I’ve been a huge fan of Jeff Scott Soto for 30 years – his time fronting YNGWIE J. MALMSTEEN’S RISING FORCE provided much of the soundtrack of my teenage years. I loved his work with TALISMAN, and his contributions to the W.E.T. supergroup have been nothing short of amazing. He’s back with the second album from his band, SOTO, and I had the opportunity to take Divak out for a spin (April 1 on earMUSIC.)

If you missed SOTO’s first release, Inside the Vertigo, you may be in for a surprise. The band direction is a little darker than a lot of Jeff’s previous work, and it can take a bit to get used to. Divak has a definite alternative metal sound to it, and it’s a little jarring if you put the disc in expecting to hear STEEL DRAGON songs. Most of the tracks have a tough exterior, and some patience is required, but when you get it, you’ll won’t be disappointed. There’s almost a djenty quality to the guitar and bass on a lot of the songs, and the overall sound is very serious and aggressive. The drums are solid and not flashy at all – just really consistent.

There’s also a softer side to the music – “Unblame” is both melodic and somewhat funky all at once, while “Time” wraps a beautifully melodic chorus with one hell of a hook inside of a chunky exterior that could have been written in the early 1990s. “In My Darkest Hour” is a great ballad with a gorgeously emotive solo right in the middle that has me closing my eyes and just experiencing it every time I hear the track.

The musicianship is top notch – when Jeff started putting SOTO together, he looked for some of the best musicians in the world, and he found them. Every member of the band can sing, and the result is some fat choruses that will stick with you and not let go, and the blues rock riffs from the guitars are amazing when they shine through. Unfortunately, the tough exterior of some of the songs just didn’t resonate well enough with me, and that made this one a little hit and miss for me. Overall, it’s a good album, but I don’t know that I’ll be revisiting this release on a regular basis due to the aggressive and somewhat abrasive nature of some of the tracks. I’d definitely suggest giving it a listen, and if you’re a fan of the sound, pick it up.

Also, if anyone has any idea what a “DIVAK” is, please comment below. I’m dying to know.

STANDOUT TRACKS: “Awakened”, “Time”, “In My Darkest Hour”, “Misfired”

RATING: 8/10


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