I still remember the first time that I heard King1 by Fleshgod Apocalypse. The mixture of over-the-top symphonic arrangements with death metal hit me hard, and it remains one of my favorite albums of the last five years (or more). I had heard the style before, but King was the first album that showed me what can truly be accomplished when a band nails the perfect ratio of these ingredients. I eagerly await the follow-up to that great album with hype and trembling, but I thought I’d distract myself by picking up Profound, the debut2 from Danish duo Sinnrs, in the meantime. Touted as symphonic black metal, could this album sate my longing for symphonic extremity?
Not quite, but it’s not for lack of trying. Nero handles vocal duties and all of the stringed instruments while Maestus attacks the skins, and together they’ve created a sound that reminds me of Dimmu Borgir, Amon Amarth, and epic soundtrackers Two Steps from Hell. Profound adds a hefty dose of death metal to the black metal promised by the promo. “To Derive Eden’s Flame” begins with some ringing minor chords over double bass before the vocals come in with a tremolo that screams Amon Amarth. Combining smart rhythm changes, choirs, and Nero’s vicious snarl, the song is a perfect intro to the album. The embedded track “It Calls Me” begins with piano over some orchestration, launches into a marching, chugging riff backed by horns and intersected by sinister tremolo licks, then transitions into a phenomenal melodic black metal passage after the midpoint. It’s my favorite track and the best manifestation of the band’s sound to be found here.
“Commemorate None” closes the album out strongly. At nearly seven minutes, it contains enough ideas to support its length. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for “The Storm of I” and “Lift My Bones,” both of which have some strong moments but carry on far too long by adding too many stand-alone symphonic passages. This problem is only exaggerated by the inclusion of two instrumental tracks that create a feeling of redundancy feeling. Part of the problem lies in the drum performance by Maestus. While obviously possessing amazing technical ability, he relies on an insanely fast double bass approach much of the time. I love me some double bass, but its overuse here makes for a homogeneous listening experience at times. On the middle portion of “Et Sic Incipit,” it becomes apparent that the double bass is creating an artificial sense of density as the riffing would sound quite anemic and simplistic if the drums were to be removed. Not all of the Amon Amarth similarities on Profound are favorable with the melody of “No Promise to Mankind” sounding a little too close to “Embrace the Endless Ocean” for comfort.
I’m torn on the production. Nero’s guitar tone is delightfully crunchy and the symphonic elements accentuate the metal perfectly for the most part, but the drums—specifically the bass drums again—have an artificial sound that becomes overwhelming after a while. I’m a huge fan of this style when it works—and it certainly works on “It Calls Me,” “To Derive Eden’s Flame,” and “Commemorate None”—but Profound is in need of some editing. A few more variations in the drum patterns and the removal of about seven minutes of the runtime would have had me uauuing all over this album.
With a few great examples of symphonic extreme metal, Sinnrs have shown on Profound that they have the talent to succeed in the genre, but they’ve also shown the dangers of producing this style of music. Adding symphonic elements to an already powerful genre of music requires the discretion to know when and where to stop, and Profound overshoots the mark about half of the time here, proving that it ain’t easy being King.