a little push from the label to get this disc happening, and it is quite happening. Germany is responsible for bringing us some of the best prog metal of the decade, and I count Soul Cages on that list.

THE STYLE

For those not familiar with Soul Cages, I?ve always likened them to a less complex, more melodic version of Fates Warning?s Perfect Symmetry. Their intricate use of electric / electric acoustic guitars and strings bring me back to the Perfect Symmetry days with the soft intros building up to a fiery ending, and also mostly due to the urgency and dramatic sound that goes into a Soul Cages disc.

Using these combinations of sounds, and adding in backing female vocals, the band plows their way through the disc more focused on bringing the lyrics forward as a result of the urgency in the music - almost as if the music is used to bring the lyrics forward, although I have to admit that leaving out the lyrics from the insert is not a wise move on Massacre?s part, for this is a band built on imagery and atmosphere, and their gift lies in their lyrical content. Fortunately, the singer, Thorsten Staroske, is prepared and gifted to bring forth the lyrics quite clearly despite his German heritage and you can pick out the story from his words alone.

The band is not heavy in the "metal" sense, but borders on that Fates Warning sound circa Perfect Symmetry in which there are many soft passages, that build up to a metal-like climax - the guitars are used as a metal instrument, although Soul Cages doesn't mind toning it down lots of times throughout their music, and it can get a bit light for the true metal heads. Their use of keyboards and female backing vocals is a good indicator of where the band wants to take their sound. Beauty and intricacy is the key to Soul Cages, and if there was ever a band that defines that "thinking man's" music [phrase] that gets attached to progressive music, then Soul Cages fits the bill superbly. Their use of tempo changes blend in seamlessly with their melodic approach, and they certainly do not overdo it in that dept. just for showmanship - this band knows exactly where to put tempo changes, and when to change gears on the listener. I'll say that if you took the atmosphere and intelligence and laid back approach of Sting, and mixed it up in a blender with Fates Warning, you might have a pretty good idea of what Soul Cages would sound like.

THE BAND:

Thorsten Staroske / Lead Vocals, guitar
Knut Nitschke / Guitars
Stephan Tigges / Bass
Jorg Nitschke / Drums
Enrique Foedtke / Keyboards
Beate Kuhbler / Backing vocals

Thorsten Staroske has one of the most recognizable voices in the genre as far as I'm concerned. He does not readily sound like anyone I know. He sings in a very laid back tone, has a mid-range voice, and stays right inside that range without ever veering off into unfamiliar territory. This might turn some people off and cry out "monotone," but if its not broken, don?t fix it is Thorsten?s approach. His goal is to bring forth words, not to show off his voice. His parculiar accent reminds me of a German trying to impersonate an eccentric, English gentleman. He has that very "proper" sounding accent, as if he intentionally tries to pronounce every single word as if it were coming out of an "etiquette" manual, and it has a very profound effect on the lyrics.

Knut Nitschke uses his talent the same way that Thorsten uses his voice - to bring the music and lyrics forward, not for showmanship. His influences definitely remind me of a Jim Matheos style - very distinct and precise...... there are very few leads on the disc, but his staggered plucking and intricate style give off that Fates Warning-ish type of progressive playing in which the guitar work is actually working around the melodies and complementing the vocal lines - almost like a voice and guitar combination that combines to bring the melodies / lyrics to the forefront.

Stephan Tigges plays in a style that again reminds me of the Fates Warning approach to prog metal - luckily, the production is first rate and his playing can be easily be heard keeping up with the guitar melodies, and also keeping up with the interesting time changes found all over this disc. His role in trying to compete with the drums and guitar is a challenging one, but one that seems to be easily overcome.

Jorg Nitschke is one of those drummers that you can?t help noticing, even if you are not a drum fan, or know nothing about drumming. The guy is all over the place, and I get the feeling that he was told to make the beats as interesting and challenging as possible, and he got the job done. I can imagine this guy telling the other players to try to keep up with him; it sounds like the entire band has their hands full trying to keep up with this drummer. His use of double bass is limited, and injected at just the right times. His function is more of the intricate time keeper role than to show off his obvious ability.

Enrique Foedtke uses strings and piano to give the music a nice warm, melodic feeling. There is even a short, 3-4 minute song called "Piano" that shows off his taste for New Age music, and although his role is limited, the band wouldn?t be the same without the familiar keyboard sound they are known for.

THE PRODUCTION:

Soul Cages is known for their clean, precise, spotless productions. Craft is no different, but they have gone to a more raw sound than on their last outing called Moments. This recording is still pristine, but the different tone to the drums gives it a more natural, drier sound than before, when their sound was a little more calculated and incorporated more special effects. It's a matter of taste, but I prefer their previous sound over this one. When a band is as intricate and precise as Soul Cages, that calculated recording just adds depth to it and brings it out more - here, the raw sound clashes with the beauty just a bit. Just a small complaint but nothing that will take away from the impact of the disc.

Most notably, the drums have taken on a drier, almost programmed sound - the snare drum is very forward in the mix, and the reverb gate is heavy yet refined. This almost has that Reading Zero drum sound, very full and huge yet Soul Cages has injected just a bit of dryness to the overall sound. Nonetheless, the drum sound is huge and full........

The guitars are clean, crisp, precise and sparkle with shine from your speakers. From the intricate plucking of acoustic guitars, to the heavier crunch of the electrics, every note can be heard loud and clear.

The bass is tight, hard, and fast. It?s not boomy like lots of metal bands - just fast and easily heard through the guitars and vocals.

The keyboards are also nicely placed in the mix - just far back enough to give off a warm atmosphere to the music, but forward enough to hear them with no problem.

The vocals once again shine on a Soul Cages disc. Despite Thorsten?s accent, every word can be easily heard, and the lack of lyrics make this all the more needed to follow the songs.

The overall sound of this disc is way above average, as is all Soul Cages discs, and their attention to sound is as welcomed and respected as is their approach to every other aspect of their music.

THE VERDICT:

Another winner for Soul Cages. You just don?t find many bands that put so much attention to detail in their music and still go unnoticed as they have. I have to say that if you're a fan of FW?s Perfect Symmetry, and like it a little laid back at times, love those progressive tempo changes, and value quality lyrics and production, you can?t lose with this disc.

I can't imagine why bands like this don't catch on quicker amongst the real prog lovers, although the obvious homage to Fates Warning might immediately send one running to Perfect Symmetry instead of Soul Cages, but clearly this band has something more to offer than just honed chops from their influence. This band mixes some of the most beautiful melodies in with their progressive elements that sets them just a bit apart from the rest of what some would call clone band, but in a large world full of great prog metal bands, Soul Cages stands way out in the front of the pack and keeps delivering quality music despite the odds against them, and that?s what makes bands like this great instead of just good.


Tracklisting:
Pressure (5:37) / Falling (6:17) / Piano (7:24) / The Light Of Day (2:17) / Imprisioned (6:25) / Force Of A Dream (4:57) / Result Of Convenience (3:51) / Before (For Bert) (5:35)

Musicians:
Thorsten Staroske - lead vocals and guitar
Knut Nitschke - guitars
Stephan Tigges - bass
Jorg Nitschke - drums
Enrique Foedtke - keyboards
Beate Kuhbler - backing vocals

Discography:
Demo (1992)
Soul Cages (1994)
Moments (1996) Craft (1999)

Genre: Progressive-Power Metal

Origin DE

Added: November 22nd 1999
Reviewer: Larry "LarryD" Daglieri

Artist website: www.soulcages.de
Hits: 889
Language: english

  

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