As far as straight up metal goes, Nijmegen, the Netherlands’ The Sin Committee is a cool band. As is almost never the case with avant garde bands, TSC has a fairly good shot at the popular rock music market.
Do you hear the ‘but’ coming? Yes, TSC is a tight band, and their no-frills approach works because they are talented musicians and work well cohesively. The band sounds like a whole, not like four separate people. And yes, on their new EP Confess (March 2009) they went with a good producer in a professional studio, and came out with a solid album that blends mostly progressive rock with dashes of math rock, doom and black metal.
But it’s not avant garde.
Additionally, in my mind, TSC does not break enough new ground. This is not to say that they are not a good band, as there are plenty of harmonies and melodies that add musical dimension, along with some true metal heaviness. It sometimes reminds me of Tool’s Undertow, as all the tempos sit in between speed metal and sludge.
Vocalist Joris Bod is lucky he’s so good, because his vocals are mixed way in front. His unique mix of singing and death metal low-register growling works well and does not sound like Linkin Park.
“It can be pretty exhausting switching from clean to growling all of the time,” Bod said in an email.
Bod’s first language is Dutch, but he said it was not difficult to write lyrics in English. “In my work and private life I frequently have to speak and write in English. The grammar is still pretty hard though so we checked and double checked and even triple checked before we provided our stuff to the printer,” Bod said.
Guitarist Raymon van Vught has a unique style, and bassist Willem Elbers and drummer Victor Smeets comprise a solid rhythm section.
It’s rock music that’s melancholy, metal, and a bit too close to emo for my taste. It’s metal when Job screams, and it’s rocking when he sings. He’s a very earnest vocalist, sometimes too much. And lately a lot of emo has been mixing with metal, and it makes me yearn for the 1980’s, when metal was tough and fast and drug-fueled.
On to some complicated track-by-track surgery. Scalpel.
Track 1 (Confess):
It’s a good opening track. Tight instrumentation. Not fast enough to be speed or death metal – it’s more mid-tempo and thoughtful. It’s not rushed, but not slow enough to be doom.
Confess opens with fading-in drums and processed reverb which becomes trembling noise; it all fades out as Job’s shriek fades in. It’s a cool little opening, and after one two-bar fill, the song begins. The opening riff, which is also the chorus riff, consistently changes. It’s almost in standard 3/4 time, save for a few shortened beats that make it mathy and unexpected. Very cool. The verse riff enters with just the guitars for four bars (in 4/4 time), then the singer sings four bars and we’re again into the mathy chorus.
After that, some death metal riffs are thrown in, then some Sepultura-like chords with a flanger, and Job switches from singing to death metal growling. And the last time they play the chorus, the instrumentation is a little different, giving it some variation. The song has this certain flow; there’s something about it that just makes all the parts fit together really nicely. Progressive rock should have this sort of seamless flow. This is good all-around rock music, using touches of death and black metal, and it still falls into the category of ‘general rock.’
I like how the first verse is only four measures long; it could be twice as long, but it would be too much. Moving directly into the chorus after that short first verse gives the song a feeling of consistent change and morphing. Like “The Thing” (1982) with Kurt Russell– the monster in that movie was constantly morphing and growing new parts and shedding others. A less horrifying version of that monster is what I think of when music is constantly flowing, like liquid. I like when music does not stay the same for too long, and though I criticize TSC for being too mid-tempo, they make up for it with consistent transitioning in their music. Given that, the songs flow very well as individual pieces and as a cohesive album. Four stars out of five for track 1.
Track 2 (Serious Adverse Event):
It’s not very interesting at first. It sounds like radio-friendly rock, but then Bod starts with the death metal growls again and the guitars go into doomy black metal sounds. Down-tuning the guitars also give the music a slight death metal feel, but not enough. Three stars out of five for track 2.
Track 3 (Straw Men):
At the 2:45 mark, the guitar does a really cool Middle Eastern-influenced single-string riff, and when the drums drop out the bass becomes suddenly apparent as it follows the guitar. Then the song slows down and the bass sounds distorted because there’s a low growling drone going on as the guitars and drums build back up. When they finally kick back into full rockage, it sounds somewhat like Darkest Hour, another quite ordinary band. Three stars out of five for track 3.
