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A sin that cries out for piety. - 59%

hells_unicorn, April 28th, 2014
Written based on this version: 2000, CD, Noise Records

There is a certain irony to Symphorce, or at least it comes off as ironic given that it rarely proves to be the case that a band diverges so completely from its so-called founding purpose. It was the original conception of fairly renowned vocalist Andy Franck, who was also brought in as Brainstorm's principle vocal persona at around the time that this band trotted out their mixed bag of a debut. But while this band was supposedly the brainchild of a vocalist that also happened to join in with an older and better known outfit, the reality is that Symphorce comes off as a mere afterthought in just about every possible sense. Naturally with any band that would have a fairly extensive catalog before falling apart, this lack of seriousness actually has a variety of different manifestations as far as their studio work is concerned, and their sophomore effort Sinctuary is one of the easier ones to digest.

As an album, this one is marked by a number of firsts and lasts, all of them contributing to the overall sound in ways that explain where it goes right and wrong, and it just barely manages more of the former than the latter. This is the first album to feature guitarist Cede Dupont, arguably one of the weakest guitarists ever to hit the power metal scene at the climax of the revival period of the early 2000s, and he proves to be fairly out of place among the rest of the fold. His riffs tend to be on the lazy side, sounding more like a groovy hodgepodge of hard rock and groove metal influences, and sporting a fairly mechanical sound. Occasionally he'll rip out a half-decent guitar solo, but there's nothing on here technique-wise that even approaches 90% of what Germany was putting forth at this point. This is also the last album to feature keyboardist H.P. Walter, and his presence alongside a fairly 80s oriented production sound and a cleaner, more consistent vocal job out of Franck tilts this album heavily in favor of the retro-character of bands like Chinchilla, Angel Dust and Metalium.

Naturally the picture here isn't a completely bleak one, but it's well below what most would even consider a 2nd rate affirmation of an already popular approach by the time 2000 rolled around. On a few songs, this album does manage to embody the speed and flair that was commonplace in power metal at the time, such as the cruising opener "Eyes Of Horus" and the surprisingly busy riff monster "Reveal The Secrets", both of them being exceptions to the Dupont rule of dumbed down, slowed down rock riffs with little energy and lots of cliche, and perhaps reveal the reason why Chris Bay selected him as Sascha Gershner's replacement. Franck brings out a full arsenal of late 80s high notes in a slightly cleaner mode, though a lot of the time the songs tend to leave fading impressions rather than utilize the obvious chorus hooks with a sufficient degree of competence. That's pretty much this album's downfall, a lot of halfhearted, meandering verse and bridge ideas that act as mere place holders in between the refrain, resulting in something that is stylistically inviting, but largely forgettable.

In spite of the dumb album title and the even more ridiculous album art, this is arguably the most inoffensive thing that Symphorce has ever come up with. Sadly, barring a few individual cookers and the occasional poignant semi-ballad like "Soulfly", this entire album succeeds in being little more than inoffensive. Mid-tempo territory has long been the Achilles heel of power metal, particularly the strain that was big from 1997-2003, and this album is loaded with plodding examples of it. There were several superior versions of this album to come out in the same general time period, most notably Metalium's State Of Triumph, Chinchilla's The Last Millennium and most notably Angel Dust's Enlighten The Darkness". Much like it's predecessor, Sinctuary isn't really worth a great deal of consideration. It stands as a lasting testament of the project that stayed around far too long, didn't really go much of anywhere, and should probably be soon forgotten by the power metal world.