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The press sheet for Cassandra Syndrome's sophomore album, 'Satire X', reads: "Eschewing the synthesizer-laden stereotypes of symphonic metal, Cassandra Syndrome...revolutionizes the genre with a unique blend of axe-heavy melodic metal and operatic vocals." Really? This is new, yeah? I think not. The listening experience proves as such. And in what way they "revolutionize" symphonic metal I'm entirely uncertain. Surely they're just describing metal with operatic vocals, for that's largely what's on offer. How is this symphonic, revolutionary or not? The likes of Nightwish and Therion engendered the need for such a label through utilising actual orchestras, operatic vocals, and choirs, which has since been appropriated by the likes of Epica and Whyzdom, and then a quasi-version of sympho-metal with those acts who more simply infuse the metal elements with keyboards. So I agree with their statement that there does exist "synthesizer-laden stereotypes of symphonic metal" but only by those who misappropriate the term away from its original significance. What Cassandra Syndrome are describing is a step below that. Why the need to mention symphonic metal at all? Are they simply equating symphonic metal with operatic female vocals used on metal, as is a common misconception with both press and bands? And by claiming "axe-heavy", they even fall short here as the guitars of Jen Tonon and Chris Kackley, while competently performed, sound pretty weak throughout with a rather annoying fuzzy chorus effect infiltrating the distortion that deprives the riffing of any genuine bite. So yes, the songs are "axe-heavy" in that it's guitars driving the compositions but don't let that label mislead you into expectations of actual heaviness in the songs. It's metal riffing, for sure, executed well, but lacking depth and resonance in actual sound. My other big gripe are the drums... or, rather, lack of. Percussionist Jay Jericho has used a Zendrum which is effectively a MIDI device, and the resultant sound is very false. I'm not averse in any way to bands who use such a percussive approach as there are many examples where this has worked to perfection (Xy from Samael is an example that immediately springs to mind and the now defunct V:28 whose use of a drum machine was superlative), but if you're gonna deploy such a method, at the very least make it sound not quite so false. Okay, the use of a Zendrum is perhaps not as 'mechanical' as using a drum machine as there's still more of a human element at play but the triggered effect does sound artificial. On the positive side, Irene Jericho's soprano vocals are rather incredible and some parts of certain songs are well written pieces of music with occasionally innovative melodies that grab my attention, but the band's compositional abilities lack consistency. Fortunately, Irene's singing does have consistency and is the primary strength of 'Satire X' that prevents me from scoring it lower than I have. And who knows, maybe the band are a killer live act who nail it sound-wise in their performances. Studio-wise though, they have much work to do in improving their recorded output.
Figmental Records
Review by Mark Holmes
1st August 2011
1) No More Peace Forever
2) Hell On Earth
3) The Fool
4) The Magus
5) Shackles
6) Poison Rain
7) The Priestess
8) What You Wanted
9) The Iron Cross
10) Pestilence
"...Irene Jericho's soprano vocals are rather incredible..."