|Musical Style: Modern Metal||Produced By: Joe Floyd|
|Record Label: Independent||Country Of Origin: USA|
|Year Released: 2011||Artist Website:|
|Tracks: 10||Rating: 85%|
|Running Time: 41:39|
It’s fair to say that I was surprised by Sins Of A Nation, a Chicago, Illinois based quintet that independently released its self-titled debut full-length in the fall of 2011. This soon to be well known band came together in 2007 as a result of a joining between drummer Frank “Hammer” DePinto and guitarist Ralph “Riff” Sorce but later rounded out its line-up with a second guitarist (Dave Dunsire), bassist (Dusty Raven) and vocalist (Dane McCartney). The name most easily recognizable is that of McCartney, who previously fronted the Christian power/classic metal band Septer and played a lead songwriting role on the groups 2006 sophomore release The God Key. So needless to say when McCartney contacted me about his new group Sins Of A Nation my attention was immediately piqued.
But what do I find so surprising about Sins Of A Nation? Specifically, it is the musical direction: A foundation of modern metal fused with some heavy classic and traditional metal influences. Modern from the standpoint of the groups occasional use of screaming vocals (sort of like Avenged Sevenfold), but classic and traditional in terms of how they balance things with the varied vocal abilities of McCartney which range from Dickinson-like wails to a low-key growl not unlike that of Chaz Bond (Jacobs Dream).
One of the keys to the group’s success - at least my opinion - is how they mix in just enough screaming vocals but not to the point of overdoing it. This is best exemplified on “Bow Down” and “Never Say Die”, two essential high energy pieces with the catchy hooks that would lend themselves to potential radio play. The approach works equally well on heavier tracks, such as the near thrash based sounds of “Tyrant” and “So Cold” in addition to the riff driven mentalities that “Lethal Injection” and “S.O.A.N.” bring to the table. The same holds true for the speed metal influenced “Self Evident” and contrastingly more melodic based “Threshold” and semi-ballad “Deafening”.
The only song in which the screaming vocals get in the way is “Daylight”, a number which is a bit too modern for my tastes. The problem being that the screaming plays too forthright a role, almost to the point of distracting from other positive qualities the song might bring (again, my opinion).
Or course, irregardless of musical or vocal direction it ultimately comes down to whether or not the songs are any good, right? And this is where Sins Of A Nation separates itself from the rest in that they prove expert at crafting material that holds up under repeated play no matter the heaviness, aggression, speed or mood. Now, many bands that attempt to mix in modern elements often end up sounding, well, modern to a fault or simply abrasive and/or heavy handed. Not so with Sins Of A Nation in that they avoid many of the trappings inherit to modern music, with the main reason being that they have such an easily identifiable classic metal influenced sound with charismatic and clean vocals to match. So I guess the best way to describe the group would be an effective merging of the new AND the old.
It also helps that Sins Of A Nation are not afraid to solo. Credit the guitar team of Ralph Sorce and Dave Dunsire in that the two play a significant role in the group not falling under the already referenced “modern to a fault” label. I do not know who handles the soloing on which song and when, but I can see any fan of metal (regardless of style or genre) appreciating the lead guitar work on “Threshold” (melodic touch), “Tyrant” (emotional direction), “Lethal Injection and “Stone Cold” (aggressive and blazing either way). The two also serve up an equally profound dose of heaviness, throughout as well (check out the riffs on “So Cold” and “S.O.A.N.”) but can also descend into some melodic guitar harmonies (as they do on “Lethal Injection”).
Production duties are ably handled by Joe Floyd, who has worked with the likes of Bruce Dickinson, Rob Halford, Slash and Warrior. And the results show with a sound that is crisp and edgy in accenting the bands natural raw energy in the process.
No, do not mistake Sins Of A Nation with being a Christian band. That being said, McCartney, who openly thanks “God (my everything)” in the albums liner notes, composed 90% of the albums lyrics. So while Sins Of A Nation might not be a Christian album, the majority of its lyrics were written with a Christian perspective in mind. In terms of specifics, lyrics focus on both relationships and social and political themes (in aligning with the bands name and aggressive album artwork) but with the occasional Biblical reference or spiritual imagery thrown in.
Track By Track
Opening “Bow Down” can best be described as four minutes of aggressive catchiness. The song plows forward to walls of crushing guitars from the start, slowly and gradually building and culminating for the hook driven mentality that is its gripping chorus. Again, very catchy but forthright as well, particularly as McCartney espouses upon a person with control issues
I feel this snake bit on my heart
The lies have torn my world apart
The venom traces in my veins
More deception for the insane
You fulfill my destiny
Like a phone that makes no calls
I’ll concede my prophecy
Just when my rival falls
“Threshold” starts to a joining of distorted guitars and narration. The high energy is maintained as the song chugs forward, heavy hitting as all get out during its verses but evenly smoothing for a surprisingly melodic based chorus. The melodic proclivity is maintained through a stretch of riveting lead guitar. “Threshold” deals with standing up for yourself when people have walked over you:
This one’s for all the anguish, I hope these words will make you bleed
We’ll rise with broken hearts, you’ll fall with broken dreams
You broke the threshold, and now we’re tearing at the seems
Maybe I should run away, and I would never raise my head
Maybe I should just forget, the sweetest words you ever said
What are these voices? They never, ever let me go
I hope one day you realize, your voice has been there all along
The all out aggression is taken to the next level on “Tyrant”. This one hits as hard as any here, with the underlining growled vocals almost giving the song an extreme feel. Despite the angst, “Tyrant” still proves quite listenable in standing out with a melody on the understated side of things. Instrumentally, initiative slows to a quieter passage that gives way to an emotional stretch of soloing.
