REVIEW: SINBREED – “IV”
It’s very hard to make it in the power metal world. The constant criticism of it being a stale genre and the fierce competition make bands feel the need to leave their safe space and often times reinvent themselves. Sinbreed was one of those bands, though, that had all working out for them before their new effort, ‘IV’: an unique powerhouse vocalist, inspired riffs and a fresh take on the European power metal strand, only to suffer considerable losses since their last output ‘Master Creator’ (2016) with longtime member – and one of the band’s pillars – Herbie Langhans, leaving his post.
Alex Schulz (bass), Frederik Ehmke (drums, Blind Guardian) and Flo Laurin (guitars, keyboards) quickly picked up the pieces and joined forces with Nick Holleman (vocals, ex-Vicious Rumors) and another axeman in Manuel Seoane to finish their fourth album and to further consolidate their intent of being one of the great new euro power metal bands out there.
But Nick Holleman’s voice is very, very different than Langhans’, being high-pitched, cleaner and somewhat generic for the genre’s standards, so naturally the band’s modus operandi shifted from an Iron Savior-esque style to an almost by-the-books *insert a melodic Swedish/Finnish band here* kind of sound, which means that some of their uniqueness has been lost forever (or at least until they change vocals again).
“First Under the Sun” and “Falling Down” open the album illustrating exactly that. The entire pace of these songs was tailored to fit Holleman’s falsettos and screams, and even the crunchy riffs and powerful drum-work by Ehmke were slightly modified to a more frenetic tempo. The melodic choruses and characteristics leads seen here are reproduced throughout the whole effort in some manner, giving you a déjà-vu feeling more often than not.
While tracks like “Wasted Trust”, “Into the Arena” (which sadly only shares the name with Running Wild’s classic tune) and “Pride Strikes” are heavily supported by these elements and kind of get lost in all the frantic, urgent motion, it’s when Sinbreed maneuvers to more carefully crafted compositions that they truly shine. “Pale Hearted” and “Final Call” are easily the two best songs here, with Seoane and Laurin masterfully providing lead support with their guitars and Schulz and Ehmke blasting through in the background.
“Pale Hearted” evokes every element that has ever worked out in these guys’ favor, from the pounding of the drums to the heavier approach. By slowing things down, there’s a clear improvement in the verse and bridge here in comparison to other tracks, and the quick change of speed to power-up the chorus is a tried-and-true formula that works wonders in the song. “Final Call” is also a great moment, introducing some folky elements and featuring a medieval aura akin of the European metal scene of the late 1990’s.
“The Purge” is also a winner, but unlike its predecessors, takes a more modern path with galloping riffs and a strange, but cool chorus. It’s a good track especially because it sheds a different light in terms of overall songwriting. Similarly constructed is “At Least I Am”, but this one is actually a mix of the melodic, sugary vibe with some heavier parts.
“Pride Strikes”, like I said above, and closer “Through the Fire” are yet again two happier tunes, with the latter one being one of the most flowery songs of Sinbreed’s career. Heavily keyboard-driven, it’s an epitome of European power metal in all its unicorn-ish, magical glory. It could easily be featured in a Stratovarius album or as an ad for diabetes awareness – get your sword, shield and insulin for this one.
‘IV’ is essentially antagonistic to what Sinbreed made in their first three albums: instead of being powerful and imposing, it’s pompous and melodic. While the execution instrumental and songwriting-wise are top notch, it bothered me to see that the Germans took a safe, lukewarm road with an ok view over a challenging one with a far better reward at the end, which is what they were doing with Herbie Langhans on the helm. The compositions are solid and the quality is way above average for the genre, so I recommend this to power metal enthusiasts, but longtime fans of the band may have some small issues with it.