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A word that immediately means something to each and everyone of us as human beings. Whether in real life experiences or art. Whether it's music, film or photography. Emotion is a key ingredient in any respectable artists work. Sure, the absence of emotion can also amplify a particular work's effect. But I'm sure most people would agree that the art that leaves the biggest impression on a personal level usually do so through some means of emotion.
Introducing Sybreed. A Swiss industrial/groove metal act who started off in 2003 from the ashes of a former band called Rain. Having released their obviously overlooked debut effort "Slave Design" the following year, I'm sure most listeners were certain that Sybreed was just another unremarkable industral metal outfit to slowly deteriorate into the realm of the forgotten. "Antares" was my second listening experience from this band. When I skimmed through this album for the first time none of the tracks sticked with me. I actually almost despised this and decided to not listen to this (at the time) travesty again. But then something happened to me on a personal level that spiralled me into the realms of depression. I was looking for music to mend my at the time broken heart. Then I remembered Sybreed and their "Antares" album and I decided to listen to it once more. I am very happy I did so. You see this is an album that left a huge impact on me as a person, especially at the time. All of the musical elements I had such a hard time picking up before emotional affliction hit me full-on, now seemed clearer than daylight as I listened to this remarkable artwork. The album starts off with opener "Emma Zero". The first thing you hear is a distorted beat in the background and a synth being unveiled in the electronic soundscapes. The extremely downtuned and groovy guitar then hits you like a brick, you can immediately hear the sinister vibe present in the guitar tone and the riffs constructed around it. Benjamin Nominét then makes his spiteful entrance into the record. Upping the ante and spitting out pain-filled screams featuring lyrics about disappointments we all face in life. Read this lyrical excerpt from the song.
Mutilate me, hurt me now
You've cut your wings to justify my guiltiness
We're all slave of some sadistic obsession
You put this needle in my head, a needle called pain
There is some sense of hope and longing encased within the icy, melodic refrain on this track. To give the listener a false sense of security in that there might be an escape out of this nerve wrecking emotional downfall. The synths pulse deeply beneath and above the guitar grooves like the heart of a panicked person struck by tragedy. Emotion - it's all here present in this phenomenal opener. There is a deeply interlaced link between the futuristic sounding music and the despaired emotions we as humans go through in life. I have honestly never before heard such a remarkable balance between guitars, synths and drums as I do when I listen to "Antares". The guitar sounds absolutely majestic in the aggressive and thunderous rhythms, but is also very convincing in the transitional guitar leads that match incredibly well with the synth/keyboard melodies. Just listen to the amazing guitar chords in the first 14 seconds of "Revive My Wounds", what follows is a dreamy synth section and the distorted beat then leads into the songs verse. Benjamin sounds incredibly apathetic and downright angry as he explains how deceived and betrayed he has been by this person he describes in the lyrics. The section at the end of this song right after the final chorus is stunning to say the least, I won't spoil too much but I will note that it features some extremely innovative technical precision in both guitar strumming and double bass work.
The production fits this album like a glove and is one of the major components as to why this album is a masterpiece. The production is compressed, but not in the sense that the instruments get drowned and streamlined into a cacophonous mess. No, this is the type of production that cements the excellent new-wave synths firmly above the technical groove the guitars express. The drums to some extent take a backseat on this album, but the drummer certainly is no third-rate drummer for he is the mighty Dirk Verbeuren from Scarve and Soilwork. His performance is indeed all-encompassing both in his effortless progressive drumming in "Ego Bypass Generator" and flawless in his blasting and maniacal skin bashing on "Dynamic" and "Twelve Megatons Gravity". Sybreed leaves no stone unturned in their pursuit for melodic death-laden industrial metal explorations. Just check out "Neurodrive" and become ungulfed in it's rollercoaster rhythms and distorted guitar slides, Ben's vocals sound absolutely excellent on this track and it might be his best vocal exercise ever. The album is relentless on most tracks but there are also some epic and almost ballad-like numbers like "Isolate" and the closing "Ethernity". My personal favorite tracks are aformentioned "Neurodrive" and "Twelve Megatons Gravity". The latter being one of the angriest songs I have ever heard featuring a build-up and release not many other bands can muster in today's metal scene.
Even if you have always kept away from industrial/groove/modern metal prior to reading this review, I really advise you to give this album a chance. It's sad how overlooked this album is, because legendary records like these do not come around very often. And it would be a damn shame to see this masterpiece not get the recognition it truly deserves.
