In the early days of my love affair with Euro-power metal, I cared not how cheesy, melodic or un-macho the music was as long as it was catchy and fun. From Helloween‘s funny creatures and pink bubbles to whatever colon clogging Velveeta casserole Stratovarius was serving up, it was all good. Somewhere along the road to olde age however, I started expecting more power in my Euro-power, and my tastes turned towards bands that remembered to put the precious metal in their molasses confections. That’s why Sinbreed always struck a chord with me. Their sound was rife with thrashy aggression even as they wooed you with big, cheesy choruses. The presence of several Blind Guardian members helped ensure things stayed rough and ready and the band’s approach was equal parts catchy and clobbering. Their When Worlds Collide debut was heavy and edgy, and followups Shadows and Master Creator kept the good times punching. That brings us to the imaginatively titled IV, which sees the departure of uber-talented frontman Herbie Langhans and Blind Guardian guitarist Marcus Siepen. Can the Sinbreed magic endure such a major lineup shuffle? In a word, no.
It’s not long into opener “First Under the Sun” that the problems become apparent. New singer Nick Holleman (ex-Vicious Rumors) is a noticeable downgrade from Herbie, both in power and charisma. He’s the very model of a modern Euro-power vocalist – high-pitched, thin and lacking in anything resembling grit or toughness. The song itself is like prior Sinbreed material but with much of the vitality and aggression leached out. It’s very generic, and though it’s fast and fairly catchy, there’s nothing about it to distinguish it from the hundreds of other bands doing exactly the same thing. “Falling Down” fares a bit better, sounding like the recent Helloween output. It’s just catchy enough to make an impression, but I still can’t help but feel we’ve entered the dreaded ‘dime a dozen’ realm of Euro-power.
The best moment comes with “Pride Strikes” and it’s amped up, more muscular delivery. It’s the only song that feels like vintage Sinbreed and it even has a big Avantasia vibe to the chorus. “Wasted Trust,” also represents a partial return to the band’s heavier side, benefiting from one of the album’s best choruses, but it reminds me so much of the vastly superior and heavier “Behind a Mask” from their Master Creator album that it dilutes the experience. Other attempts to recapture their heavier side are only partially successful. “Pale-Hearted” is somewhat more urgent, but Holleman’s candy-coated, reed-thin vocals undermine the attempt to kill with power. Late album track “At Least I Am” tries to up the horns with more grit and the inclusion of quasi-blackened rasps, but it’s too little too late and not all that convincing on a song that still sounds sappy and cheesy.
Mr. Langhans’ powerful vocals are sorely missed throughout IV‘s runtime. Nick Holleman is capable and professional but there’s not denying he’s a step down from his predecessor. He sounds like every other testicle wrecking rafter wailer in the Euro-power scene, and nothing about his delivery imparts anything unique to Sinbreed‘s sound. Flo Laurin and new axe, Manuel Seoane do their best to inject excitement into the mix and some of their leads and harmonies do catch the ear, but by and large they too fall into the abyss of standard issue Euro-power tricks and tropes or frenzied polka party music. The harder edge Marcus Siepen brought to the mix is lost and this often feels like a lackluster Bloodbound album.
With IV it looks like Sinbreed have fallen from the tier reserved for Euro-power acts with balls and guts. That’s quite a shame as there are precious few that pull off that kind of sound. IV is competent, by-the-number power metal with a few respectable tunes in tow, but nothing here is essential or required listening. I suggest going back to their earlier albums rather than investing in this one, and that’s an end of the year bummer.