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Gothic metal is a genre I naturally levitate to, despite the fact that I often feel disgruntled with what it has to offer me on a personal level. Since my introduction to metal shifted slightly towards the gothic scene at the very beginning, I’ve always had a soft spot for this temperamental genre though it has never managed to establish itself as a firm favourite in my books. Bands like Sinphonia, though competent at what they do, are the precise reason for my aggrieved stance on the often symphonic genre. Bands like this obvious have talent, but living up to the standards set by the very best the genre has to offer, such as The Gathering ‘Mandylion’ for example, is a task that acts like this aren’t quite ready to face up to. What with never truly admiring a sense of symphonic structuring in my music, I have often found to hard to adjust to the tales that some bands wish to tell through a series of layered components, usually featuring an important keyboard section to bolster the sense of raging symphonies. Sinphonia are slightly different to the vast majority of bands within the same spectrum as they don’t tend to rely on the keyboards to be an integral ingredient in swaying the listener over into a more positive light.
Keyboards do feature, but they’re not very intense and often filter into the background of most songs, content with being a subtle element whereas most similar bands tend to accentuate the keyboards in an attempt to have a free flowing symphonic section. Songs like ‘Blear The Hideous’ is a good example of what I’m referring to when I say the keyboards don’t play a prominent role in the bands alluring and unusual soundscapes. The keyboards remind me of children’s musical toys, which is a really odd reference and feeling to come across during a metal record. They’re lightly tapping on the door, but don’t have the force to knock it down as the keyboards are often a very timid section amidst a smooth array of soundscapes. In fact, the smoothness of song textures doesn’t only occur during the keyboard sections. Aside from the guitars, which are akin to less lively sounding power, or progressive metal bands, are the only element which fixates on a crunchier sound, leaving the rest of the instrumentation to dwell on the softer side of songs. The fact that the bass is one of the most integral elements is an indication of this fact.
Even the vocals seem a lot softer than they normally are in bands like this. Monika Pedersen has had some experience in the gothic genre before her adventure with Sinphonia. She briefly participated on vocals for Sirenia, a band whose early records are very highly regarded in this walk of life. Unfortunately for her, despite have a decent enough voice, her era with the band wasn’t looked upon as favourably and it’s safe to say her career has gone down a difficult road, often ending up on Mediocrity Street with her fellow band members. She isn’t the sole reason as to why Sinphonia, or indeed Sirenia went downhill. She is one part of the problem though. She’s not a typical vocalist for the genre. She doesn’t belt out the traditional soprano vocals and her voice has a rough edge to it, unlike many of the sweet sounding female vocalists around these days. She probably suit’s the darker side to Sinphonia more than a softer vocalist would do, though she by no means has a gruff voice. As with the majority of the material present here, especially the keyboards which provide the odd burst of melody in the piano based sections on songs like the cultured ‘Path of Life’, her voice adds to the overriding sense of indifference and inferiority.
Quite often Sinphonia remind me of a progressive based band, often relying on the bass to add an ounce of experimentation into the otherwise fairly generic sound. The bass, at times, reminds me of the expansive play one would find on bands like Spiral Architect without the immense talent behind it (as shown on songs like ‘Odyssey’) - though Spiral Architect do have a habit of annoying me, since they have similar problems of allowing the guitars to fade away as the bass tries to shine through. The talents on offer here are obviously not as finely tuned as other bands, meaning that Sinphonia are suspended in a colourless light, often pertaining to grey areas. The music isn’t dreadful by any means, it just isn’t a worthwhile pursuit until the very end in the surprisingly good ‘Now And Forever’, which does exhibit some ounce of flair. Unfortunately, it’s a little too late for redemption.