Saturday, December 3, 2005

Review: Sinocence - Black Still Life Pose (2005)

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Black Still Life Pose

It was more than a year ago that I reviewed Sinocence's third demo Acceptable Level of Violence (read the review here) and since then this Northern Ireland outfit has released another demo and Black Still Life Pose, their first full length. With Acceptable Level of Violence the band displayed two distinct sounds, one driven by melody and classic metal elements and the other a more modern, post-thrash sound that can be heard from the countless - and mostly faceless - bands clogging American radio airwaves. Black Still Life Pose actually contains only two new songs, the remaining 10 tracks having been culled from the band's previous two demos. While the demo tracks have been remastered, the two new songs ("Requiem" and "Psycho") find Sinocence emphasizing that modern metal sound I mentioned earlier.

Escaping a problem that plagues many young bands, Sinocence's lineup has remained intact since 2004 and the cohesion of tirelessly gigging together is evident on the two new tracks. Frontman Moro remains behind the microphone with his gruff, abusive vocal style. Although I can think of no clear comparison, Moro is somewhat of a conglomeration of late-era Phil Anselmo (Pantera), Corey Taylor (Slipknot), and Evan Seinfeld (Biohazard). The leadoff track, "Requiem", has a deep Pantera-like riff combined with a bit of Black metal fury to carry the song along through several time changes. Moro mixes in some pseudo-Death metal snarls and a hardcorish cadence to his style, while six-stringer Anto drops some quick introspective licks to lighten the atmosphere. I did catch an almost screamo quality to Moro's voice at times, particularly during the refrain, which is even more evident on "Psycho". The second of the new tracks features a more groove-oriented riff from Anto as its foundation and some fairly interesting beat patterns from Davy. Overall the song, due to an alternating tempo and anemic structure, sounds a tad loose and strung together. There are times when the band members deliver solid moments of headbanging fury, however. My biggest complaint with this track is that Moro opts for the unfortunate choice of a rapid-fire, rap-like vocal delivery at times. Simply not very flattering.

And so ends Sinocence's new material. If you're not familiar with the earlier demos from the band, you'll find a mix of melodic thrash, hardcore inspired modern metal, and classic guitar-driven burners. While Moro delivers a blistering performance when enraged, he makes several forays into a more melodic, expressive vocal style ("Beneath The Halo", "Shedding Skin", "Anything For The Next Escape") which doesn't fit him quite as well. His snarly grit just seems out of place with the emotions he conveys. "Drown The Noise", a moody 7+ minute track, is an exception to Moro's melodic struggles. Combined with a soft beat from Davy and thoughtful bass lines form Kaxxx, Moro is able to effectively transmit a sense of emotion fitting for the lyrics. As the song rumbles on, picking up the pace and deepening the riffs, Moro drops most of the ductile tones from his voice and returns to a comfortable roar. By far the most musing track on the album is the closer, "Scarred Human Voodoo Doll". More than eight minutes of mercurial piano melodies, heartfelt drum beats, and sullen riffs accompany Moro as he again proves that he can blanket the lyrics in a voice that more than does justice to the feelings they represent. This song is in quite sharp contrast to the remainder of Black Still Life Pose yet it serves as an excellent choice to wrap things up. Although the first half of the song is ballad-like, the last half ups the tempo with some excellent dual-guitar riffs and a wicked solo from Anto. With plenty to choose from, my favorite track of the album remains "Six Second Stare" (as it was on Acceptable Level of Violence) because of the traditionally inspired dual-guitar riffs and multi-layered choruses. Quite a fun little burner, this track will appeal to old-school thrash fans and fans of contemporary metal alike.

Sinocence continues to show they have the grit necessary to deliver a solid metal punch. The two new tracks on Black Still Life Pose show the band headed in a more contemporary direction, embracing the formula of bands like Breaking Benjamin, Disturbed, and Crossfade. Be that as it may, the older material on the album will appeal to fans of more traditional thrash.

Track Listing
1 Requiem 5:20
2 Psycho 3:50
3 Beneath The Halo 6:34
4 Makin A Monster 4:27
5 Six Second Stare 5:01
6 Drown The Noise 7:33
7 Shedding Skin 5:28
8 Anything For The Next Escape 5:20
9 Inside 4:11
10 Novocain 4:38
11 Soultied 6:58
12 Scarred Human Voodoo Machine 8:34

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