“Lethal Injection” stands out with its dominant guitar riff- up-tempo, spirited and catchy as it gets. The song, otherwise, can descend into some staunch and low-key verses and even slower chorus that almost gives rise to an anthem-like feel. Another commanding instrumental section begins to guitar harmonies that transition to vigorous lead guitar. “Lethal Injection” is a tale of a guy who sells his soul to the devil but refuses any responsibility for his actions:
I felt like I’d never die, so I lived just like it
My unspeakable actions, what now have I done?
People were used up like paper, flushed down the toilet
The seven deadly sins were mine, innocence was lost
Resigned to my fate, I must accept it
He laughs in my ear, he mocks the preacher
As my last rites are read
Then the lights came, I was arrested
Then they took me away
“Daylight” is the albums only track not to do it for me. The problem is the overriding modern feel, reflected in the way too modern guitar tones and screamed vocals playing too prevailing of a role (to the point of distraction). The outcome is a setting a bit too heavy handed for my taste, with the notable melody characteristic to the better material here missing- at least based upon my experience. Only skip button of the ten.
“So Cold” delivers a thrash based mentality. This one hits like a ton of bricks, with sledgehammer guitar riffs upholding its distance (sort of like early Deliverance) but joined with the hook driven emphasis the band is best known. In the end, “So Cold” proves extremely heavy but catchy at the same time. Topping things off is the albums best run of blazing lead guitar. Lyrics focus on a military plane crash survivor who is determined to get home while at the same time God has a plan (even though we might not understand it):
Like the plane, how did I survive?
Still alive, for how long, I just do not know, but I see, You choose me
So now I must get up, and get out, away from this place
I’m so cold, my fate is carved in stone, when you’re all alone
Run, but to where, do I care, not gaining ground
It’s so hard, my heart pounds, ice walls on my lungs
Cannot breath, chipping teeth, it’s like tempered glass
Close my eyes, go to sleep
My fates carved in stone
The albums crunch heavy title track delivers a wallop. Up-tempo all the way, the song smashes its distance to a brazen as it gets rhythm guitar while putting in place an environs that has metal anthem written all over it. In particular are the ominous backing vocals during its verses and a sweeping chorus in which McCartney stretches and exhibits the full range to his voice.
“Deafening” delivers a bit of a changeup with its semi-ballad feel. The song features some interesting tempo changes, ranging from slower passages sustained by a quietly played guitar and others driven in the more decisive manner in which a staunch guitar plays a leading role. It works in that what we have here is an even joining of the melodic and the emotional. “Deafening” focuses on putting up walls to protect us from the lies around us:
I can’t hear you, cause these walls are in the way
I cant’ feel you, cause you took your heart away, you took my heart away
All these games you play, you took yourself away
Pleading and crying till I would give in
I’m praying forgiveness to wash away this sin
You were not denied, a part of me has died
All those nights you cried, ripped me up inside
Now you’re up and gone, nights are always long
Thrown right off my throne
On the floor alone
Things return to an up-tempo heading on “Self Evident”. What we have here is a furious slugger, almost approaching speed metal with its snarling disposition but also quite catchy upon acquiring the more even and polished focus that is its chorus. Some nice guitar harmonies can be found in the instrumental moments as well. “Self Evident” is a dig at bad politicians:
Didn’t anyone ever tell you not to bite on the hands that feed you
The souls, the ones that voted you in
Why don’t you just come out and tell us what you’ve done
Come out, we know you’ve been bathing in sin!
The only vote goes to the one with all the cash
Society gets sucked into the media grand
Why don’t you grant us our wish, step down from your throne
Come down, we’ll take back our God-given land
“Never Say Day” proves an exercise in all out intensity. The song finds itself awash with distorted guitars and pumping bass lines, creating an atmosphere of such raw emotion to border on the breathtaking. Just consider the staunchly done chorus interwoven with accenting harshly done backing vocals. I can understand why a video for the song was recorded due to its near perfect representation of the Sins Of A Nation sound. “Never Say Die” talks about rising above others negativity and realizing how blessed we truly are:
I’ve been the one who was kicked in the teeth,
And been thrown down the stairs by your hands
I’ve never complained about anyone’s race
Nor have I been cold about your plans
Now is the time for me to rise up and feel the glory
I will tell the world
I am a fighter you’ll never understand me, I’ve come to take names of all
I’ll never say die! Say it once again
Say my name again! Say it again!
All my life, until the bitter end
Don’t say you’re a friend…
Review by Andrew Rockwell
Track Listing: “Bow Down” (4:19), “Threshold” (4:00), “Tyrant” (4:33), “Lethal Injection” (5:23), “Daylight” (3:37), “So Cold” (3:44), “S.O.A.N.” (3:34), “Deafening” (4:56), “Self Evident” (3:28), “Never Say Die” (4:01)
Dane McCartney - Lead Vocals
Ralph Sorce - Guitars
Dave Dunsire - Guitars
Dusty Raven - Bass
Frank DePinto - Drums