Sinocence – ‘No Gods No Masters Volume 3’ (Self-Released) Print E-mail
CD Reviews
Written by Mark Ashby   
Monday, 06 November 2017 04:00

ngnm v3 cover smallFive years ago, Sinocence, widely regarded as Northern Ireland’s premier heavy metal band, set off down an ambitious path. With three full length albums under their belt, they took inspiration from one of their heroes, Philip J Anselmo, and set out to record a triptych of thematically-connected EPs, the first of which emerged at the end of 2012.

 

The release of the first volume of the ‘No Gods…’ trilogy – the seed for which had first been sown 12 years ago, before the ‘Scar Obscura’ album – came at the end of a period of transition and trauma for the band: they had (relatively) recently undergone a line-up change, and the recording marked the birth of this new era in the band’s career. It was also recorded against a background of personal and collective turmoil – and the same could be said of the Northern Ireland metal scene at the time… Looking back, it was a scene that was emerging from a period of apathy and disillusion, re-energizing and re-inventing itself, with a host of new bands starting to come together and emerge out of the darkness which had enveloped this part of the Überverse for too long. For a decade, the Sins had flown the metal flag almost single-handedly: they themselves will admit that they too had become disillusioned, but instead of turning their backs they decided to come out fighting. The result was a truly benchmark work: a collection of five songs which, at the time, I hailed (while writing for another site) as “a work of genius”.

 

The path to where the band now find themselves, completing the trilogy, has by no means been an easy one. ‘NGNM2’ was recorded against a backdrop of personal pain and loss for some of the band members, something reflected in its raw emotion and viscerality, especially on the deeply personal ‘Valorous’. But, adversity brings challenges and a desire to rise above the circumstances, and on each of the first two parts the Sins consistently upped their game, in the process laying the smack down with two of the most titanic (sic) song intros ever recorded – in the shape of Volume 1’s ‘Long Way Down’ and then ‘Ascension Code’ on the follow up.

 

Two-and-a-half years on from the publication of Volume 2, Sinocence have now re-emerged from another protracted period buried in the studio to complete the trilogy. This part of the journey has not been without its own difficulties (nothing is ever straightforward or uncomplicated in the Sins camp). Shortly after the airing of the second episode, they were forced to undergo another line-up change, with drummer Davy Cassa departing the ranks, to be replaced by Ben ‘Blademan’ Simpson: it was a daring move by the band, as the new recruit admitted to never having heard of the band – and also to not really being much of a fan of the local metal scene… However, nobody need have worried, as he immediately made an impact and proved himself to possibly be the drummer they had been looking for all the way through their now 15+ year career!

 

With each of the previous two EPs, the Sins raised the bar, for both themselves and the vast majority of other metal bands around them. As mentioned above, they produced two of the most intense and impactful songs I have heard in the five years during which this project has gestated: two songs which will stand toe to toe, nose to nose, with any other metal anthem produced in the same period and, as we say in this part of the world, knock the ballix clean out of ‘em. They’d set themselves a helluva task when it came to the third and final instalment…

 

Well. I’ll tell you what: not only have they risen to the challenge – but they’ve blown it clean out of the ball park. You would, probably fairly, expect any band at this stage of their career to sit back and replicate what they have done before – but not the Sins. With ‘NGNM3’ they have produced not only their single strongest body of work but a career defining collection of songs: I’m not just saying this because I’m friends with the guys in the band… after all, a whack of years back I accused them of playing “metal by numbers”. With ‘NGNM3’ they are laying down a marker which many other bands will struggle to emulate.

 

 

Those two openers I mentioned earlier? Well, ‘Full Spectrum Dominance’ takes them, scrunches them up in a little ball and throws them in the wastepaper bin. That’s not to denigrate either ‘Long Way Down’ or ‘Ascension Code’ in any way… it’s just the ‘FSD’ takes it to the next level – and then some. It crashes out of the speakers with the force of a tsunami, Simpson’s full on assault and battery fuelling a ferocious twin guitar and bass drive which sees one instrument indistinguishable from the other, adding to the impact. The lead in to the first verse sees them ease off the pedal ever so slightly before depressing it again and setting everything to “rip your head off” intensity. And, holy fuck, first there is one of the most aggressive yet tuneful vocal performances Moro has ever laid down. And then there’s the wiry guitar solo, which blitzes the landscape before it like a Californian wildfire. And that chugging breakdown. I can’t wait to see this one live – although I’ll have to wait a while, due to being out of the country for the official launch show (see details at the end of this review).

 

‘Bilateral’ opens with another demonstrative percussive beatdown from Simpson – honestly, this guy is one of the best pure metal drummers I have EVER heard in my 30+ years writing about music – before evolving into an angst-fuelled monster, which breathes fire and anger in equal measure. The guitars of Anto and Moro intertwine like conjoined twins, neither leading nor following but working in perfect harmony before one spins off and delivers another face-melting solo, while Seymour’s bass work underpins the entire sound almost invisibly in the background, but all the more effectively for being so. And, of course, there’s another of the Sins’ trademark “quiet” sections before they explode back into life with a viciousness many like myself would never have thought the guys were capable of a few years ago. This definitely, and defiantly, is the sound of a band reborn.

 

There’s another piercing volley of drums and a boisterous riff before Moro barks ‘Drop The Bomb’. One of the Sins’ slower songs, if that is possible, it boils and broils like a hurricane trapped in a box, seething and dense: you can feel the adrenaline coursing through Moro’s veins as he spits the lyrics with venomous intent, before uncoiling and lulling you into a deceptively warm embrace and then slowly crushing your ribcage. Collectively, this is definitely his strongest vocal performance ever, aided – as is the rest of the album – by the stunning production by the father and son team of Frankie and Luke McClay at the more than aptly named Einstein Studios.

 

‘Mind Over Murder’ is the first track not to be introduced by a drumline, but instead by the sort of chugging riff Dave Mustaine probably would cut off his ridiculous moustache to have produced. Then the drums kick in, the pace moves up to rapid fire and Moro’s vocals snaps quicker than your neck muscles will when you hear this. Once again, you can feel the heat of the fire in the guy’s bellies, as the closing solo rips and tears at your flesh…

 

Fittingly, the EP rounds off with the song we’ve been waiting five whole years to hear – ‘No Gods No Masters’ itself: and, by fuck and all the fucks in fuckdom, has it been worth the wait? Of course, it has! Kicking off with a remarkably restrained double-kick fuelled drum line from Simpson, the guitars slowly uncoil with the intent of a boa constrictor with the smell of prey in its nostrils, before Seymour’s bass pumps in and slowly helps to build the song’s intensity. You get the feeling that the guys are actually holding back, but the song is all the more effective for that, as there is that feeling of dark broodiness lurking just below the surface that just pulls at your sinews and your emotions simultaneously. Like opener ‘FSD’, it is one of the most complicated songs the Sins have ever recorded, and undoubtedly will be a challenge to reproduce live, and its multiple layers draw you into the soul of both the song and the project as a whole.

 

With ‘NGNM3’, Sinocence have not only come to the end of a long and painful road, but also have reached the point in their careers where they most definitely are their own masters of their own destiny. And, as such, they have produced a career-defining release and one which exemplifies what a band can do when they are at the height of their powers.

 

‘No Gods No Masters Volume 3’ is available for pre-order now. You can get your copy HERE.

 

The official launch show is at Limelight 2, Belfast, this coming Saturday (11 November). Support comes from Skypilot, Oracle and Ketos. Doors are at 5pm and admission is £6.

 

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