Review: Steel Cage “Syndrome” [Sliptrick Records]

Review: Steel Cage “Syndrome” [Sliptrick Records]

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Italian modern melodic death metal band Steel Cage has been silent for fourteen years, and finally, last summer was a turning point for these Neapolitans, Sliptrick Records have released their second full-length album Syndrome. Changing their style towards modern, gothic and death metal direction, Steel Cage have still stayed true to their primal thrash metal roots.

Steel Cage is almost thirty years old, quite an experience it seems, but their activity was rather limited during the last decade, however they were never officially disbanded. The astonishing fact is that all the musicians are here from the beginning except their new singer Silvia Nardoni. They had really some issues in the past with the singers and bassists, but now, when everyone is in their right place, they were ready to present their latest creation. The pause was quite dramatic, but the change of style wasn’t so drastic, because Steel Cage never really abandoned thrash metal’s territory. It just isn’t omnipresent now, giving way to modern trends (but still within metal world, without mainstream’s slavery).

The latest record of these Italian metalheads has some similar song patterns – thrash/death metal verses plus modern rock choruses, so according to the logic of things, the verses are much heavier than pop-rock-oriented choruses. And some extreme vocals are also obtained during those parts, making quite a contrast with clean and powerful voice of Silvia. Gothic influence is a controversial issue, there isn’t enough dark atmosphere and melancholic space to be truly considered as a gothic band, and female vocals in metal aren’t enough to obtain a gothic badge. This oldish symphonic muddle made quite a mess at the beginning of the zero years, often falsely describing symphonic/operatic/power metal bands as gothic. But there’s also something grim and spooky on Syndrome, therefore with a stretch it can be depicted as gothic. But otherwise it is all about balance between extreme metal and alt. rock, meddling with traditional and old school principles, as well as contemporary musical ideas.

During melodic death and thrash parts, the sound occasionally turns into dusty and messy disarray, and with the singing lines pushed to the fore, it spreads the noisy discord. But the sound is decently equalized throughout the choruses, leaving all the disharmonic flaws behind. There aren’t many growls on Syndrome, but those thrash/death parts are a real treasure, contaminating with raw power of aggression and smothering all the demons of mainstream that try to dominate now and again. It’s sort of eternal confrontation between the forces of dark and light, when aggression, enormous speed and tumultuous chaos oppose pure sentiments and emotional feelings. This is a common occurrence within metalcore/melodic death metal genre, but on Syndrome this phenomenon is really clearly pronounced.

We can even trace a limpid progressive background from time to time that sophisticates the melodies and explicitly unites all the songs into a common pattern (especially this is audible during “Final Resistance”). These technical parts aren’t there for complicating things, but also without real hunger for experiments and idiosyncratic expression, it really is just a background level of influence. But quite pertinent. “Welcome Obscuritas” is inclined towards southern hard rock, reminding something from psychedelic rock of 1970s. “Blackest Pray” is the noisiest on this record, offering darker and sicker feelings. Surprisingly, but we can even hear some marks of romantic life and sentimental quirks (“In-static Mind”). Syndrome seems so systematic and direct in the traditional manner, but gathering all the musical diversities, it would be relevant to add that it’s not that simple. Steel Cage is far from avant-garde movement, but their music isn’t just about canonical purisms and classical clichés as well.

Syndrome is a concept album based on the apocalyptic future, when AI is able to feel emotions and becomes easy prey for demonic possessions. That’s actually really tragic idea (and quite feasible), reminding for the umpteenth time what a terrible world we live in. The apocalyptic war scenes with total destruction are also ostentatious through the fiery artwork. Painful and soothing at the same time, Syndrome shares equally violence and hope, historic traditions and futuristic visions, mind and soul.

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