Review Summary: Sybreed show a few weaknesses in songwriting, but their exceptional overall sound is still able to set them apart from countless similar bands.
In today’s music, there can be found two general methods of appealing to audiences. The first of these is the creation of a powerful atmosphere, commonly done by establishing a strong pulse or varying instrumental arrangement; the second lies in the actual songwriting itself, with technical ability and catchy melodies impressing the listener. Some bands will attempt to focus more on atmosphere, while others will use songwriting more to their advantage. The best bands, of course, succeed in accomplishing both. A few, however, will put all their creativity into enhancing one of these qualities while neglecting to pay attention to the other.
Sybreed, a quartet from Switzerland influenced by Meshuggah and Fear Factory, make it quite clear on their debut album, Slave Design
, that they are capable of establishing the right atmosphere. Synthesizers and other electronic sounds are commonplace; the idea has admittedly been utilized by thousands of other bands, but the difference is that Sybreed know just what to use them for. Instead of putting them at the very center of attention and downplaying the rest of the band’s performance, Sybreed effortlessly blend them into the overall sound, resulting in a dark, ethereal mood throughout the album. (This is even more impressive when one considers that this is a debut album, where for many bands poor production is an issue.) Like the bands from which they draw inspiration, Sybreed is heavily reliant on rhythm, using a pounding pulse to drive songs forward. Vocalist Benjamin Nominet doesn’t display a vast amount of ability, but his somewhat mysterious voice seems to be well suited for the album’s atmosphere. In short, Sybreed have created a wonderfully unique sound, something that they never give up on.
Unfortunately, Sybreed seem to have given too
much thought to this quality, considerably weakening their songwriting abilities. Of the three major components of music – melody, harmony, and rhythm – Sybreed focus on only the last of these. Melodies are usually limited to Nominet’s vocal lines, while most harmonies revolve completely around the tonic; even the synthesized chords don’t contribute much to harmonic diversity. While the riffs on Slave Design
are generally good, they are also repeated far too often, contributing to and reinforcing the album’s tendency to drag on at times. Adding to this is the fact that the album’s emphasis on rhythm leaves little room for differences between songs. Put together, these flaws make it difficult to listen to the hour-long album all the way through.
Still, Slave Design
is immensely enjoyable when listened to one or two tracks at a time. Opener Bioactive
, for instance, presents a clear example of everything Sybreed has to offer, featuring some of the best material on the album. The frantic introduction of Machine Gun Messiah
serves as a clear-cut deviation from the album’s slower, pulse-driven material, while the softer opening of Critical Mass
achieves the same effect. Played by itself, any one of the album’s tracks makes for a satisfying listen. Listeners who like one track from the album will probably enjoy the rest.
Overall, Slave Design
is a promising debut with a fantastic overall sound and tons of potential – everything that one could expect from a band’s first album. Those who are looking for something familiar yet unique to add to their collection might want to consider what Sybreed has to offer.