SinophiA - Blessed & Cursed (EP) (2012)


Far be it from me to comment on the Serbian metal scene. Somewhere, 4500 miles from where we sit, there is an upswell of bands, looking to make their mark, not only on their brethren, but on fans the world over. SinophiA, a classic power metal act from Novi Sad, the second most populous city in Serbia, are crafting a brand of metal that could be as far reaching as their wildest dreams. Taking their influences from some of the most heralded bands in the world, Iron Maiden, Dio, and Iced Earth, this five piece has garnered a great deal of praise, even given the opportunity to support Tim "Ripper" Owens. So, with the eyes of the world watching, they launch "Blessed & Cursed," a debut EP that may resonate from Serbia, To New York, and beyond.

Leading off with "Void Of Doom," they waste no time mashing together a melodic guitar lead with a distorted rumble beneath it. The squeal of harmonics cuts through, welcoming the vocal lines to the track. Taking on the sound and structure of classic power metal bands, like Judas Priest, the vocals aren't necessarily operatic in any way, but the evidence of range is there even in the weaker moments. Each element, separately, does its job. But there are moments when, layered together, they lose a little bit of their punch. The band seems more at home in the heavy galloping riffs of the breakdown portion, one that is bookended by some good guitar work. The title track, "Blessed & Cursed," is a stand out here, right from the word go. The guitars have tightened up, and the melody that flows throughout the track is catchy, if nothing else. That same thunderous stomp that worked so well before returns, but with vocalist Miodrag Fodora finding his stride. Between the drums, which are suitably busy, and the constant vibration of bass strings, the rhythm section powers the track forward, while the guitars steer you left and right. trhow in a light piano outro, and you have a well rounded offering.

Unlike before, "Hallowed" sees a dramatic increase in tempo, particularly in the raging opening stanza. There is a noticeable change in tone as well, with Fodora's clean vocals being met quite aggressively with some gritty growls. The combination works well, but does leave the instrumental feeling a little weak underneath. This is not to say the backing band has lost any of their drive, but the dueling vocals create a plastic wrap over the guitars, leaving them muffled. A never ending run of double kicks breaks free, opening the flood gates to a bevy of guitar riffs. And while there isn't a single riff that will blow your mind, there are plenty that will, together, get the nod of approval. Not to be outdone, a flowing bass line opens "Warscream," which boasts a larger than life type of sound. Any lack of instrumental dynamics earlier are easily rectified here, with distorted riffs commanding every moment of the track. Everything falls into place, from a dazzling lead to an over the top wailing cry from Fodora. There is a veil of maturity that surrounds this song, aside from an odd grunting pre-chorus.

It's easy to find a sound from the past in the work of Sinophia. They embody so much of classic metal workmanship, as well as the mentality. Just on these four tracks, you can witness a growing, an evolution of the band and their sound. And while it is great for the here and now, it is even better for the future. And even though Serbia might not top our list of metal destinations, with more performances like this one, it very well could. "Blessed & Cursed" found its way thousands of miles to our ears, and shows once again that we don't have a magical telescope that helps us to find bands across the world. Sometimes, their music does the work for them.

7.5/10

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