3.5 out of 5 Stars!
Puppet Show originated in California in the late ’90s, and the group’s debut album appeared shortly thereafter, being one of the many purchases I’d made through the Kinesis Records website nearly two decades ago. At the time of purchase, I had hoped to rate Traumatized a tad higher on my rating scale, perhaps giving it a 4-Star review or better, but just couldn’t bring myself to do it. And even after reexamining the album through the years, giving it numerous “fresh hearings,” I eventually realized that time will not be able to erase the initial issues I had with it.
First let me say, that overall, this band showed a LOT of promise. On lengthy and complex tracks such as “Relativity,” “Marathon,” The Ring of Truth,” and “In the Heart of Man,” although Genesis influences creep up frequently, I give the band props for not completely duplicating the sound and for developing its own unique style when it came to instrumentation and song arrangements. Nevertheless, the band’s primary influences are all too obvious, therefore, the music on this release should certainly appeal to fans of Genesis, plus early Marillion, IQ, Pallas, Twelfth Night, and various other bands of the Neo-Prog variety.
My general problem with Traumatized, however, isn’t with the band’s musical influences or the compositions themselves, but with the vocals. Granted, the singer is “okay” and definitely has the right “attitude” for this genre, using a lot of dramatics in his delivery. But unfortunately, he also has a huge tendency toward sharpness, being “thisclose” to the correct notes, but hitting them a bit too forcefully (or over-dramatically) and, therefore, he ends up sounding off-key during many of the verses, bridges, and choruses. His performances aren’t horrible, mind you, but had he been more precise in his delivery, much of the “cringe factor” I experienced upon initial hearing, and with each subsequent playback through the years, would have been minimized.
Therefore, I feel the overall music and instrumentation on Traumatized deserves at least a 4-Star or a 4.5-Star rating, whereas the vocals drag down the entire proceedings, and I finally ended up giving this 3.5 Stars. Although, based on my issues with this album, I couldn’t bring myself to purchase Puppet Show’s second collection—The Tale of Woe, released in 2007—I did, however, read several reviews that claimed the situation with the vocals did improve. Anyway, be your own judge.