We all have our weird idiosyncratic dislikes. For me, one of those is people who cut spaghetti with a knife. Despicable barbarism. Another is the random and unnecessary capitalization of letters within a word. So you can imagine my reaction when the new album from SinHeresY1 landed in my lap. What is going on? Is this supposed to look cool? Do the capital letters that spell “SHY” mean anything? When you combine this with an album cover that looks like the main character of I, Robot ingested a boat load of acid while lost in a PS2 game, it becomes extremely difficult to maintain professionalism and hold preconceptions at bay. Was my infamously low scoring average about to be lowered even further, I wondered.
SinHeresY originates from Italy — where they eat spaghetti like civilized folk — and plays a fairly standard brand of symphonic, over-the-top power and prog metal. If you consider that they started out performing Nightwish covers, but then tried to go for a more Rhapsody-type aesthetic (but without the ridiculous skill), you’ll have a reasonable idea of what to expect. Out of Connection is the band’s third album, following 2013’s Paint the World and 2017’s Domino. While both were reasonably well-received, there was nothing truly noteworthy to bring them to the top tier of modern symphonic metal. Out of Connection is their attempt to correct this. It purports to examine how social media and technology have subsumed the individual. This idea, while not exactly original (Radiohead started it all with OK Computer), at least hints at an ambition not seen previously.
For the first two songs of the album, it seemed that all my initial reservations were completely justified. “What Makes Us Human” and “Out of Connection,” are both absolutely bog-standard. While the combination of Cecilia Petrini and Stefano Sain on vocal duties is never less than pleasing, the songs themselves are both insipid and uninteresting. Predictable chord progressions, riffs you’ve heard a million times before, and — particularly on the latter track — clichéd sound effects with way too much reliance on the synthesizer. Whoever decided “Out of Connection” should be the first single should be fired (or at least sent to the Skull Pit to think long and hard about their priorities).
But then something strange happens. Like an errant chili that escaped the chopping knife and is accidentally chewed whole, with “Zero One” SinHeresY suddenly brings the heat. Driving beats, a hitherto absent but palpable sense of urgency, and riffs you can hang your washing on. This is no fluke and continues into the second half of Out of Connection, with an impressively maintained string of mostly catchy and interesting songs. The intensity sometimes sputters due to clunkers like “Absolution,” with its grating chorus and repetitive bridges. Parts like these threaten (but ultimately fail) to sabotage all the hard-earned momentum. Towards the end of its run, however, the album climaxes with a string of songs in “Break the Surface,” “Shallow” and “Blood Like Water” that don’t just flirt with greatness, they invite it back to their place for a drink. With variation, emotion and compelling ideas, they straddle the line between symphony and prog perfectly. This is a perfect example of how effective dynamism can be, not only within tracks but as part of the album structure as a whole. If “Shallow” isn’t the next single, someone is getting a strongly-worded letter.
I’ve written before about how some albums that contain all the right elements to satisfy occasionally and mysteriously fall flat. Out of Connection is the opposite of that phenomenon. There is so much here to dislike, so many weird choices, clichés and missteps. But by the end of every spin, I was more than satisfied. It has its fair share of duds, particularly in its uninspired first quarter. When this baby flies, though, it flies high. I had a really rough week at work last week, and a lot of things went wrong. Out of Connection was not one of them. By the time I got to “Shallow” on the trip home every evening, I was smiling and tapping my foot. Every time. I still don’t understand those strange capital letters in the band’s name, but by the end of a few spins, I had stopped caring. I don’t regret spending time getting to know this weird beast. You won’t either.