All in all, Confess is pretty good, but if TSC wants widespread attention, they’re going to have to do something more exciting. Tool succeeded with the mid-tempo rock doing almost the same thing TSC does on Confess.
The way I see it, TSC has a greater hill to climb. Confess is not going to project this band into the stars, but it’s a start. TSC has yet to reach their peak.
Confess could go far with fans of As I Lay Dying, Darkest Hour, or possibly early Tool or Alice in Chains. But since I’m reviewing this EP for avantgarde-metal.com, I have to say that Confess is not very avant-garde.
From a completely personal standpoint, I would rather have more speed in my metal, and more tonal variation. I wish TSC would stop down-tuning their guitars, and sacrifice the melancholy of mid-tempo metal. Either speed up or slow down, I say—get evil or get good—being lukewarm and in the middle is just boring. One thing TSC does not do too much is guitar solos. Now since I’m a fan of Megadeth and Metallica, I expect some high-register notes in my metal, and since TSC tends to cocoon themselves in the low registers, I’m left feeling melancholy. Metal should pump me up and energize me. Instead, Confess invokes anger without revealing a way out. It asks a question, but does not answer it.
I’m skipping track 4 (yawn).
Track 5 (Four 2 One):
At about the 2:00 mark, the guitar riff is a scale on the high notes. So there. They can solo, sort of. This is what I think they need more of. That guitar on this song is really tight and cool. Too bad about the track title, though. Using the numerical character ‘2’ to mean the word ‘to’ … shameful.
Holy crap, what is this I’m hearing at the end of Four 2 One? A straight up solo! Yes! Do that more, TSC! Four stars out of five for track 5.
Okay, this is a message for you, guitarist. Read carefully.
You hold a great responsibility on your shoulders. You are the most important member of the band, because metal is created more from heavy guitars than than heavy bass, drums, or vocals. Good guitar is integral to good metal. In short, van Vught, you have the potential to make your band really exciting. So do it. Push yourself to the next level. Make the next songs you record full of solos and intricate guitar work, and make the tempos faster. Low-register fills are cool, but the world needs more. Play more high notes and do more solos and switch to rhythm seamlessly. They don’t have to be fast like Mustaine or Hammett, they just have to be present. The solo you play on Four 2 One is a great example.
Bod – when you sing, do not add the growl to it. Just sing. Your voice must have clarity. It will further compliment the grittiness of your alter-ego that performs the death metal vocals. Let your singing voice be clear and striking, and let your growls convey the anger. And ease up—you don’t have to sound like you really, really mean it all the time; it’s okay to hold back and be a little quiet and mysterious.
It is clear TSC practiced these songs till they were blue in the face, because the execution is seamless. But talent is not the issue here. It’s just too melancholy, too much like Chevelle. This band needs more excitement in their music, and van Vught and Bod are going to have to be the ones who make the change.
Now I’d like to draw one major distinction between TSC and Darkest Hour: TSC has better vocals. Though I criticize Bod for being too earnest with his singing, it’s still cooler to have singing and screaming, and not just screaming the exact same way for a whole album. And to draw distinction between Undertow and Confess, I must say the two are completely different albums. The similarity I draw between them comes from the tonal range of the guitars and the similar tempos. The instrumentation is completely different between them. Basically, The Sin Committee has its own unique sound, which is enough to get any band recognized. To make it big, however, there has to be that certain … je ne sais quoi.
Solid Album – check.
Heaviness – check.
Talented musicians – check.
Quality Production – check (but mix the vocals quieter).
Excitement – work on it.
This is a good EP, but it’s not totally sweet, and not different enough from conventional metal to break new ground.
– Glenn Doom
Release: March 2009
Origin: The Netherlands
Official site: http://www.thesincommittee.com/
Review online since: 14.05.2009 / 21:20:12
01 – Confess
02 – Serious Adverse Event
03 – Straw Men
04 – Regression Of Faith
05 – Four 2 One