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Malpractice - "Turning Tides" (CD)

Malpractice - "Turning Tides" CD cover image

"Turning Tides" track listing:

1. Best Kept Secret
2. Weight Of The World
3. Irony Tower
4. State Within A State
5. Turning Tides
6. Symphony Of Urban Discontent
7. Out

Reviewed by on September 17, 2014

"'Turning Tides' has everything a good prog metal album should: emotional and melodic segments, fantastic guitar work with great hooks, and smooth clean singing throughout."

I have a sad confession to make: I solely picked this album up for review based on the cover art, which made me think of the opening segment of “True Detective.” I know, I know: you can't judge a book by it's cover, and the artwork frequently is no indication of what's to be found inside. In this case though, I made a good poor decision, because “Turning Tides” is not at all what I expected based off the band title, logo style, and cover art. Instead, there's 45 solid minutes of stellar prog with some classic metal riffage going on.

Despite existing in the progressive metal genre - known for inaccessibility and demanding strict attention from a listener – there's a lot of catchy hooks to be found on “Turning Tides,” and it's a toss up whether the consistently engaging instrumentation or the stellar vocal work is the highlight. Besides the main hooks, there are plenty of little nuances that really make songs stick out, like that Opethian melodic guitar segment about 25 seconds into “State Within A State.” The vocals and subject matter on the track definitely bring out an early Megadeth feel, while still sticking more to the prog style musically.

A pretty stunning range exists on the vocal front, including mostly melodic clean singing but also some harsher vocals on the track “Irony Tower.” The album's lyrical focus is like a more serious version of Freak Kitchen's “Land Of The Freaks,” with the white collar guy who is over qualified and over educated and can't get a job, living a lonely existence in a suburban hell.

Now on to the bad: unfortunately, the production is way off - especially on the first track, where the drums sound overly quiet and far away, as well as on the fuzzy guitar sounds at the start of “Irony Tower.” The production swings between an overly empty tone with too much space between the sounds and a too fuzzy tone where nothing stands out. It seems to improve as the album progresses (or maybe the ears just get used to it over the course of a listen?) but it is distracting in the first few tracks. On a similar note, while there is absolutely excellent material within the songs themselves, the transitions between tracks are pretty abrupt and there's no flow there.

Back on to the awesome side of things, “Turning Tides” is well-rounded musically and offers an experience that doesn't ever get boring. Even the extended journey of the gigantic 15 minute title track is worth taking. “Symphony of Urban Discomfort” is also worth mentioning on it's own, as the instrumental offering is more heavy and technical than the surrounding material, almost like something you'd expect to hear from a tech-death band. With the lack of vocals and a heavily dark atmosphere, the track gives off a welcome Blotted Science feel.

Although there are some issues keeping it from achieving perfection, “Turning Tides” has everything a good prog metal album should: emotional and melodic segments, fantastic guitar work with great hooks, and smooth clean singing throughout. The album is fully engaging on all fronts, with head banging riffs and an ability to be progressive without going too far off the rails into pointless proggy meandering.

Highs: Nuanced prog meets catchy hooks with fantastic vocal work.

Lows: The production could use a boost, and the transitions between the songs are pretty poor.

Bottom line: Prog metal fans: be sure to check this one out!

Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls
3.5 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)