Review Summary: An excellent start to something that could be great.
Ah, Soul Cycle. Somewhere in the basement studios of Florida, two guys named Mark Hawkins and Chris Catharsis decided to try to make something good out of the emerging "djent" approach so many new artists are taking to metal.
Soul Cycle generally
goes right in the direction that most albums with the curse of the djent label go wrong with relative ease. All it seems to take is acknowledging a need for style, melody, and presence. And Soul Cycle handles this right from the start with opener "Prime."
While the presence of down-tuned guitars with an odd number of strings (which seems to be a djent signature) is apparent from the opening riffs, the way in which the guitars are executed by Soul Cycle seem to prove that the genre isn't just full of mindless down-tuned chugs ala Periphery. Truly, the album feels more like something you'd expect from virtuoso solo composers like Steve Vai, Marty Friedman. What does that mean?
Solos, and lots of 'em. However, the solos seem to bear the heart and soul (no pun intended) of many of the album's songs, winding from point a to point b, interspersed with some sophisticated and aurally pleasing rhythms while painting what emerges as a soundscape. There's a good, solid progression to each track and only very rarely do the tracks fail to come full circle. Generally, they lead very well from one to another, which is great, considering many "similar" bands seem to find transitions an overlooked chore. Songs like "Landscapes to Infinity" are emblematic of how good a band Soul Cycle can be - using interesting effects and multiple layers of rhythm and lead to create something that sounds not only vast, but genuinely intriguing and good
Where, then, does Soul Cycle fall short?
Every once in a while, those more hideous elements of djent seem to come out. Take for example, the start to tracks such as "Your Disease" and "The Routine," which succumb to that djent disease that causes guitarists to repeat the same breakdowns over and over ad nauseum. Granted, there are some really good parts to both of these songs - namely when the lead guitars finally kick in to full effect (and they're really pretty good, especially in "The Routine"). But the build up is so boring, generic, and repetitive that it can make you feel like you've heard the song before. Now, that's only for brief moments at a time, but during those moments it's tempting to turn off what later transforms into something great.
The rhythm section outside of the main guitars is also fairly routine. Drums are all engineered on this album - not poorly, but not with the intent of showing off any sort of skill, either. The bass, at most parts, is very mixed out, despite a few sections here and there that catch the ears. This isn't a huge deal (though some good, audible bass would definitely support this band and boost them up), since a lot of the direction normally provided by bass is supplied by the rhythm guitars here. As such, Soul Cycle's rhythm section is effective in providing background to the guitars and little else.
In all, Soul Cycle deserve a lot of recognition for doing something very good with an emerging sub-genre already dying of stagnation. However, they deserve more recognition for making an album that really is very good and definitely worth a listen. If Soul Cycle vary their style a bit more, learn from their few mistakes, and continue to progress, their next album could be a force to be reckoned with.