Ah, another release from metal vocal monster Andy B. Franck’s “other” band Symphorce. While most in the metal world are familiar with his work with Brainstorm, Symphorce is his more “cult” band where he explores musical styles and moods that wouldn’t fit with the straight ahead metal style of his primary outfit. Over the years Symphorce has released some albums that were actually superior to those of Brainstorm and I often wondered why they weren’t better known, especially since Mr. Franck is one of the better vocalists in metal today. Generally Symphorce hasn’t strayed too far from the style Brainstorm employs but they have tended to toss in more prog elements and try more diverse sounds (but much less so than his original band Ivanhoe). That pattern continues here on their seventh album Unrestricted. However, this is a slight step back in quality from previous Symphorce albums and feels a little rushed and incomplete. Fortunately, the shortcomings in songwriting are at least partially overcome by the vocal efforts of Mr. Franck.
Things get off to a fine start with “The Eternal” which showcases all the usual Symphorce strengths including Mr. Franck’s powerful vocals and memorable chorus structures (the guy writes memorable choruses in his sleep). Although slower than many Symphorce songs, their usual crunching guitars are present and accounted for and keep things plenty heavy. The next few tracks continue in a similar slow to mid-paced direction without much deviation and the songs work well enough but lack some energy. Not until the fifth song “The Waking Hour” does Unrestricted throttle up and go balls out, but it’s worth the wait because this is the album standout and a monster song showing Symphorce at it’s best. Franck sings the bloody hell out of this one and you can feel his pain as he describes the bitter end of a relationship. In fact, most of the tracks on Unrestricted seem to focus on the topic of loss and hurt so that may explain the slower more morose vibe running throughout.
The rest of Unrestricted plays out in the same sedate, slow way it started without reaching the energy or quality level of “The Waking Hour” but does manage to deliver some solid songs like “Visions,” “The Mindless” and “Do You Ever Wonder.” Even on the less amazing tracks like “The Last Decision” and “Worlds Seem to Collide,” Franck’s excellent vocals keep things interesting and he’s always able to impress with his forceful delivery. Despite his vocal prowess, several songs here still feel like filler and lack the consistent quality that was so abundant on prior Symphorce albums.
I’ve heard some early rumblings that this album is Symphorce’s attempt at being more commercial or selling out but I don’t hear that at all. This is still a heavy album with thick, crunchy guitar work and powerful metal vocals and light years heavier than the material on their debut album Truth to Promises. Although the pace is slower, nothing on here is likely to get any kind of radio airplay anytime soon. Since Symphorce is Franck’s musical laboratory where he does whatever he wants, he was likely in his “blue period” when writing these songs and therefore, they’re less angry and more about loss.
While Unrestricted is a drop off from past releases, it’s by no means bad. I think Symphorce is the victim of high expectations due to past excellence so even though this is a decent release, it feels a little lacking. If you love the way Brainstorm sounds and have yet to check out Symphorce, I would recommend earlier albums like Become Death or Sinctuary over Unrestricted but its definately not a waste of time.