Although I'm sure there's a band out there that screws it up somehow, I don't think I've ever heard a band that made the fusion of Jazz and Metal sound bad. Hungary's SPECIAL PROVIDENCE does not tend to break this lucky streak I've had with this style; in fact, this quartet has produced some of the best Metal fusion I've heard in a while. Being both without favouring one or the other, Jazz and Metal aficionados may find themselves debating what to arbitrarily label this music as from dusk 'til dawn, but they won't be disappointed; "Soul Alert" is an early 2012 highly for both styles.
Depending on who you ask, metal fusion could either sound light and only occasionally heavy- as per the case of more recent bands like Germany's RELOCATOR - or it could be a more 'extreme' form, as was true for the style's origins in Death Metal. SPECIAL PROVIDENCE have more in common with Pat Metheny than CYNIC or ATHEIST, and though much of the band's sound on "Soul Alert" is geared towards laid-back, guitar-oriented chemistry, there is enough riff-heavy kick to give metalheads their fix. Genres aside, SPECIAL PROVIDENCE's music is (mostly) instrumental, and surprisingly varied. Kertész Márton's guitar leads are the most immediate aspect of the album, but a prog-canon synthesizer also gets a fair chunk of the 'solo' kudos.
The first thing to strike me while listening to "Soul Alert" was the refined skill of the band. Although the often open-ended instrumentation takes several listens to warm up to, SPECIAL PROVIDENCE hits a nice middle ground between technical showmanship and emotional energy. Think DREAM THEATER when they're not trying to level a small city with speed, and there's a good impression of what SPCIAL PROVIDENCE is going for in their music. Pair that with a crisp sense of production, and "Soul Alert" sounds as professional as any album you might hear in progressive music nowadays.
Barring the two main ingredients that SPECIAL PROVIDENCE make use of in their sound, there was also a slight dimension of Electronica that made for a catchy add-on. Although most of the album focuses on the musicianship and arrangement over melody, the standout track "Lazy Boy" has a ridiculously catchy theme; a simple melody made memorable by a clever use of electronic sounds and pseudo-dance rhythms. Although "Soul Alert" at times feels a little longwinded for its often indulgent musicianship, hearing that catchy motif reprise on the album's last track makes for an incredibly effective finale. As a final surprise, SPECIAL PROVIDENCE wait until the last track to offer some vocals; a higher-register singing that emphasizes the melody. Although it feels a little awkward to hear vocals after an hour of instrumental wandering, it makes for a pretty interesting, albeit brief twist in the band's sound.
Of course, if you're not a fan of the exploratory, 'wandering' experience that Jazz of this style offers, "Soul Alert" may appear inaccessible. For its most-part scarcity of standout melody, "Soul Alert" does take a while to enjoy, but if they had not already; SPECIAL PROVIDENCE demonstrate here that they are one of the most promising bands in Metal fusion today.
(Online April 9, 2012)