Metal Review – Sonic Syndicate: Sonic Syndicate

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Metal Review – Sonic Syndicate: Sonic Syndicate
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Sonic Syndicate: Sonic Syndicate
Alternative Rock, Melodic Death Metal, Metalcore
Nuclear Blast Records
July 4th, 2014
Release length: 47:24
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Sweden’s Sonic Syndicate is one of those rare bands that has changed themselves so much over the years that it’s almost impossible to look at them the same way anymore. This group was initially forged in 2000 as Tunes of Silence, changing names to Fallen Angels in 2002 before settling on their current namesake in 2005. Much like their name, the band’s sound has also changed over the years from a Melodic Groove Metal foundation to a mixture of Metalcore and Alternative Rock, the style cemented with the release of 2008’s highly successful album Love and Other Disasters. Since then, Sonic Syndicate has been progressing more and more towards becoming a mainstream money maker that now former harsh vocalist Richard Sjunnesson claimed to be due to the label pushing them further in that direction, leaving after the widely trashed 2010 follow-up We Rule the Night. Four years have passed since then, and with the band’s sound practically unrecognisable from what it started out as, it was time to do the traditional “self-titled release to re-establish ourselves” effort with this year’s Sonic Syndicate, the fifth from this four-piece. But have the band continued to push towards radio friendly success, or have they stepped back into the edgy sound that initial fans had originally embraced?

“Day of the Dead” finds the standard Melodic Death Metal formula back at work. Aside the decent breakdowns towards the end, most of the aggressive music sounds as though it were stolen from early to mid-career Soilwork, though the chorus is a bit more interesting. The audio sounds oddly muffled with an enthusiastic clean singing that’s like a mixture of Horror Punk enthusiasm with an Alternative twist you might expect from Modest Mouse. But then there’s “Long Road Home,” changing gears towards early In Flames and Dark Tranquillity, all the while maintaining that Bjorn Strid rougher vocal approach before dropping into the lighter, melodic chorus that skates the line between singing and rapping. This may sound bad, and the first time you hear it you’ll struggle to process things, but the enthusiastic singing that follows the second chorus finds Nathan James Biggs channelling his inner Howard Jones (ex-Killswitch Engage) that still seems to need auto-tuning. “It Takes Me” is on par with this one as well, but doesn’t have a sudden outburst of emotion that requires obvious studio interference.

“Before You Finally Break” alters the mold greatly. The guitars are far more technical with tight Melodic Death Metal riffs that sound great outside certain leads in the bridges. The chorus has a great deal of enthusiasm in the cleaner vocals that keep the Soilwork influence alive, departing from the typical Alternative Rock meets Punk Rock approach. Just after the second, however, the pace slows down and gets a bit more intimate to sound like something lifted from Demon Hunter, an influence that can be felt in the mild “So Addicted” as well. Surprisingly, this one actually does have Bjorn Strid on vocals, though if you didn’t know you wouldn’t be able to pick it out given how it blends with the rest of the vocals. In fact, upon learning and comparing, you will wonder how much of this recording is Sonic Syndicate, and how much is Mr. Strid.

While most of the album is pretty good for what it is, Sonic Syndicate does have some generic cuts cleared aimed at pleasing the general mainstream audience. “Catching Fire” starts off with some heavier riffs and deeper singing to reintroduce that early In Flames sound, but the chorus is simply cliché in nearly every way up to including the simple keyboard notes with a modern digital effects. Then there’s “Unbreakable,” which doesn’t even bother to rip off any Melodic Death Metal band. Instead it ends up a modern Alternative track with additional synths and keyboards that have some The White Strip grooves and the occasional Emo passage. That said, more a strictly Modern Rock offering, it’s one of the better ones in existence thanks to the robust atmospheres that create a confusing natural moodiness that conflicts between sad and empowering.

On top of that, nearly every song follows the same broken down formula of introduction, aggressive verse, clean chorus, aggressive verse, clean chorus, breakdown or expanded chorus with differed clean singing, repeat chorus one or two more times before ending. Any deviations from it are always insanely minor like another passage unrelated to the music, a softer passage that doesn’t need to exist, or even just moving a guitar solo a bar or two away. It’s infuriating to see a group that once had a moderately original voice in the Metal world sink to this abusing this structure more than they use to back in the day. But what’s even more frustrating is that, with everything pointed out saying otherwise about it, Sonic Syndicate is actually pretty good. The strong production, rich instruments, solid transitions between aggression and cleanliness that are well executed more times than not, and generally infectious Melodic Death Metal knock-offs litter nearly every track of this effort to the point where you’ll catch yourself bobbing your head along at the very least and appreciating how well done and catchy everything is.

When you see an established band release a self-titled album, you typically go into it expecting something either extremely poor, or something insanely amazing. Sadly that is not the case with Sonic Syndicate, as it just introduces a band that has no problem trying to sound exactly like all eras of Soilwork in every way. With Bjorn appearing on “Before You Finally Break” there may be more of a reason, and perhaps the harsh vocals by Obviously this isn’t going to change anything in the music world, nor does it break any new ground. In fact if any band mentioned hears this there’s a good chance a cease and desist order might be filed like Jeff Walker did on behalf of Carcass over the Olidous Operettas album by The County Medical Examiners Relapse Records received (or so they touted and slapped on the front of the album with a giant sticker). But, if you’re just looking for something to turn your brain off and relax to, Sonic Syndicate has enough substance to keep you entertained for a while.

01. Day of the Dead – 4:09
02. Black Hole Halo – 4:38
03. Long Road Home – 5:04
04. My Revenge – 4:26
05. Before You Finally Break – 3:31
06. Catching Fire – 4:01
07. Unbreakable – 5:02
08. It Takes Me – 3:47
09. See What I See – 2:51
10. So Addicted – 5:47
11. The Flae That Changed the World – 4:08
Initial Pressing Score: 6/10

Sonic Syndicate
Sonic Syndicate

Digital review copy of this release provided by Nuclear Blast Records.