In many ways, Sydera's self-titled debut is everything mainstream heavy metal should be. The vocals are melodic, the rhythm guitars slam with solid-not-showboating riffs, the solos add to the songs, the lyrics work and classical piano and strings add a nice touch. Even the cover, a blood-drenched white rose, is pretty sweet (though similar to the cover of a old Lawrence Sanders novel).
Sydera, in other words, just might bring back old-school, Judas Priest/Iron Maiden-style metal.
The vocal melodies in "Eclipse" are unstoppable, the guitar solo in "Burden" displays axeman/singer Damon Valley's chops in a tuneful manner and the piano instrumental "Memoria" is truly inspired. There is a good mix between headbanging anger and gentle calamity across the 11 tracks.
The chorus to "Word is Gray" adds some variety, taking a break from intricacy to strum chords for awhile.
Throughout the record the bass plays a significant role – unlike many classic metal albums (...And Justice for All being the most obvious example), Sydera brings the low end to perceptible levels with EQ and mixing. Guillermo Arkosy is up to the task, providing flourish and counterpoint for the guitars.
There are only two minor problems with the record. The first is that the vocal style is a little out of date; it's a little power-metallish for mainstream tastes, and Valley sounds uncannily like Great White's Jack Russell here and there.
The second is that, incredible as the piano playing is, it was obviously recorded on either a keyboard or a computer program. When trying to capture the majesty and anxiety of sad classical music, digital timbres really get in the way. Next time around, the band should stick some microphones by the strings of a real piano.
Sydera, however, is a breath of fresh air – a real direction for mainstream metal now that the Korn revolution has faded. Extreme-leaning acts like Lamb of God and Shadows Fall show tons of talent, but the average audience shies away from scream-till-you're-hoarse vocals.
Robert VerBruggen (http://robertsrationale.blogspot.com) is an apprentice editor at The National Interest in Washington, D.C. and is an antiMusic contributor