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Now that that's out of the way, UnSun is former Vader member Mauser's new home with wife Aya providing the vocals to his riff-based tapestries. As for a specific sound, there's a variety of influences converging to provide the blueprint for this effort, mainly a gothic metal template with a certain level of aggression carried over from Mauser's earlier projects, as well as some nods towards the successful alternative metal / rock output of groups like Flyleaf. The resulting product rewards with a strong initial impact, but lessens with each subsequent track as the repetitive thought processes in creating this work reveals itself before Clinic For Dolls reaches the halfway mark.
There is a strong emphasis on the guitars and drums concerning the production, with rather mundane and simplistic single note piano melodies and some occasional synth washes lurking deep in the background, I suppose to add atmosphere or some semblance of a 'gothic' nature. The drums, especially, are given full involvement in constructing the overall sound of the band by the numerous occasions of double bass pedal usage. If anything, it keeps the band leaning towards the heavier side of the gothic metal spectrum with its frequent and persistent application whether a chugging riff really needs to be augmented by double bass thumping or not. The guitar itself has a mean sound that recalls a more extreme level of music while firmly focusing more on facile melodies to complement the vocals. Solos are somewhat sparse, but when they are utilized they certainly do not lack in style or efficiency. As with many of these bands, the bass player basically grounds the guitar textures and plays a backing role for everything else.
Despite the heavy production, the songs themselves lean to a poppish configuration structure-wise, with vocal melodies squarely locked to the forefront. With Aya at the helm, these songs practically split at the seams between the metal ambitions of the guitar and drum performances and the aspirations towards a commercial lilt by means of accessible song-craft and Aya's delivery of the depressed and often peculiar lyrics. Things like restraint, composure, nuance and diction are not fine points in regards to her singing, preferring to stick with delivering each and every line with the same loud timbre in as shrill a manner as conceivable. Honestly, though, that doesn't mean this album is ruined by her participation in this project. In fact, during some of the heavier tracks a voice like hers actually matches better with the music than a more classically trained vocalist, adding a raw fire to the proceedings. Still, she's also saddled with a pretty thick accent that doesn't ring out quite as "cute" as some of her peers like Sirenia's Ailyn. Mellower sections, though not predominant, are also a sore spot, with her eager scripted caterwauling or hissy whispering of the lyrics offering these moments no favors. Her voice alone during a ballad such as "The Last Tear" capably transforms what could have been a solemn little number into an amusing romp through the mind of a demented woman. She's not a very good singer in my estimation, but I will state that she's entertaining and has character.
Musically, the band established themselves a sound, and ran with it throughout most of Clinic For Dolls, sticking a ballad somewhere near the middle as a sort of rest from the relentless monotony. On an individual basis, a few of these tunes do stand out with catchier choruses such as the opener and "Mockers", and "I Ceased" has a bit more propulsion and emphasis on pure metal than the other tracks. I have to admit that, although fittingly taking up the rear, "Why" is notable simply because it sounds quite different than anything else here, and I kinda dig it. It really jumps on a groove based tempo with a more alternative metal styling that would normally turn me off the band completely, but they somehow get it right with a higher level of catchiness, Aya's funky delivery, and the enthusiasm emanating from the band's performance. It's one of those polarizing tunes I'll eventually hate in a year or so, but then again, by then for all I know I could be a fan of nothing music-wise except for Gloria Estefan. I won't find out until it happens.
As it is, UnSun has pretty vivid and distinct attributes, but recycles these ideas ad-nauseam with little room for experimentation or even diversity from a strict guideline they've set upon themselves. Balancing goth and alternative metal with heavier influences should open up multitudinous possibilities for sound explorations that they just did not exploit often enough throughout the course of the entire album. In a way it's commendable; they stick to their guns and what they believe they're good at. In another way, it gets soporific to the point where I can't comprehend the mentality of these people so willing to repeat themselves over and over again for the sake of their "art", especially since their shtick could use some improvement in certain departments. Clinic For Dolls is decent enough to stay out of the basement concerning my music collection for now, but I hope they set themselves a higher bar for their next outing, looking outward rather than trudging through familiar turf.
This is the first review for this album, so I will make it to the point. Unsun is a band that is trying to muscle in on the female-fronted gothic metal scene. With their release of The End of Life in 2008, that album left me divided. On one hand, I liked pretty much all the tracks. The musicianship was well done and I could see myself seeing this band if they ever come to where I live. On the other hand, the production quality was so horrible that I wondered why I even liked it. Whoever mic'd the drums forgot to put one on the snare, the bass was hardly audible, and the guitars generically overpowered everything else until they themselves were overpowered by Aya's effort on vocals.
I can't begin to explain how hard it is to listen to Aya sing. She does fine work singing low, but once she gets into the high notes, it's damn near unbearable to listen to. She sings very nasally and although I enjoy hearing a foreign accent in singing, her Polish accent was almost too much at times. And it's not like she was singing anything worthwhile as the the lyrics to the songs are shamefully amateur.
Clinic for Dolls improved in many aspects. The production quality is fifty times better. All instruments are audible and leveled perfectly so nothing overpowered each other (except possibly the drums because the cymbals sounded meshed together). Lyrically, the album is stronger as is Aya's voice. Even though her voice wasn't as bad as the last effort, I still hold my opinion that Unsun needs a stronger vocalist. The songs are an improvement on the last batch, but still only a few were good enough to listen to again. Hopefully their third release will present better results, because as far as I'm concerned, I'm still not impressed.