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See, this is another album that I love, but when I'm forced to sit back and think about it, it's actually pretty bland. Songs like the title track, Spit on Your Grave, or Shadow Island are all cool and original songs, but the rest, while still great, really lack substance. When they get it right, holy shit they get it right. When they don't, it's not bad, but the riffs sound very generic or uninspired, yet it still comes off as competent and 100% metal.
Kimberly Goss... well, I'll admit, she's none too bright when it comes to the issues she sings about. She attempted suicide sometime before the album came out, so one could tell that there was obviously going to be some heartfelt sorrow poured forth on this release. You ever seen the interview that prefaces the video to the title track? "People do it every day, it's not a big deal. I think I would try again if I had a chance.... I KNOW I would do it again.". She speaks playfully and trivially of a subject as serious as suicide. I don't know, that makes her come off as kind of thickheaded and puts a slightly different spin on the lyrics. Instead of the heartfelt outpourings of a soul on the brink, it seems more like she doesn't actually care and instead writes about it because it's "cool". One thing that she does right though, is her voice. My god this woman has some pipes. She isn't operatic like Nightwish, nor does she outright growl like Arch Enemy, but she has a very raw and powerful scream. It's been compared to Doro Pesch, and while it's not perfect, it's pretty damn close. Back in the days of Warlock when she would just belt out her vocals, that's what Goss does. She actually SOUNDS anguished, and I'm sure she was, but like I said, the lyrics started to seem a bit forced/hokey after you learn a bit more about her.
Musically, the band contains Alexi Laiho, fresh off the release of Follow the Reaper, one of my favorite albums ever. With a guitar dreamteam of Laiho and Roope Latvala (a "dream team" we would later learn actually wasn't too good), and the bassist from Tarot and Nightwish, you'd have to be pretty naive about metal to think the musicianship wouldn't be phenomenal. Laiho and Latvala rip some excellent solos throughout the duration of the record, and the music as a whole sounds like a transition between Follow the Reaper and Hate Crew Deathroll sans keyboards. It's very fast, there are some neoclassical elements (although not too many), and there is a heavy focus on melody, and yet they keep it heavy. It's hard to explain if you aren't familiar with Children of Bodom.
So musically and vocally, this band is great. Why the so-so score? Because for what they have in virtuosity and capability, they lack equally in the songwriting department. While no songs flat out suck, many of them aren't very memorable, and the impressiveness wears off after a few spins. And what's strange, is that the simplest song is actually one of my favorites, Written in Stone. Goss is at the top of her game here, and while the riffs aren't as impressive as some of the other tracks, the entire band manages to blend all of the qualities that are generally strewn about into one cohesive and excellent song. Spit on Your Grave and Suicide by my Side on the other hand, are equally amazing, but the riffs, melodies, and hooks are all creative and memorable. Add that on top of the fact that the vocal melodies will get stuck in your head and you'll find yourself humming most of the interludes. Shadow Island is notable for the vocal duet between Laiho and Goss, but is otherwise unspectacular. It's got a nice main riff, it sounds like it's in the major key, which is bizarre sounding in such an otherwise dreary and sullen record, but it's a welcome change.
Songs like Violated, Me, Myself, My Enemy, and Passage to the Fourth World kind of fall flat in the memorability department. I'd also like to point out the intro to Violated. Why the hell do bands do that? The whole compressed first few bars idea is really dumb and adds nothing but annoyance to the songs. The headache is multiplied here by the fact that the only standout drum part on the whole album just got needlessly drowned out for some arbitrary reason. The Sin Trade and Nowhere for No One have riffs that sound like a beginner just doodling around for the most part. They're like, three notes, and the former's just ascends a semitone each measure and adds a very basic descending scale to the end of it. Boooooring. It's really frustrating because the band obviously has a ton of potential, but half assed, uninspired riffs like that are just insulting, especially coming from Alexi Laiho at this point in his career.
The closing track, Remembrance, is a completely useless piano outro that is mixed so low you can only hear a few parts of it anyway. It sounds decent after the explosive title track, but is otherwise a complete throwaway. It was a nice gesture that Goss added it to the album (it's a tribute to 9/11 victims), but it really holds no place in this album, and unfortunately knocks the album down a peg.
In the end, Sinergy's latest (and at the rate it's taking for them to release Sins of the Past, last) album earns a very middle C. It's an average record with only a few stinkers and a couple classics. Check out Spit on Your Grave, Written in Stone, and Suicide by my Side, as those tracks completely slay. The others on the other hand range from cool to below average. It's a very middle of the road release. Not essential, but recommended to middle era Bodom fans.