Review Summary: I have never seen such a shameless copy of another band's material. Soul Secret steals themes, melodies, and lyrics from Dream Theater albums such as "Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence", "Distance Over Time, and "The Astonishing".
In a couple of my previous reviews, I have mentioned the band I was reviewing contained major stylistic influences from other popular bands in the genre. And hey, I get it. To one extent or another, all art comes from taking elements from other artists (or nature) and adding some pizazz of your own to make it unique. So, I don’t put it lightly when I say that Blue Light Cage is one of the albums in prog metal, at least from what I have listened to, that most blatantly steals from another artist since Soen dropped their debut album.
This album is heavily, almost astonishingly so, inspired by Dream Theater. So much that I can’t help but imagine during every step of the album making process, from the writing, to the performing, even in the mixing, the band members were telling each other “Hm, Lino’s voice is not quite James LaBrie sounding enough guys. We need another round of Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence.”
Essentially what one can expect from this album that, songwriting wise, production wise, and technicality wise, is pretty much to what you would get from any random Dream Theater album just with an additional drop quality. Not that Soul Secret has made a poor album, much the opposite: that they are being compared to, one of, if not the most respected band of the genre. From Dream Theater’s span between Metropolis, Pt. 2: Scenes From a Memory and Black Clouds & Silver Linings, they had the most technical guitarist in the genre, they had the most technical drummer, most technical keyboardist, bass player, etc. However, as far as musicianship goes, Soul Secret pales in the shadow of their idols.
But with Dream Theater put mentally aside for a second, their musicianship in reference to the rest of the prog scene is actually pretty stellar. Each musician can play a mean solo, and they all synchronize really well with each other. The guitarist Francesco Cavezza is extremely talented, I think his riffs are the building blocks to each of Soul Secret‘s songs. Additionally, a lot of their high points of the album are in the instrumental solos; the band is able to pull off some highly impressive solos and technical wanky sections, which any Dream Theater fan can appreciate.
When it comes to the vocals, the singer Lino Di Pietrantonio can make a very convincing LaBrie impression, it’s super uncanny at times to the point I would say the similarity is no coincidence. For instance, I want everyone to listen to Lino’s section at 2:25 of “A President’s Speech” and tell me it wasn’t stolen from Dream Theater’s song “The Great Debate” at 8:00-8:40. There were other moments from this album that recall some memory I have from another Dream Theater song. For those who are not necessarily Dream Theater fans, don’t worry. They also have a Haken-esque song on this album “Jump Right In”, which has a ton of Haken vibes in its vocal style with a falsetto hook that reminds me of the A Capella section of “Crystallised”.
I can’t help but be pulled between two trains of thought. On one hand, what makes an album original is how inconspicuously it can hide its inspirations in the artwork with its own creative essence. In this case, it’s glaringly obvious where Soul Secret got their sounds and there is not much new that they’ve added to the mix. Therefore, one can argue that Soul Secret is not being too original here. On the other hand, when judged in an isolated chamber where impact on the prog scene and originality are not factors, this is not a bad album. A part of me wants to go a step further and say that from a compositional standpoint this is a really good album. It has memorable hooks, it has adequate production, it has skilled musicians, progressive song structures, and creative transitions. After all, if Soul Secret really did copy Dream Theater as closely as I am saying, the songwriting and musicianship must therefore must be pretty good. And I believe they have provided as much.
What held this album back is that they so blatantly copied other bands without adding much new. I can sympathize with a band who makes a very similar album to another band’s style if it’s their demo, or their debut, or even an EP. But when Soul Secret is coming into their 4th or 5th album and they still sound like a dollar store Dream Theater band, their lack of originality is unacceptable. These are skilled and practiced musicians with decent songwriting capabilities. I believe they have the talent to become something unique. They don’t have to keep playing in another band’s shadow to be successful.