Sybreed
The Pulse of Awakening

After previous album Antares, I hoped that Sybreed would dwell onto try out new things and develop their sound even more. Seems like I’ve got my wish, as The Pulse of Awakening is definitely something new for the band, even if at its core the mechanical heart pulsates, spewing out industrialized metal in the vein of Fear Factory and Meshuggah.

At first, everything seems to be business as usual with the opener “Nomenklatura” which recollects what the band is about and the amazing drive on the second track makes “A.E.O.N” one of the poster boys for the genre. What comes after marks a definite shift towards a more organic songwriting for the band as the band begins its journey towards catchier choruses and puts an emphasis on vocal melodies, mingling with the songwriting of ‘80s pop tunes, which is quite evident on the third track “Doomsday Party” – which, for lack of a better words, can be described as a ‘fun tune’. It becomes quite clear that the machine has become sentient – alive (hence the album name?), even if the previous album hinted towards opening up the sound.  Those expecting a return to Slave Design’s colder approach might be in for a disappointment.

It would be easy to start comparing Sybreed’s new perspective to In Flames and various other bands that peddle around in similar waters, where things are saturated and identities lost in the dysfunctional marriage between pop and down-tuned guitars. Similarly, the band could go AWOL against such a backdrop but once the shock and awe wear off, it becomes clear Sybreed manages to keep its head above the water, maintaining a clear identity and A Link to the Past.

It’s not a painless transition as the common thread seems a bit lost for the first few listens, as new elements are introduced and incorporated with the old. Another thing that causes slight confusion is that the band has also beefed up its aggressive bombardments (as heard on the relentless “I Am Ultraviolence”) to create a restless, bipolar album that seems to go all over the place at times. The gap between the two extremes isn’t as big as it first seems and soon things start to make a bit more sense.

After The Pulse of Awakening settles in properly, the subtle hints at other sources of inspiration start to shine more and more.  “Lucifer Effect” connects Sybreed’s dots with the northern blizzards, as the symphonic nature of the track reminds me of a certain band called Dimmu Borgir and while it’s a bit of a stretch, at one point Thyrfing popped into my mind. Go figure. The near 10-minute semi-somber closer “From Zero to Nothing”, on the other hand, hints at mid-‘90s Tiamat (and this again might be bit of a stretch, but what can I do to my initial conceptions?)

After a handful of listens, the pop-elements in the album lose their shock value and they blend more and more into the actual sound, updating Sybreed to keep them interesting. The band hasn’t sold out nor done a 180 (or 90). They won’t drown in the pool in which bands like Sonic Syndicate are forever trying to reach towards the light with their family safe pop-music of nobodygivesafuck – falling further without a soul, nor has Sybreed become a disappointment like Denmark’s Raunchy with the follow-ups to their quite good debut Velvet Noise. Not that those bands have anything to do with the material at hand. I’m merely throwing a bone.

The biggest blame of the confusion goes to singer Ben, whose Anders Fridén worship goes a bit too far at times. Ben’s nasal cleans are a turn off (especially at first), despite them being a non-issue on previous albums. His extended time in the spotlight will no doubt be the dividing factor amongst listeners and one that needs quite a lot getting used to.  Fridén isn’t the only one to share blame though, as the vocal melodies do carry out a clear ‘80s-feel to them. This is underlined with the Killing Joke cover “Love Like Blood” (which is the weakest link on the album and a far cry of what the cover could have and should have been).

On the other hand, the variety is more than welcomed and the guy’s growls and screeches still fit the music as they always have, defining a part of Sybreed’s identity. This particular component creates an illusion of something sucking at first, but once you revisit, its effect is much less than predicted but I still hope they’ll improve and develop the clean vocals for the next album. A notch. As for the rest of the band, they get a remission. They do their part. Like Johnny Rico: flawlessly.

This review is much different from the one I originally wrote, where the album was said to be a mixed bag – which it might still be – as I’m not willing to shell out my final judgment quite yet either.  I also talked about the disappointment of the first listen and claimed the new album featured some of their worst songs, a statement I’m not necessarily willing to sign anymore.

In the meantime, I’m predicting that The Pulse of Awakening is a grower and will at some point make perfect sense next to the band’s back catalogue. Whether it will be best album they’ve put out or not matters not, as together they form quite a collection of songs to enjoy. Whatever the final opinion might become, at least they didn’t play it too safe and for that, I shall definitely look forward to what they come up with next.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Mikko K.
December 11th, 2009

Comments

  1. Commented by: stiffy

    I haven’t heard the album but I heard a song or two and wasn’t impressed. Shame. I will give it a proper listen though.

    It’s also very nice to read an Apollyon review.


  2. Commented by: Apollyon

    Yeah, it’s different but not really that different once you spin it a couple of times.

    Seeing that this review was written a month ago, my relationship with the album has been from a disappointed to an enjoyment back around to ‘could have been better’. But I’ve still kept spinning it though, so there’s definitely something that keeps me drawn to it, so it can’t be bad.

    I do hope they carry on with the evolution and come up with a slightly more balanced album the next time around.


  3. Commented by: mike

    This band rules. They are everything I wanted Fear Factory to be post-Demanufacture.


  4. Commented by: faust666

    Review is spot on !!


  5. Commented by: Erik Thomas

    There are some really nice heavy (cyber)Gojira ish moments on here, but those clean vox almost ruin it for me


  6. Commented by: mike

    I think Ben’s clean vocals are some of the best out there. Very haunting sort of voice which fits the dark, mechanical vibe perfectly. And I love how he alternates between harsh/clean styles.

    I still prefer Antares though, but this album continues to get better with each listen. The synth work is flawless.


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