posted on 9/2005 By:
I can pretty safely assume that most of MetalReview.com’s readership is familiar with the basic Gothenburg melodic death style by now. This is a genre that many declared oversaturated in the late nineties, but the advent of metalcore has exponentially inflated the multitude of harmonized gallopers to early-nineties-death-metal proportions. Needless to say, the whole sound has become more than a little tired and the majority of metalheads are openly fed up with it. In light of this, it seems a little odd that musicians with the obvious skill and songwriting aptitude present on Eden Fire would choose to pursue it so regularly. Sonic Syndicate do, in fact, play melodic death metal with only the slightest tiny hardcore lean, and to their credit they do it tastefully enough to make it enjoyable. Problem is, obviously, that this shit has been so done to death that extracting any sort of individual identity from melodeath’s stripmined husk is nigh-impossible, and Sonic Syndicate don’t quite have the creative flair to pull it off.
The band does help themselves from the outset by choosing to pilfer a slightly less heavily-abused source for their sonic template. Specifically, instead of stampeding directly into At the Gates-lifted riff territory, Sonic Syndicate cop mostly from the always-excellent Dark Tranquillity. The appreciation of middle tempos, Mikael Stanne sound-alike vocalist, powerful choruses, and prevalent keyboards are all there, though Sonic Syndicate can’t really match the sophisticated technicality or eloquence of their influences. That said, there is plenty of quality material to be had on this release; the band has a genuine knack for writing catchy riffs, and though their song structures tend to be relatively simplistic, they do not come across as rudimentary. The keyboard work here is particularly impressive; they sometimes carry the melody but more often provide dynamic harmony and counterpoint to the guitars, calling to mind at their best Dan Swano’s Moontower project or even his Crimson II opus.
For all that, though, Sonic Syndicate doesn’t really make much of a mark. Despite their rock-solid execution, excellent (if slightly overdone) production, and individual talent, they simply cannot escape the reality of being just another highly competent melodic death metal band. This stuff has been done so regularly and with such gusto over the past ten years that there is already a dearth of excellent practitioners available, and Sonic Syndicate aren’t really so good as to force their way into that highly competitive grouping. What’s to persuade me to devote time to this release when there are stacks of Dark Tranquillity, Edge of Sanity, and Eucharist albums to listen to? Unfortunately for these guys, nothing at all. This album is for melodeath fanatics only.
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