So they came. Guys who really know how to create some soul-touching melancholical yet energetic music. Not long ago after releasing this album they gained quite a cult status among people with mightily different tastes. And not without a good reason. By invoking merciless guitar shredding, agressive bass playing, complex drumming, varying vocals and sensuous future ambient sounds they made one of the most unique industrial albums in years.
Vocals are in perfect shape. They vary and add greatly to the atmosphere. Divine clean harmonic singing mixes decently with medium-pitched pain pulsating screams. Adding some nearly spoken language in tracks like "Orbital" proves to be a feel for variance. Singer's voice is sometimes altered by oscillation or other effects. Also, the lyrics are very well made and polished denunciating the dark side of unsettled progress towards science and cold steel filled future. Guitar work is perfectly decent. Although mostly the shredding is at nearly machine-gun like speed, the riffs are pretty plain and that's where they made no mistake. You don't need playful and technical guitar riffing when you make apocalyptic approach to the music. This simplicity is perfectly where it must be. Like almost usually, there's little to say about bass parts. They are really good, from time to time taking a step off from guitar sounds to make it more audible. No real complaints and no bass solos where they aren't desirable. There comes some cheers for the drumming. It must be the best proved musicianship ability on the album. Drumming is never boring, on any track. It is not upstart but uses songs' emotional space by giving something more interesting than simple mid-tempo blast-beating or slow routine-like bumpings on slower tracks. Using alternate riff endings the drummer gets you satisfied by not hearing the same all over again. And technicity is there.
The release proves to be great not only in quality but also in quantity. Eleven songs and two bonus tracks shows a huge imagination and creativity among it's creators. Every song is completely different and has it's peak moments but pure vocal work and delicate samples keeps you away from skipping a song until a desired eruption of emotions. People who like music which causes them to feel rather than only hear should definitely try this album. I can't force myself to give this one less than a perfect grade as I can't find any flaws. Too bad my review isn't as great as this album deserved.
Stand-out tracks: None! Every song is exceptional and interesting providing you with a portion of mild melancholy while not taking away energy from you.
For me, Sybreed has proven the outcome of a long and almost fruitless search for a definitive industrial metal band merging mechanical heavy metal (and I stress heavy) and industrial electronic elements. Previously the defining band in this category in my book was Fear Factory, but I sought to find the refinement of this style, and Sybreed (short for ‘Synthetic Breed’) demonstrate its logical conclusion. Having been frustrated by the woefully cheesy melodies and lack of subtlety and when exploring extreme metal with a melodic edge, Sybreed has been a satisfying breath of fresh air.
Antares continues the evolution of the band’s own particular sound established in their debut, Slave Design, developing a unique synergy of groove metal and industrial synths, with flourishes of melodic death metal and glorious new wave keyboards. It might sound like a disparate mix, and it is, but it works well. Guitarist Drop (you know industrial bands and their pseudonyms) is in this regard arguably the most important person in the band, programming the electronics aswell as performing the guitars.
Industrial metal itself is by no means a new phenomenon, and I make no claims that this band are pioneers in the genre, but the way they combine these elements defines a new and interesting approach. Personally, I’ve found a lot of ‘industrial metal’ bands to be electronic groups with abrasive keyboards and samples overpowering simple, grating guitars (as anyone familiar with my previous Ministry review will know). However, in this instance, the band places very heavy guitars with an emphasis on groove and syncopation, along both industrial, dynamic keyboards, and soaring melodic synths. The band cites a pretty eclectic range of influences – from Depeche Mode to Meshuggah – and it does wonders for the album.
Rather than the usual gritty, harsh keyboards found on most releases in the genre, Sybreed makes use of epic melodies and cosmic harmonies alongside the satisfyingly proficient guitars, prompting (against my better judgement) the description ‘space metal’. One of the influences absent in most metal that makes this record stand out is the solid new wave melodies in the keyboards; despite being at odds with the energetic, torrential guitars, the keyboards really complete the overall sound. The vocals also suit the band’s own approach, with vocalist Ben utilising both harsh and melodic vocals throughout. Rather than a conventional growl, his screams lie somewhere between an aggressive bellow and more legible shouting, while his clean vocals are melodic enough for epic choruses and subdued passages in equal measure. His range proves adequate to convey the length and breadth of the lyrical themes; “social misery, everyday alienation and the decay of modern way of life.”
Overall, this album showcases a particular style in evolution; whilst maturing and refining itself still has room to grow and will hopefully continue to develop over the course of subsequent albums; including the third full-length scheduled for release at the end of this year sometime.