With some rare exceptions – for instance, Lock Up or Bloodbath or Scour, who were reviewed earlier here – super groups nearly always disappoint, or at least underwhelm. For any number of reasons, what looked good on paper ends up falling short in the execution.
Case in point, the unwieldy, genre-straddling multinational all-star squad Sinsaenum, which teams Mayhem frontman Attila Csihar and ex-Dååth vocalist Sean Z with ex-Slipknot drummer Joey Jordinson, Dragonforce bassist (here guitarist) Frédéric Leclercq, Loudblast guitarist Stéphane Buriez and Seth guitarist (here bassist) Hiemoth. It’s a melange of Hungarian, French and American musicians who bring together black/death/power/thrash metal and industrial backgrounds.
And with that many cooks, and so many different ingredients, the sonic goulash that results, perhaps predictably, can get a bit messy. Not helping things here is the mish-mashy nature of the overall package, stirring together three news songs, two Japanese bonus tracks and a remix of the “Dead Souls” from the band’s 2016 full-length “Echoes of the Tortured.”
As far as the new tunes go, the title track boasts a Fear Factory-like groove and industrial hue mixed with a bit of thrash, power metal soloing and the growl-and-croak vocal interplay of Sean Z. and Csihar. “Monarch Of Death” is more straight up, and pretty slick, black metal punctuated by an uncharacteristically rousing chorus.
“2099 (Heretics)” is more menacing as Csihar displays some of the maniacal techniques that makes him so compelling with Mayhem – a bit more of that throughout would have been welcome. Instead, even when the band is at its “black metalliest,” Leclercq and Buriez punctuate things with flashy, Dragonforce-like leadwork that frankly feels a bit intrusive.
“Degeneration,” one of the bonus tracks, is the simplest, most straight-forward and catchy song here, taking an almost punk rock approach to black metal with its brisk, buzz-sawing riffs and terse, forceful vocals – most of which are from Sean Z. And as was the case with “Monarch Of Death,” the tag-team shout-along chorus makes for a nice touch. The more complex “King Of The Desperate Lands,” however, is a rather drab mix of death and black metal with lots of parts that don’t quite connect.
The remix of the slog-and-surge “Dead Souls” gives it some more crunch, making it the grittiest tune here. The front part of the song is a dull chug, but when the song finally surges at the midway point, it really rips, delivering some the EP’s most vicious hooks along the way.
Indeed, “Dead Souls” kind of encompasses the EP as a whole. There are lots of tasty bits on Ashes – and a couple songs that satisfy from top to bottom, notably “Degeneration” and“2099 (Heretics)” – which is more than some super groups can say. But Sinsaenum still sound like they are trying to get the sonic recipe right.
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