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Sonic Syndicate - "Only Inhuman" (CD)

Sonic Syndicate - "Only Inhuman" CD cover image

"Only Inhuman" track listing:

1. Aftermath (4:10)
2. Blue Eyed Fiend (3:52)
3. Psychic Suicide (3:52)
4. Double Agent 616 (3:53)
5. Enclave (4:10)
6. Denied (3:52)
7. Callous (3:52)
8. Only Inhuman (4:13)
9. All About Us (2:47)
10. Unknown Entity (3:54)
11. Flashback (3:41)
12. My Soul in #000000 [Japan bonus track] (3:38)
13. Freelancer [Edition bonus track] (3:43)

Reviewed by on December 1, 2009

"By the third track, 'Psychic Suicide,' the slow-burn intro trick starts growing old, but I have to say that this band creates a thick, heavy, but still anthemic chorus like no other. "

Melody and carnage mix surprisingly well in Sonic Syndicate's "Only Inhuman." Putting the melody in melodic death metal was a wise move for these smashing Swedes, resulting in an album that blends beautiful melodies with brutal, grinding riffs and throat-ripping shouts.

Sonic Syndicate's sound is a little hard to nail down in some ways. The screaming and the faster riffs have some metalcore to them, while the slower, thicker riffs are reminiscent of a lot of other Swedish bands. Whatever it is, I like it for the most part.

Take for example the opener, "Aftermath," which begins with producer Jonas Kjellgren's keyboards providing a soft bed on which an increasingly loud guitar riff is born. Then Robin and Roger Sjunnesen's guitars kick into full force, with the keyboard wrapped around the riff like a serpent. Similarly, singers Richard Sjunnesen and Roland Johansson trade clean and harsh vocals without a hitch.

"Blue Eyed Fiend" has the band beginning again with the keyboards, but this time the switch to the thick, stuttering guitar rift is much more abrupt, creating a much harsher, angrier vibe. Harsh vocals are foremost here, with clean vocals only appearing in an almost backing role in the chorus, until a slow break in which Johansson's clean vocals are featured.

By the third track, "Psychic Suicide," the slow-burn intro trick starts growing old, but I have to say that this band creates a thick, heavy, but still anthemic chorus like no other. Drummer John Bengtsson does a good job of keeping the rhythm together in the face of some jittery guitar riffs that sometimes threaten to make the song come apart at the seams.

"Double Agent 616" proves that punk and progressive rock can coexist in the punky opening riff punctuated with shiny synth keyboards. This is definitely the skateboarding song on the album, with a much lighter touch in terms of riffing and drumming. It's still heavy stuff, but there's a lot more of a sense of motion.

Sonic Syndicate's softer side comes into focus on "Enclave," which starts with a simple clean riff. Johansson's vocals are completely dominant here. It's an interesting diversion that breaks up the brutality well, even if it does feel a little out of place.

I love the guitar line in the verses of "Denied," punctuating the lyrics with a minimum of muss and fuss. On the other hand, the anthemic choruses have started to feel a bit by-the-numbers by now.

The title track, "Only Inhuman," gallops along well initially, but slows too much when the screaming starts. It feels disjointed and doesn't really work for me. The slow "All About Us" is also not particularly great, especially during the verses which are intended to be a slow build, but flame out pretty spectacularly.

The quality comes back up with "Unknown Entity," which has a nice speedy riff that isn't slowed too much by the slower cadence of the screamed vocals. I also like the fact that the chorus feels a little smaller and more organically connected to the rest of the song.

I found the album's closer, "Flashback," to be a bit maddening. It never quite gets past the mid-tempo mark and, other than a break near the end that flirts with electronica, it's pretty unremarkable.

The production on "Only Inhuman" is impeccable. It's got a bruising depth to it that will make your windows rattle, while not neglecting high-end elements like the keyboards.

Still, though it's only 41 minutes long, the standard edition of "Only Inhuman" feels a bit longer, partly thanks to the throwaway title track and the equally forgettable "All About Us." Trimming one of either of those two songs would've probably done the trick in terms of tightening up the album.

That said, with "Only Inhuman," Sonic Syndicate mostly managed to pull off the difficult trick of marrying soft keyboards, death metal growls and bruising riffs into a coherent whole. Fans of melodic death metal will find much to love.

Highs: The opener, "Aftermath," as well as "Unknown Entity" and "Double Agent 616."

Lows: A couple throwaway tunes like "Only Inhuman" and "All About Us."

Bottom line: A good melodic death metal album, but one that could've been a bit tighter.

Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls
3.5 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)