Review Summary: If old Sonic Syndicate was your thing, give this a shot. If not, move along.
Sonic Syndicate’s early poppy Melodeath sound offered some catchy tunes. The music was never complex but most of the time it was enough to keep listeners somewhat engaged. However, 2011’s We Rule The Night threw most of that out favor of an even more mainstream sound that couldn’t really be considered metal anymore. An uncomfortable new singer, a vocalist used mainly for backup vocals (not that bad of a thing considering how awful he was), boring instrumental work, sterile production and some of the worst lyrics ever written made the band quit music for some time. It seemed like the only asset of the band was their attractive bassist. Now in 2014, Sonic Syndicate are back with their self-titled album in a hope to regain some of their original fanbase back.
It was evident in the album’s first single ‘’Black Hole Halo’’ that the band wanted to go back to their roots. Nathan Biggs’ improved but still unimpressive harsh vocals, the heavier guitar riffs and a nice change of pace mid-song marked a substantial improvement from awful tracks like ‘’Turn it Up’’ and ‘’My Own Life’’. Because of that I was interested in checking out the album to see how far the improvement could go.
It didn’t go too far unfortunately. The main reason why is that the choruses are mostly forgettable and even song-breaking at times. Nathan Biggs is a competent enough singer, and he definitely sounds more at ease this time, but he doesn’t have the ability to write memorable choruses. They often break the energy of otherwise entertaining songs like ‘’Long Road Home’’ and ‘’See What I See’’ (great song titles I know). It doesn’t help that some lyrics are again excruciatingly awful. The subjects themselves are a bit more serious than We Rule The Night’s though guy posturing but are twice as cliché. However there is diamond in the rough here, and it’s the second single ‘’Before You Finally Break’’. Fast, punchy and catchy as can be, this song (and its chorus) is the best one on the album, in a big part due to Bjorn ‘’Speed’’ Strid’s convincing vocal contribution. ‘’Unbreakable’’ is also a nice softer song that’s worth listening to more than once.
Besides these songs, nothing is really impressive or too cringe-worthy overall. It just kind of goes on and on without a lot of anything interesting to offer. A catchy vocal pattern here, a nicely constructed bridge there; it always does just enough to maintain your attention. However, like I previously explained, each time a song would build some momentum, the chorus would either slow down the song completely or be completely useless. It makes listening to one song manageable but listening to the full album completely frustrating and unfulfilling.
In the end, the album tries, and the fact that it isn’t a complete disaster is already a big step forward. If old Sonic Syndicate was your thing, give this a shot. If not, move along.