By Justin Smulison
ROAR! Rock Of Angels
Cipher is the impressive fourth studio outing from Greek prog-rockers, SL Theory. Released by Roar! Rock of Angels in Dec. 2019, Cipher is performed by the six-piece group with accompanied backing singers, while telling the dramatic story of a man raised in the shadow of a tragedy, featuring several elements and sub genres of rock music laced throughout each of its 11 tracks.
The album opener, “The Life and Death of Mr. Ess,” is an emotionally-charged, 10-part melodic rock suite which tells the story of the father of the protagonist. As the title suggests, the character dies at the end. But over 13-and-a-half minutes we hear how the father heralded his son yet apparently could not be a dependable figure; in death, he left the gift of music behind.
“I’ve made mistakes but in the end/I loved more and hated less/I did more and said less /I gave birth to a song/To ease your pain/So what remains of me is in you.”
Like any good performance, the tempo and mood changes from song to song, challenging the listeners’ ears while playing with their emotions. One highlight is the way lead vocalist Mike Karasoulis takes the angry and despondent lyrics from the single “You Never Happened” and delivers pristine vocal melodies in mid- and upper-registers, elevating the song to uplifting. The feeling of gloominess tempered by inspired vocals and oftentimes upbeat is the running theme, which helps tell the story of the son’s life.
The closer, “Happy” is a welcome about face from some of the songs immediately preceding it. As the title suggests, the album ends lyrically and tonally on a high note and in this case, with a heavy funk and soul vibe, complete with horns.
Fans of rock operas and hard rock bands like Kansas and Foreigner will swear they have heard the songs on Cipher decades ago, only to be (hopefully) glad to know they have found new album-oriented rock music to enjoy.
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Justin Smulison is a professional content writer and producer whose first love is music. Smulison’s digital and print copywriting experience spans music, law, true crime, advertising and real estate, among other subjects. You can often find JS in Long Beach, New York, either running on the boardwalk or in the sand with his family.