Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Review: Cassandra Syndrome - Satire X (2011)

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Satire X

Cassandra Syndrome - Satire X
Ready for a little lesson in Greek mythology? Cassandra, as we all should know, was a daughter of King Priam of Troy whose beauty caught the attention of Apollo. Being the amorous dude that he was, Apollo bestowed upon Cassandra the gift of prophecy. Tragically for Cassandra, however, she refused to "entertain" good ol' Apollo so he placed upon her a curse such that no one would ever believe her predictions. Doomed to foresee a future that she could not alter or influence was our girl Cassandra. Adopting as their moniker the term that has come to be applied to this tragic figure's state of powerlessness, Maryland's Cassandra Syndrome offer up Satire X, a sophomore album of Americanized symphonic metal that has a stark social commentary for a lyrical base.

Continuing in the same vein as the band's debut album Of Patriots and Tyrants, Satire X consists of two distinct and powerful forces. Frontwoman Irene Jericho's soprano is gripping as she swoops and soars throughout her considerable range, effortlessly nailing high notes (don't miss the crazy-long note at the end of "Poison Rain") and altering the cadence of her delivery to fit the mood of the material. Without a doubt, Irene is one of metal's most consistently potent - if underexposed - singers.

Cassandra Syndrome
The second core element to Cassandra Syndrome's sound is an unpolished, gritty guitar tone. Except for a creepy, horror-movie-influenced piano lullaby melody on "Shackles", Satire X is devoid of the keyboard-heavy compositions oft favored by European symphonic metal bands (ala Nightwish and Epica). Instead, atmosphere is created through the deliberate riffing of Chris Kackley and Jen Tonon, the latter a newcomer since the band's debut. Precise but rarely flashy, Kackley and Tonon work well together as they craft riffs that are alternatively ominous ("No More Peace Forever") and groovy ("Poison Rain"). Kackley occasionally ventures beyond his normally restrained style to add a bit of flair now and then, such as the distorted solo that gives an old-school doom flavor to "The Magus" and the wild noodling on "The Priestess". The two six-stringers really come together on "Posion Rain", the album's standout track, delivering a healthy dose of groove and riffs brimming with infectious energy.

The major criticism I had of Cassandra Syndrome's first album was the lack of cohesion between Irene's vocals and the band's overall musical style, and sadly I have to say that the same holds true on Satire X. I get what the band is trying to do, but Irene's voice is simply too explosive to be confined to the raw style of metal the band is dishing out. The bombast of bands like Nightwish works so well with operatic singers of Tarja Turunen's caliber because it's a perfect marriage of styles, a fact that Cassandra Syndrome may have to acknowledge. I like the band's message, their musical style, and Irene's vocal presence, but the disparity between the latter two keep Satire X from firing on all cylinders. Even so, fans of operatic metal singers should turn their attention to Cassandra Syndrome and give Satire X a try.

Track Listing
1No More Peace Forever4:41
2Hell On Earth4:07
3The Fool4:19
4The Magus3:37
6Posion Rain5:34
7The Priestess4:14
8What You Wanted5:48
9The Iron Cross4:25
Total Runtime46:42

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