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System Divide - "The Conscious Sedation" (CD)

System Divide - "The Conscious Sedation" CD cover image

"The Conscious Sedation" track listing:

1. Vagaries of Perception (3:48)
2. An Intoxicating Affair (3:12)
3. Echoes (4:33)
4. The Apex Doctrine (3:27)
5. Lethargy (3:45)
6. (N)ether (4:26)
7. Hollow (3:58)
8. Purity in Imperfection (4:13)
9. Repentiforget (4:33)
10. The Conscious Sedation (3:37)
11. Stagnant Progression (6:59)

Reviewed by on November 13, 2010

"...vocalist Miri Milman makes the been-there-done-that deathcore on System Divide’s newest album, 'The Conscious Sedation,' better than average..."

Remember back when you were 16 years old and everything you did was automatically better if you did it with at least one girl? Going ice skating, visiting the beach, doing homework, playing Dungeons and Dragons, sneaking booze from your Dad’s stash, making out – these were all things that were cool with just the guys, but were awesome if you got a girl to come along. Well getting a girl to come along is all the rage in ‘core nowadays and, keeping true to form, vocalist Miri Milman makes the been-there-done-that deathcore on System Divide’s newest album, “The Conscious Sedation,” better than average in aggregate, if inconsistent in small pieces.

System Divide’s music base is deathcore to the max. Swirling pits of down tuned guitar riffs play over furiously fast drumming and harsh vocals that are often layered to create more vertigo. Solos, keyboards, studio effects, tempo changes, breakdowns, and ethereal music breaks check off the rest of the requirements. Specific fist-bumps go to harsh vocalist Sven De Caluwe (Aborted) and drummer Mike Heller (Malignancy) for their brutal and hurricane contributions, respectively.

But of course the standout here is Milman, as she clearly is the focus of the entire album. Her vocals are exactly what you expect – melodic lines floating above and distinct from the morass below. “Echoes” has syncopated guitar chunks that couldn’t be more counterpointed to Milman’s croon; the chorus, with the blast beats mixed well back in the arrangement, is well done as Milman’s languid delivery calms the jagged drumming. But on songs like “Purity in Imperfection” Milman doesn’t fit, as she is so separate from the rest of the proceedings that System Divide would have been better off having De Caluwe sing those choruses (her “oooh-ed” highlights are a nice touch on the track, however).

So it is hit and miss with Milman on “The Conscious Sedation,” due to arrangement and composition instead of talent or style. When Milman is in lockstep with her band mates the results are phenomenal - “Vagaries of Perception” and “The Apex Doctrine” are two good examples. Actually “The Apex Doctrine” may be the best song on the entire album, with its grinding lead riff and different vocals, keys, and guitar layers winding in and out at breakneck pace. But when she operates above the composition or just pops in for a chorus, her vocals actively detract from the overall effect – “Repentiforget” and “Lethargy” are the examples here.

Think back again to when you were 16, but this time on a date; you were killing it during the appetizers, but then you said something stupid during dessert, and maybe you got a couple good jokes in on the way home, but ultimately you just got a peck on the cheek. It was fun, and you’d probably do it again with the same girl – but the date was uneven and gives no clues about whether this will end in a long relationship or with awkward rejection.

Highs: “The Apex Doctrine” combines deathcore and the clean vocals to perfection.

Lows: When the clean vocals aren’t mixed into the rest of the music, like on “Repentiforget,” the music suffers pretty badly.

Bottom line: Deathcore with female clean vocals delivers some great moments and some awkward ones too.

Rated 3 out of 5 skulls
3 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)