Saturday, February 7, 2009

Review: Cassandra Syndrome - Of Patriots and Tyrants (2009)

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Of Patriots and Tyrants

Maryland's Cassandra Syndrome was formed by Irene and Jay Jericho (vocals and drums, respectively) as an outlet for Irene's socio-political views, which required a harder musical style than their folk/rock band Revel Moon could accommodate. Chris Kackley (guitar) and Joe Cariola (bass) complete the line-up of Cassandra Syndrome, providing the aggressive platform on which Irene serenely delivers her message. The band strives for an early Nightwish/After Forever style of dark, Gothic-shaded metal on their full-length debut Of Patriots and Tyrants, and to a degree achieves that goal.

I say to a degree because there are two very strong elements to Cassandra Syndrome - the music and Irene - and for total success both elements must combine perfectly to create a singular, flawless entity. Though Irene's vocal style is definitely in the same operatic vein as Tarja Turunen (Nightwish) and Floor Jansen (After Forever), she doesn't benefit from the years of classical training those two frontwomen have had. Do not read that statement to mean that Irene isn't a competent vocalist, because she certainly is. "Burning" is a good example of her extensive range as her voice swoops and soars admirably. The issue at work here is that Irene's voice and the music are oftentimes pulling in different directions.

Again, don't construe that as a knock against the musicians' abilities. Kackley lays down some serious solos throughout the album, with the aforementioned "Burning" featuring one of his most elaborate. He and Cariola are the driving force behind the dark, angry undertone that permeates Of Patriots and Tyrants, but in order to fully compliment Irene's vocals the music needs to shed some of the heavy use of distortion and embrace more symphonic elements. The Mötley Crüe-esque main riff on "What We Sow" and the chunky, distorted groove of "Skadi's Touch" work well to get fists pumping, but the effect is diluted just a bit when Irene's style takes the mood in an alternate direction.

Bottom line - Of Patriots and Tyrants is a good, interesting album with thought-provoking lyrics. The band displays plenty of variation throughout the disc, from the heavy "Phoenix" to the acoustic folk ballad "Wild". Irene provides significant vocal and visual charm to compliment Cassandra Syndrome's heated musical edginess, and with a little more refinement both the vocal and musical elements will align. Fans of female-fronted Gothic metal - keep an eye on Cassandra Syndrome. I am.

Track Listing
1 Phoenix 4:53
2 None But Shadows 4:47
3 What We Sow 3:15
4 Mirror Mirror 5:00
5 Burning 4:55
6 PTSD 5:15
7 Cassandra 4:15
8 Skadi's Touch 4:56
9 Soma 3:48
10 Wild 6:10
Total Runtime 47:14

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