Review Summary: Authentically futuristic and cold sounding as Antares may be, there is an already energetic and promising fire burning underneath the surface.
Many would say that few bands dare break out of the industrial metal stereotype of repetitive mechanical riffs and samples. It is difficult to innovate or grasp for originality when something becomes so popular that it’s challenging not to fixate on it. Fear not, for Sybreed are not of this derivative type. They are deserving of your attention.
The year 2004 saw Sybreed’s debut Slave Design come to light, a solid industrial record that largely featured an aggressive and fast paced sound. Despite mostly receiving recognition for the effort, the album failed to garner a lot of attention in the metal community. Before recording their sophomore effort Antares, Sybreed have switched labels indicating something was to change. As Antares shows, Sybreed have certainly evolved during this period of time. Next to Dirk Verbeuren (of Soilwork fame) providing the drums for the album, the entire sound has changed for the better due to the progression in songwriting. The Swiss have opted for a generally more melodic and diverse approach this time around and it definitely improves on what Slave Design had to offer. Riffs and melodies draw from quite a wide range of influences, which for the sake of giving you a chance to discover them for yourself (next to making this tedious), I will not list here.
“Emma-0” is both the start for Sybreed and the listener, as it basically provides a somewhat adequate impression of what the album has to offer, yet does not come close to being one of its strongest tracks in any of the musical aspects. Immediately apparent are strangely infectious grooves laid down by guitarist and producer Drop, providing an appreciated contrast to the -often staccato- rhythm work that largely dominates the album. It is only in the next two songs that we meet the familiar fierce pummeling that was a major part of Slave Design’s sound again. The better production values really shine through here and make the experience all the more enjoyable, culminating in the gradual tempo shifts at the end of “Revive my Wounds”.
While the guitars are generally more restricted to technical rhythm work, keyboards take the duty of acting as the melodic ingredient. This division of labor only goes through some slight alterations in the latter part of the album, which at times features a borderline progressive feeling due to the constantly changing song structures and more diverse sound (“Twelve Megatons Gravity”). The keyboards feature odd melodies and eerie samples throughout the album, though there is an undeniable catchiness and attractiveness to them. The complex drumming is spot on, as many who are familiar with Dirk Verbeuren will expect from him. Though only acting as a temporary studio drummer, his wide and technical influences work in great unison with Drop’s riffing to provide the album with a very strong backbone. Ranging from blast beats to polyrhythms to rich cymbal usage, it will be a tough job for the new drummer Kevin to live up to such a performance.
The problem with the bass is that most of it gets buried under the dropped riffage and thus, while reinforcing the rhythm section, can never truly provide the album with more depth. Though this is adequate for the style used in most of Antares songs, there are more opportunities for the bass to provide just that little more detail than it actually does, and that is regrettable. It’s moments of triumph are restricted to the mid-break instrumental “Ex-Inferis” (where it could still have been more prominent) and the last two tracks “Twelve Megatons Gravity” and “Ethernity”. The album closer is absolutely beautiful but feels strangely misplaced next to the rest of the material, being exceptionally mellow and dreamy of character.
This leaves only Benjamin’s vocals untouched, which are the icing on the cake to build a convincing atmosphere. His voice is not exceptionally powerful even though the emotional and harsh screams are definitely convincing. Most of the natural atmosphere comes from his melancholic clean voice, which is cold and distant, yet strangely captivating. They find a new home in soaring melodic choruses (“Neurodrive”) and passages, which are reminiscent of Gothenburg style in a good way, that appear more frequently on Antares. Utilizing harmonization and vocal effects more effectively and strongly than on Slave Design, it is clear that Antares is the better album, marking the bands growth as separate musicians and atmospheric composers. It will be interesting to see how Sybreed will manage to expand on this achievement with their 2009 planned release “The Pulse of Awakening”.