Synthetic – Clepsydra: Time Against Infinity Review

I’m sorry, but I have to comment on that album title before we do anything else. I’m not a fan of the pretentious and prosaic term-colon-subtitle formats to begin with, but if it’s something that at least sounds good I can overlook it. However, ‘clepsydra’ might be one of the most awkward sounding words in the English language. It’s derived straight from Greek and it means… water clock. Basically a water-based hourglass. Not altogether impressive. The subtitle, meanwhile, sounds perfectly fine, until you start thinking about what it actually means, at which point it all falls apart. How can time be against infinity? They’re both just metaphysical concepts, there is no way to put them in any sort of position where they can be against each other, either literally or figuratively. Combine the parts and we have one of the most frighteningly lurching Frankensteinian album titles I’ve laid eyes on this year. Can’t wait to hear what it actually sounds like.

Well, the promo claimed Clepsydra to be symphonic progressive metal, which did not fill me with hope. Thankfully, this claim was wrong. It’s not very symphonic; it just overuses keyboards a lot. It admittedly has that in common with actual symphonic bands, but at least the synths in Synthetic are more earnest in their synthetic1 sound rather than trying and failing to imitate an actual orchestra. Nor is this record very progressive at all; most of the songs have a basic verse-chorus structure and rely on direct hooks of a pretty tried and true style. The style in question is more along the lines of metalcore and melodic death, winding up somewhere in between Killswitch Engage, Soilwork and In Flames, just with a lot more keyboards.

I know some of you just threw up in your mouths a little, and if you did, you can safely stay far away from Synthetic. They stick pretty close to the melodeathmetalcore template; aggressive, chuggy riffing with core-based semi-growls in the verses, grand melodic hooks in the choruses. And fair is fair, it’s all executed by the book. The choruses are catchy like cholera, particularly the first-half-of-the-title-track, a true to form metal power ballad that has taken up permanent residence in my frontal lobe. “Autumn Scars” reminds me a lot of Eternal Tears of Sorrow, a mainstay of my early metal days, and I would probably have loved some of these tracks back in those days.

But that’s about 15 years ago, when I was much more easily impressed and catchiness was king. Now there are just too many things turning me off from Clepsydra. The vocals are quite inconsistent; sometimes they nail it, but just as often they sound very forced and constrained. The amount of cheese on this record could drown an orphanage in fondue. This is not in the least thanks to the colossal amounts of keyboards permeating every inch of the songwriting, but the vocals are not without blame either; this amount of overacting and pompous pretense is usually reserved for Italian artists. It feels essentially bloated from the get go with all that hot air, let alone for the running time that nears a full hour.

Clepsydra is not a bad record, not really. The hooks are hooky, the songwriting and the performances are solid aside from some minor vocal issues, the production is quite good, if a bit glossy. But it’s also bloated beyond belief. It’s also pompous and prancing with a lot of talk but nothing to say, its messages either so unfocused as to be either buzzword babble or overacted drama like a drunk improv class. It’s also at least a decade and a half too late to elicit more than a heaving sigh from yours truly. It feels like a record written by people who know what they’re doing but not what they want to do, and thus becomes an amalgamation of easy melodies and empty activism without much soul behind it. It’s a well designed plastic wrapper around an off-brand jumbo-sized Twinkie. Synthetic live up to their name.

Rating: 2.0/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: ROAR Rock of Angels Records
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: October 2nd, 2020

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  1. Ohhhhh…
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