Review Summary: Some great, energetic and powerful industrial metal.
Crossbreed is an industrial metal/shock rock band origing from Florida, USA. They play a very synth/electronic's based style of industrial metal which also takes influences from nu metal. Their style has been described as a hybrid of NIN, Marilyn Manson and Ministry, which is done very aggressively. Synthetic Division is their debut album and their only one that managed to get even a little bit of attention.
This is an album that has some flaws, but for my big surprise it still delivers very well. The main weight of this album is on the shoulders of the vocalist James Rietz and the man who does the electronics, Dan "DJ" Izzo. To put it bluntly, this album would be nothing without the vocals and the electronic/synth effects. It seems that the guitars are constantly led by the electronics and drumming so they don't really stand out in this album. They give a very good background to the songs, but aren't great independently. Another thing that you can recognize about the guitars immediately is that the guitarists just aren't allowed to show their skills, well not at least in their full potential, because during the majority of this album those guys play only very standard riffs and power chords that don't stand out with great complexity. On some songs, for a glance, there are some signs that the guitarists could play a more complex style, like the cool high pitched riff in the song "Painted Red" , but when excluding these rare songs/moments, the playing is just power chords and usual heavy, low riffs.
One thing that is very interesting is that, while this album is full of great electronic effects, you can still hear the bass on the slower parts very well. It's very low-tuned and gets in the ear well. In the fast parts the bass blends in a little with the electric guitar, but overally it does a better job of standing out in the overall sound.
The drumming is also one part that stand's out well. It's not THAT complex, but it isn't very usual either. It is surprisingly aggressive for industrialized metal and doesn't have that simple main beat on each song, that a lot of industrial band have. The drummer also uses the plates a lot (Ride cymbals and Hi-hat's). Hi-hat's are the ones that are used the most . The bass drum is also heard very well, but this isn't very surprising, since it's heard well in most industrial bands.
But before I said, that this album wouldn't be anything if it wasn't for the vocals and electronics, and some may wonder why is that? Well the answer is simple really, those two elements bring this album to life. The electronics combined with the synths give the album that one of a kind feeling, what you can't get from anywhere else. They create the atmosphere, they guide the guitars, they give the whole mood to the album. The effects created on some songs are really really cool, like the somewhat dropping water effect on "Underlined", or the great electronic sounds on "Breathe", which make it one of the best on the album.
So after all that some may wonder what's left for the vocals then. Well the singer, James Rietz, really ties the album together. Like I said before, some instruments have bigger parts and are more significant than others, but the vocals are the ones than bring it all together into Crossbreed's unique sound. The singer himself is quite a character, I must say that he hasn't got the best singing skill at all compared to some other metal singers. It hasn't got a very melodic feel to it and he even misses the note sometimes (luckily this is very rare and it encountered only on one track). But dear lord, his voice is awesome. His voice and Crossbreed's music are like die-casted together, and I'm not joking here, Crossbreed wouldn't be anything if it wasn't for the voice of James Rietz. His voice is angry, icy, but still full of emotions. For the best example of how his voice and the rest of the band fit together perfectly, one should listen to the song "Breathe", where the great voice is made even better thanks to the big support of synth's and electronic effects. Rietz's screaming is angsty and the clean vocals are filled with emotions, what one might not detect right away, but on a closer listen it is seen that Rietz really puts all his got into the songs. His voice is a little bit similar to the one of Jonathan Davis from KoRn, only it seems more emotional, remaining mysterious and icy at the same time.
Now I mentioned before that this album has some flaws. One of them is the lack of innovation and new ideas. This is best displayed at the end of the album because the last 3 songs are much weaker than the rest. "Concentrate" is a song that is very fast, but it has quite a poor, and bored sound. "Regretful Times" must be the easiest industrial song I have heard in a long time and while I like it, it is just too simple. It has those specific, boring drum beats; easy, slow riffs; and the only thing saving this song a little are the electronic effects. The closer of this album is called "Lost Soul" and there is nothing more to say about it than the fact that it is simply boring and seems uninspired.
The second flaw of the album is the above-named simplicity of the guitar riffs, but this problem is redeemed by Crossbreed's secret weapon: energy. The sound might not be the most professional you can get, and the riffs might be simple, but the relentless energy and willpower make it all up. Listening to this album just gives strength and you feel like you wan't to do something big and important at the end of it. You feel really inspired after listening to this piece. This album delivers a migthy blast of energetic, angry, but still full of emotions music, and these are exactly the components needed to make a great metal album. This ain't no classic, but it's inspiring as shit.
The final flaw of this album is that it takes some time to get into. So when you don't like this on a first spin then don't give up right away and say that this band is crap, but listen to the songs again and, if needed again, and I'm quite positive that you shall quickly find at least some songs that you like. And when you do then the others start to grow on you too. I, for example only liked "Machines", "Painted Red" and "Breathe" on the fist listen, but when I re-looked into the album, almost all the songs started appealing to me and finally the only songs I thought were bad were "Lost Soul" and "Concentrate".
So all in all this is a very, very energetic industrial album filled with good emotion and enormous willpower, that redeem all the other flaws it has.
Check into this, and you shall not regret it!