Lion Music (2012)
Finnish metal musicians epitomize toughness and an underlying sense of creative versatility - for many that I gain the chance to hear through my journalistic endeavors play in more than one band at the same time. Take the Finnish progressive metal outfit Status Minor. 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 from gothic/black metal outfit Beyond The Dream and melodic death metal act Solution .45 to the melodic hard rock new supergroup The Magnificent (that features members from Circus Maximus and Leverage).
So it’s understandable that the five-piece took their time for this second album “Ouroboros”, with the writing taking place in the latter half of 2009 and the recordings over a 13 month period in 2010-2011. Writing a concept album around the cycle of love relationships, the band secured guest female vocals on three songs with Eluveitie’s Anna Murphy and seasoned background vocals from At Vance/Thunderstone vocalist Rick Altzi. In the end though, all the star power in the world won’t advance your career if the songwriting substance is amiss- and fortunately for Status Minor, the 9 songs on “Ouroboros” transport the listener to musical highs and lows rarely heard in modern progressive metal.
The album opens with a neo-classical guitar/keyboard harmonic run on “The Wind”, while Markku floats between more understated lower range power for the verses and reaches to his upper register for the bridge and chorus work. The follow up “Hollow” possesses a darker, heavier tone, the keyboard work from Jukka Karinen going for a sinister dramatic appeal – very similar to the “Awake” period of Dream Theater. Midway through the album Anna’s appearance on the reflective ballad “Like A Dream” stretches the sound of Status Minor into more Kamelot meets Evergrey territory- providing Sami an opportunity to showcase his slower melodic shred skills.
The band still flex their instrumental chops in the latter third of the album, as “Smile” has some great snare/ double bass tempo changes while the 10:43 “Sail Away” is their epic tour de force, lots of back and forth riff work and counterpoint chord/ time changes between the rhythm section, keyboards and guitars that should leave most progressive metal followers on the edge of their chairs. My only disappointment- Rolf’s snare tone has too much of a synthetic ‘thwack’ that could aurally hit some eardrums the wrong way. Trust me, it’s not a knock on his outstanding, knowledgeable performance for “Ouroboros”- but the super picky fan boy in me would be remiss if I didn’t take into account all aspects of the band.
Status Minor are establishing themselves solidly as a frontrunner in the progressive metal field with this effort.
Rating: 5 / 6
Composed by Matt Coe