Sontaag - Sontaag

by Jonathan Powell Rating:3.5 Release Date:2014-04-28

You can't blame a band for aiming big, but when you aim for something this ambitious and it fails to hit the mark, then it gets a bit embarrassing. Their press release proudly states: "In the grand tradition of high concept progressive rock comes an epic cross-media hybrid where cerebral science fiction meets visceral rock 'n' roll" 

I was set for Yes meets Eno, and it sounded like a great idea. What I got was all the pieces which would make up a Yes album as produced by a minor disciple of Eno, but pieces that somehow fail to come together in a cohesive whole. The album is awash in electronic waves, ambient and bubbling in the background, with lead synths and guitars twirling around echo-laden choirs, all of which sounds fascinating, and in all fairness, there are moments when I was riveted.

Ideas percolate, seem to come together but then go nowhere, falling flat. The spoken0word story, which I suspect was meant to be somewhat menacing, or at least mysterious, actually sounds a little comedic. A different vocalist might have been able to pull something out of these lyrics that didn't sound like a children's story, but sadly not this one. 

When the the spoken set up shifts into full-on rock 'n' roll, it sounds like Kiss and Rush squeezed into Poison's outfit, then got bored with the whole thing and let their kids take over. Bland guitar solos, overblown singalongs ("Spaceshifter, baby!... Surrender to the void!") aim for passion but end up sounding comedic. 

The story is about a race which is obliged to provide music which is changed into fuel necessary for the survival of their planet. Some people (the Sontaag) had an inherited genetic code which allwed them the power to change energy instinctively. Of course, nothing goes quite according to plan, and there are dissenters about the way that the music is made. This allows the waves of ambient music to alternate with music that might have appeared on a bad 1980s television show (imagine if Manimal had some musical interludes?)

It is clear that Sontaag love Pink Floyd and Yes; it is clear that they are full of ambition and wide ranging influences. Someday, this might be an excellent soundtrack for a campy musical, but as a serious grand sci-fi opera, it falls flat. Rush right out and buy this if you can't get enough of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, otherwise, give this one a wide berth.

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