Torture Tunes

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For a number of years my family and I have had the pleasure of witnessing Jeff Scott Soto on stage with Trans-Siberian Orchestra. Not only is he the soul man for TSO, he’s the gritty front man for his group that lays down some heavy duty hard rock vocals. When he’s out with TSO, he only gives a taste of his vocal power. Listening to his records, you can feel the velocity of the grit and angst he pushes out. He’s versatile and doesn’t keep himself pigeon-holed so there are mellow moments. His band is one hard rocking group of guys that show strength in and out of the pocket with tight rhythms that move and make you groove.

Kicking off with a loud and heavy start is “Final Say”. What a slug in the gut. No pulled punches here, just full on heavy rock and the second track, “The Fall,” is another exercise in hard rock “how to.” For a lesson on how to write a rock song, have a listen to “Wrath.” It’s a kick in the head and a steel pipe to the knee caps that leans toward heavy metal, with a hard rock back beat that delivers a triple shot of caffeine with an energy drink chaser. The anthem, “Break,” cuts loose on a more grungy rhythm when it hits. The bassist gets funky on the intro and throughout the song there is that, “I can take over the world,” vibe. This song is a real pick-me-up when you’re feeling down.

“Narcissistically Yours” mixes soul and rock with heavy blues. I like the way they sing the pre-chorus and execute the rhythms in a bluesy fashion. This leads into the song “End of Days” which starts off mellow with soothing sounds on the keyboard, a touch of sax, and a children’s choir that gives it a Pink Floyd feel. Then, at the four minute mark, all hell breaks out. Soto sings like he’s gritting his teeth and the band works with his anger. Again, the bassist finds his way out of the pocket and places runs and fills wherever he can. The high point for me in this song is the bridge section that brings back the choir. At a little over nine minutes long it never loses my interest and reminds me of what Fates Warning does in their songs.

Taking you through busy streets and dizzy heights is the title cut, “Inside the Vertigo”. This song literally makes you spin as you listen, flipping you up, over, and around as the music revolves and turns you inside out. Man, what a buggy ride! Good thing the next song isn’t as maddening. “When I’m Older” is a mellower tune to bring the blood pressure back to normal, but don’t think for a moment that it’s not heavy. The lyrics are deep and pensive and the solo rips.

“Trance” takes you by the throat almost immediately with its techno/grunge action. I thought Jeff would bring the death metal in his voice, he didn’t, but he reached down and picked up the soul factor to new levels. Again, the band banged out harsh rhythms and the guitarist didn’t stop, I don’t think he can! I love the Deep Purple vibe in the song “Jealousy.” The chorus deviates from the vibe, but rhythmically, tonally, and even in the solo, I get that DP feel. This is one of my favorite solos that Jorge Salan of Soto’s group lays down. Throughout the record, he’s always changing things up and keeping it fresh.

Another influence I see in Jeff Scott Soto’s singing is the vocal styling of Lane Staley. Soto and the band channel their inner Alice in Chains for the song “Karma’s Kiss.” There’s that whole melancholy, I want to poke holes in my knee feeling. I don’t know how else to explain it, it’s a great song. “Fall to Pieces” ends this album with a full on hard rock attack. Start to finish, this song will satisfy your hunger for pure groove turned up to 20. Over at 3 minutes 40 seconds it ends so abruptly you don’t know if there will be a crescendo, another song, or someone to say, “Okay, song’s over. You can go home now.” Whatever the case, it left me wanting more and if you have read my reviews before, you know that’s what I look for.

All these songs are #1 on my chart. The band is out of control behind the soul of Soto. There’s David Z (TSO) slappin’ and groovin’ on bass, Jorge Salan shreds on guitar, BJ plays keys, and Edu Cominato beats the drums. If I could have a handful of CD’s on a desert island, I would have this one in my grasp, I give it a 10.

Go to and get your copy of SOTO Inside the Vertigo. It will be the best ten bucks you ever spent!

Tim Duran, HMS

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