SYMPHORCE
"Godspeed"

(Metal Blade)

01. Forsight
02. Everlasting Life
03. No Shelter
04. Nowhere
05. Haunting
06. Black Water
07. Wounds Will Cast Within
08. Your Cold Embrace
09. Without a Trace
10. The Mirrored Room
11. Crawling Walls for You

RATING: 8/10

I did not expect to be disappointed with SYMPHORCE's fifth release, "Godspeed". After all, if super vocalist Andy B. Franck is involved, it's a good bet that a reliably solid, melodic heavy metal album will be the end product. Earlier this year, we were treated to another strong release from Germany's BRAINSTORM ("Liquid Monster"), Andy's "other" band. The act is the more power metal of the two, although not in a HAMMERFALL sense. The descriptor is a loose fit for either group, especially SYMPHORCE. On "Godspeed", it's a matter of modern metal with fat riffs, traditional song structures, infectious melodies, and Franck's powerful singing. In that sense, this is in fact "metal" with "power".

The chunky, down-tuned (perhaps seven strings) approach characteristic of 2004's "Twice Second" is even more prevalent here. Much like NEVERMORE (an only partially accurate comparison that sometimes gets thrown out) the riffing is thick, and the rhythm section stout and commanding. The main riff on the up-tempo "Wounds will Cast Within" — complete with pinch harmonics — is most representative of the muscle-bound attack. It's also one of the few songs with a guitar solo ("The Mirrored Room" also includes a tasteful lead). Lead/rhythm guitarist Cede DuPont (ex-FREEDOM CALL) and rhythm guitarist Markus Pohl are responsible for creating those meaty riffs and rugged textures. As with any of these tracks, it's the chorus that gets imbedded in one's brain. "Wounds Will Cast Within" is no exception.

The beauty of "Godspeed" is that the band delivers a consistent hard-driven attack with catchy melodies across the board. The album-closing power ballad, "Crawling Walls for You" obviously doesn't possess the bruising riffs and drumming, as its focus is on serene melody. There is also a brief acoustic intro ("Forsight") to open the album. "Everlasting Life", "No Shelter", "Nowhere", "Haunting", and "Black Water" are classic SYMPHORCE rockers with big hooks. "The Mirrored Room" has one hell of a tough groove, brief moments of bayou swamp slide guitar, and (once again) a sing-along chorus. "Without a Trace" is a rocket-fueled rocker with double-bass girth and a shout chorus. Always in complete control of his wide vocal range, Franck even does a Mustaine speak-snarl on much of "Your Cold Embrace".

With all the genre-blending, technical extremity, and breakdowns overtaking the scene, albums like "Godspeed" can sometimes get overlooked. A SYMPHORCE disc is designed for those who just want to rock hard and sing along. This band understands its audience.

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