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Review published at http://www.teethofthedivine.com by Erik Thomas
I really wanted to like this heavily promoted debut record from System Divide. And why not? It’s got Belgian metal stalwart Svencho De Caluwe (Aborted, In-Quest, Leng Tche) on vocals and he’s joined by his hotterthanheck wife Miri Millman (Orphaned Land) and former Abigail Williams guitarist Mike Wilson. The thing is, the band’s effort to basically meld Aborted and female fronted Gothic metal just isn’t as dynamic as you’d think it would be.
The main problem is that despite a strong, polished production, two great vocal performances and an admittedly fierce take on the dual, beauty and the beast vocal interplay, the end result simply comes across as a packaged, predictable, commercial melodeath/metalcore effort, that will have more appeal to the Deadlock, Sonic Syndicate crowd than anyone else. While the Aborted meets Nightwish promotional efforts of the CD have some appeal, the songwriting prevents it reaching the potential, ultimately rendering The Conscious Sedation a fairly shallow record.
That being said, if Napalm Records’ roster of gothic lovelies (Edenbridge, Leaves Eyes, Elis, Katra etc) is a little too light for you, System Divide certainly adds some beef. Not only with Sven’s distinct growls and bellows, but with plenty of blastbeats and hefty grooves playing under Millman’s competent, chorus-based croons and some tinkering synths. Again, on paper, that sounds great doesn’t it?
And at times it is. There is an undeniable energy to many of the more up-tempo, songs like the opening track “Vagaries of Perception”, “Lethargy”, “(N)ether”, “The Conscious Sedation” and the album’s fiercest cut “Repentiforget”. There’s a chunky, and at times, cyber-ish Aborted-style riffage going on with epic vocal segues ― that’s as good as the album gets. The rest of the CD falls into a pretty formulaic pace that never sees the band break a songwriting sweat or push themselves into something a little more impressive.Svencho prowls and growls on top of blastbeats and grooves, before a bridge leads to a keyboard driven chorus that allows Millman to deliver her more softer, delicate offerings. You’ve all heard it before.
While the band occasionally breaks out of the norm―Millman singing over blasts and along with Svencho (single “The Apex Doctrine”)―it all falls into a predictable safety net. Right down to the slower ‘ballad’ “Hollow”, which is even more hundrum.The end result is an enjoyable, but incredibly safe and fence-sitting album that seems to be geared towards a more gateway metal market.
Svencho. One of the greatest extreme metal vocalists of the last 15 years. The man has such a unique, Jeff Walker-inspired scream coupled with one of the most intensely guttural growls ever to be captured in a recording studio. Because of this, I have developed a fascination with his work and I always check out what he's involved in, for better or worse. In-Quest? Underrated. Leng T'che? Overrated. Aborted? Pioneering. So upon hearing he had yet another new band for me to check out...of course I jumped at it.
The premise of this new band is that he and his wife, Miri Milman, formerly of Israeli goth metal band Distorted, are going to share vocals over music that while still retaining the brutality of Sven's other bands, takes less of a death metal path and follows more along the lines of Chimaira, Mnemic, even In-Quest in terms of riffage. Not a very original formula at first glance, but I genuinely can't think of another band quite along these lines. If you had to put a percentage on it, you could say that maybe 25-35% of all vocals belong to Miri, who has a vocal style very much in the same vein as Lacuna Coil's Christina Scabbia. Unfortunately, that's also how she's being marketed a bit by the band, which could lead to problems down the road with getting her painted into a corner. That being said, her finer moments come when she steps slightly outside that box with a warmer, more soulful tone like she does in "(N)ether." Her voice also offsets Svencho's typical brutal growls, which you only need to hear the intro to first single "The Apex Doctrine" to know just how extreme and downright aggressive this album can get. Everything on this album tends to be damn near perfect in terms of being done tastefully, even right down to the guitar solos which although they have the occasional noodling moment, seem to be more there for atmosphere than anything else. The drumming courtesy of Malignancy's Mike Heller, is likewise tasteful; tons of double-bass histrionics and only the occasional blast beat which seems out of character considering the lineup we're involved with here, but still fantastic.
All in all, I'd say I truly love this disc. It's that kinda metal that you can't help but feel pumped up and adrenalized after hearing it. Can't wait for the next one...