For my first review for Decibel Geek, I was given the choice from a quite few albums. Some were more intriguing than others. Many were new bands trying a little too hard to sound like old bands – boring – and some were actual old bands/artists whose sound hasn’t changed much in the past thirty or so years, which is fine I guess. But I just had to go with the veteran artist who is clearly trying to break out of his usual shell. That artist is Jeff Scott Soto with his new band simply titled SOTO and their debut album Inside The Vertigo.
If you don’t know Jeff Scott Soto, he’s most known for two things: being the first singer of Yngwie Malmsteen‘s debut and sophomore solo albums, and decades later he had a stint in Journey. Other than that he’s always just been around the industry, doing odd jobs here and there, guest singing on albums, and having a few other bands such as Talisman. He’s been known to experiment in styles every now and then but he’s always essentially been a singer who performs in the realm of classic hard rock or AOR stuff, which is why Inside The Vertigo is such an interesting step for Jeff.
The first track on Inside The Vertigo, “Final Say”, shows SOTO is just a bit more modern than what people may have expected. The song is very riff heavy and musically (or rhythmically at least) it can be kind of simple, just like an attempt at making a classic hard rock song, but this time it’s different. The music is so in your face and polished in a way that only modern rock can sound, giving a fresh sound for Jeff Scott Soto‘s career.
One major difference in the album is Jeff’s voice. It’s odd really, when singers age, they find themselves unable to hit high pitches anymore and along with that there is usually a very apparent aging to the singers voice which typically weakens their output. Most singers that I can think of have that very problem, but in Jeff Scott Soto‘s case, I don’t know if he can’t hit the high pitches he once hit on songs like Yngwie Malmsteen‘s “I’ll See The Light Tonight”, but he doesn’t really hit any high notes on Inside The Vertigo. However, there is no actual signs of aging to his voice, if you’d never heard Jeff sing before, you’d think he was just another young singer, not one who’s about to push fifty.
This voice makes so many songs on Inside The Vertigo all that more credible as a modern rock album. “The Fall” has a bit of a sleazy sound to it, while “Wrath” and “Narcissistically Yours” give listeners a thrashy good time. You can expect that Jeff Scott Soto takes a more serious side at many points on the album too. This is particularly on slower songs like “Break”, which has many epic elements to it including strings and an apocalyptic and passionate sounding chorus. The title track “Inside The Vertigo” also takes a serious and dark sound to it that concentrates more on the music and melody than it does on being heavy and in your face, but if you want epic, you’ll love the almost nine-minute “End of Days”. “End of Days” goes from being a dark ballad to a deranged thrash metal song and back to being a dark ballad, taking you on such a great little journey.
Other songs on Inside The Vertigo include one more dark ballad-ish song called “When I’m Older”, a slow and sort of doom metal sounding track called “Trance”, then there’s “Jealousy” which really just serves as a hard rock track that doesn’t quite stand out above the rest of the pack. “Karma’s Kiss” is a song that took a few listens to truly appreciate, but it went from being another penultimate song that I felt was really just there to fill in a spot on the album to being one of my favourite SOTO songs. At first, the constant vocal harmonies were a little annoying. I love harmonies more than the average music listener, but at times I feel there’s just too much present on “Karma’s Kiss”, however now I can’t imagine Inside The Vertigo without this song.
Jeff Scott Soto ends Inside The Vertigo with “Fall To Pieces”. I’d have hoped that this SOTO debut would end with something a little more lasting, something that really differentiates itself from the rest of Inside The Vertigo while still staying true to the albums sound. Rather, “Fall To Pieces” is at times just another hard rock song. It has a pretty solid chorus, but ultimately it could have gone anywhere on the album and didn’t have to be the closing track.
I don’t know if there are long time devotees to Jeff Scott Soto‘s career who may not be too keen on this new modern sound that SOTO presents on Inside The Vertigo, but I sure think it was the right move on Jeff’s part. Along with this new sound seems to have come a rejuvenated Jeff Scott Soto, one who embraced the new sound and made some great tunes in the process. Inside The Vertigo isn’t timeless, but it stands out as one of the better of the very many albums Jeff has released throughout his long lustrous career, and I personally hope SOTO is a band that is here to stay.
To get your hands on this album, click on the Amazon link on the main page to buy it!
“Inside The Vertigo” – This was a tough album to pick a highlight from. While there are many great tracks, none truly stick out over others. It doesn’t have that definitive “wow” track or that one track that best defines the whole album. I pick the title track because there are more passionately dark tracks than anything else on Inside The Vertigo and I’d have to say the title track is the finest of them all. That or “Break”.
Reviewed by Rock Review Phil
8 (Out of 10)
01. Final Say
02. The Fall
05. Narcissistically Yours
06. End of Days
07. Inside The Vertigo
08. When I’m Older
11. Karma’s Kiss
12. Fall To Pieces