Review Summary: A good idea marred by mediocre songwriting.
Now, I’m not a big death metal fan. I’ve never honestly been a big death metal fan. I’ve never come to like most of the guttural vocals, the downtuned chugga-chugga guitar marathons, the guitar solos dweedling at 250 bpm, and the hyper-intense blast-beats bouncing about every death metal album like overexcitable puppies. So when Synastry’s latest came popping through my mailbox, I was not really overly excited to start listening to the thing once I read the paper folded up in the envelope. Apparently, these guys are being marketed as industrial death metal of sorts; the label alone conjures images of robots ripping apart bodies with their steel limbs, drawing out their intestines and gut to allow the maggots to roam.
Well it’s a good thing this record is not the bloody, brutal type of death metal. No, this veers more into the melodic death metal realm, coming closer to say, Arch Enemy, than Morbid Angel or Suffocation. The blast beats are not as prevalent on this record as on most other death metal, and the material seems to be stuck in a sort of mid-tempo chug rather than the outrageous speeds found elsewhere. On one hand, that is a good thing, because it prevents the whole record from sounding like a chaotic mess. But on the other hand, the mid-tempo chug needs to be accompanied by some sort of hook, and that is really the biggest problem with this record.
It should have been an intense disc, but for a death metal outing, the whole thing feels sort of tame. The vocals are your everyday death metal grunt, but they aren’t technically super-de-luxe, like say Akerfeldt or Stanne do them, nor is there a Lord Worm aesthetic to them, with all the brutality and anger. Instead, they feel kind of middle-of-the-road, like the vocalist is just belting out the words without any sort of conviction or intensity. It feels sterile and tame and especially considering the already a-melodic nature of the record, it’s a pity that none of the vocal lines seem to have any sort of staying power to keep you from floating off into Dullsville.
There is also a lack of instrumental songwriting present on the album. Now, I’ll give the members their share of musical competence, but what they don’t do is write good riffs or musical tunes that keep the listener engaged. The stuff on offer isn’t outright bad either, though; again the riffs seem more like something Fear Factory would write on a bad day, with the industrial aesthetic but lacking that extra pinch or groove. The production of the guitar sound is deep and beefy, but the guitarists fail to take advantage, as the actual riffs being played seem to inevitably blend together into some sort of riff soup.
Not even the guest spots on the album can save the tracks from being mediocre and average tunes. Johan Liiva (formerly of Arch Enemy) does some guest lines on Visions of Anger, but his voice wasn’t impressive with the Swedes back then and it isn’t with the Canadians right here. And the downright tedious pseudo-ballad featuring Alissa White Gluz (The Agonist) may be a departure from the metallish onslaught, but the semi-acoustic melodies are too limp to actually carry a slower tune.
Now, part of the problem may be that the band is young and hasn’t completely decided what route to take yet; enhance the industrial stylings and go for a more Fear Factory/Rammstein-esque approach or pursue the more death-metal laden style in the vein of Arch Enemy. Maybe with a good tour and some live playing experience under the belt, they’ll realise that there’s something they have to offer to the listener to keep sustained interest. But for now, these guys kind of fall by the wayside as they try to glue two things together in a way that just never seems to work out right for them; and it’s a pity they went in this direction because if they had fully honed their songwriting craft, this might well have been one of the more impressive debut albums of 2008. And seeing that talent go to waste is actually the biggest disappointment involved with this record, as they probably could have made this into something that could convince even a sceptic like me.