At the time of a band’s first release, that moment is often the most defining point in its members lives. The thought of how much time, cash, creative and mental resources have been pumped in over many years to reach that point is quite staggering. Sadly, many bands who even get that far don’t deliver something particularily memorable either, which is scary considering that most use their first release as the “make-or-break” milestone. The last thing they want is a kak review! Fortunately, Sindulgence shows signs of being made of sterner stuff – both in delivering a memorable product and in showing off a sense of determination that will likely see them through any storm.
Ryan (guitarist) dropped a copy off about a week ago and I’ve listened to it plenty since. Not only to familiarise myself with the songs before the launch gig, but because I’ve enjoyed it. Live, I’ve only seen Sindulgence in the same drab context as at least a hundred other bands. Although I’ve enjoyed them, I never really saw the band as outstanding from the rest of the scene – until now! This album represents just plain great song writing and well-composed guitar-driven heavy metal. They’ve struck a good balance, not allowing the ear to get bored by continuous onslaughts or long dreary passages; the songs are populated by interesting changes, solos and great riffage. The band is more technical than I’ve picked up from live shows, yet they don’t completely abandon ‘the groove’ as so many tech bands I’ve seen before.
Going back to the solos, those are actually fucking great if I may say so! There’s a very articulate and expressive style which prevails throughout the album, and I can’t put my finger on who brings it because I know that both Rodney and Ryan alternate between leads. Some of those solos alone bring me back for another listen. On the drums, Michael relates to the style of the band well, making me wonder how much of the Sindulgence sound is actually brought on by his playing.
On the vocal front, I’ve never been hugely enthusiastic about the contemporary metal scenes “grrrr, grrrr, grrrr; screeech, screeech” variety, but it seems popular among the younger metalheads, so maybe I’m just a bitter old fart. Although, there is some of that style in this recording (Praise Odin, they steer clear of pig squeals,) where it sounds like the guy is breathing a croak more than he is driving the power of emotion that can move you down to your very soul (as it does for me with guys like Rob Flynn.) The saving grace is that there are two vocalists and the blend of such vastly different styles keeps the ship very much afloat, making it work even for my pompous ears. I love that there are even plenty of grungy-sounding clean vocals sung against the contrast of the aforementioned style. It just completes the album, and interestingly, it is a pretty simple technique that so many local metal bands shy away from; which for the life of me I cannot explain why. Kudos to Sindulgence for this.
There are some rad bass grooves too, but I’ve noticed it depends what speakers or headphones you use to really hear them in the mix. All in all, the band makes it very hard to pin them into a particular metal sub-genre which I’ve always felt is a good foundation for building recognition, although is often a slower journey.
Of course, I won’t rest till I’ve spoken about the whole product. The production value of Recollections is impressive considering the studio set-up. The only significant comments I can add as to improvements would be with the drum samples used (particularly the snare), and to next time try to get hold of a more suitable mic for studio. I felt that the clean vocals in particular sounded a bit murky. However, one must appreciated the severe limitations inflicted upon the metal industry (local and abroad,) and that not everybody can afford top class studios and gear, and often the time to brush up on slight imperfections. Let us also not forget that the first albums of bands like even Kataklysm and Septic Flesh had similar (if not worse) issues. In fact, the debut releases of many of our favourite bands were actually quite appalling compared to what Sindulgence and Dean Hammond have accomplished in their humble studio. What is really impressive about this release (apart from the great songs, of course) is the hard copy. This product is beautiful! Great artwork, printed on a really durable textured paper, complete with lyrics, and not to mention a dual-disc jewel case housing a 119 minute long bonus DVD. The DVD is a documentation of the months leading up to and including the recording of Recollections. This in itself is a major feat which is a benchmark in local metal releases, and in my view will bolster this debut to a collectors status some day, assuming that the band continues for many years and albums to come. What I particularly enjoyed about the DVD is how it is laid out and structured to tell a story which allows the viewer to become intimate with the band’s members. By the end, you feel proud to be a member of Sindulgence only to realize that, alas, you are not.
If I had to choose a stand-out track on the album, I’d say it’s “Dying To Live”; but that’s just me. I’d suggest you get hold of this album and choose your own favourite, and you won’t be disappointed if you bought the very impressive hard copy.
Well done to the band, and everybody involved in this project. It might not be a global heavy metal masterpiece, but it certainly is a benchmark-setting milestone in this young band’s career and worth being noted carefully by others in the local scene. In fact, I’m convinced that it will soon see them elevated to a new level where many older local bands will now recognize them as peers, and even more if they continue on this trajectory. I’m very eager for tomorrow nights live show, now that I’m more “educated” in the music of Sindulgence.
Stream “Swindle” off Recollections below:
Catch Sindulgence launching Recollections on Saturday 23 June at ROAR in Cape Town. For more information, click here.
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