It seems that every time I review a metal CD, I have to go on a big, lengthy diatribe about how dead nu-metal is, how it's nothing but tuneless public therapy sessions that follow the same churn-churn-groan formula, but it's something that has to be reiterated. This trend needs to be killed. Fast. Only a small handful of bands from the nu-metal genre are actually talented (including System of a Down, Soulfly, and Meshuggah), and the rest is just trash. But what about the real metal, the loud, brutal, tuneful stuff guys like myself listened to way back when? Does anybody play that stuff anymore?
Yes they do, as a matter of fact. It's funny how the bands who play the classic, melodic form of metal are the ones who were driven underground as the grindcore and rap metal garnered all the attention; 10 years ago, it was just the reverse. So if you wanted to find one of those bands, you had to do a fair bit of searching, but with the release of Brand New Sin's self-titled debut album, the search for good classic metal has become much easier. The Syracuse, New York sextet (that's right, an Iron Maidenlike six members) are loud, talented, and ugly as sin. In other words, what metal fans have been waiting for all this time.
Boasting three guitarists (Slider, Ken Dunham, and Kris Weishmann) Brand New Sin has a powerful sound, and that point is sledgehammered home in the opening bars of "Broken Soul": there's no tuned-down bass and crunchy guitars; instead, to describe it simply, it's a monster, headbanger riff, a chest-thumping intro we would have come to expect from bands like Judas Priest and Armored Saint. When burly singer Joe Altier pipes in, it's also a bit of a surprise to actually hear what he's saying. With his leather-lunged howls that sound an awful lot like a cross between Pantera's Phil Anselmo and former Armored Saint/Anthrax singer John Bush, Altier is a commanding presence in the band. The third surprise comes three minutes into the song: an actual guitar solo! And even better, a great little Maiden-styled two-part harmony solo. Simple, melodic, and not self-indulgent, the solos on this song, and the others, are surprisingly good.
"My World" is the fist-pumping anthem that befits music like this, its slight hint of organ in the background adding a good touch to a soulful song ("My world has forsaken me / My world has passed over me and given to the others"). "S.P.P." and "Did You?" both possess a blazing guitar riffs and great solos sounding straight from the days of classic Judas Priest, while "Changes" and "Shattered" combine Iron Maiden's musical intricacies with early Metallica's melodic, yet brutal heaviness. The ballad "Missin' You" is a standout, where Brand New Sin's Southern rock roots shine through: there's that Lynyrd Skynyrd-like triple guitar attack, which allows for acoustic, rhythm electric, and solo slide guitars, while Altier shows remarkable range, going from a Ronnie Van Zant workingman's croon to his all-out bellowing in the blink of an eye. More than a typical post-grunge power ballad a la Nickelback, "Missin' You" is actually a well-crafted slow song.
The outstanding "Sad Wings" takes the Skynyrd sound further, adding a big dose of roaring guitars, venturing into Corrosion of Conformity or Down territory, and Altier's and Slider's vocal harmonies in the chorus make the song soar, as they sing, "My eyes are blind to lies they told me / Hidden scars you thought they'd hold me / Leave me helpless and all alone." The dead-on, perfect "The Oath" is pure, unabashed retro-metal, featuring a walloping, head-bobbing riff, with Altier in full-on bellow mode. The band's bio claims the album "will make you want to play air guitar in front of the mirror again, like Appetite For Destruction, and listening to "The Oath", they weren't very far off.
It's a crying shame a band like Brand New Sin isn't on the Ozzfest bill (it's probably because they don't have $75,000 to shell out); young metal fans need to be exposed to this music. Brand New Sin isn't the most original band on the planet, but at least they're combining the best elements of their influences to try to create their own sound, instead of all the tired acts using the same cookie-cutter, minimal-effort sounds of the genre. This very good, tightly played first album is a bit raw, but it still packs a heckuva punch, and if they can hook up with a talented hard rock producer in the future (paging Rick Rubin . . .), they might have the potential to break out. For now, I suggest you enjoy this record; if you're thirteen years old and are looking for something a bit different from the corn biscuits out there, try Brand New Sin. If you're an ex-metalhead like yours truly, it'll restore your faith in a genre you may have considered long dead.