2/8/2008 - Review by: Vinaya Saksena
I used to think that Canadian metal scribe Martin Popoff was a bit unkind to his homeland's music scene in his Collector's Guide to Heavy Metal, where he repeatedly made reference to "Canadian mediocrity," with Triumph apparently being among the worst offenders. I've personally been baffled by this attitude, although Thirteen brings me closer to understanding where Popoff was coming from with those comments.
Yes, though I harbor no ill feelings toward anything Canadian, this album makes a case for those who consider much Canadian music boring, dull, uninspired, or whatever unflattering adjective you wish to throw at it. Somewhat tellingly, the gushing press release that accompanied this album classifies their music as "hard rock," about as generic and generalist a classification as one could ask for. I'm honestly not sure who this stuff is supposed to appeal to (not that I subscribe to the overused idea of niche marketing), and frankly, I'm not convinced that the band themselves know what they're going for either.
Honestly, I've tried to listen with an open mind, but I simply cannot shake the feeling that Sonic X are uncommitted rock generalists, self-consciously grabbing a little of this and a little of that (mostly whatever's fashionable) to their sound, but ultimately producing a product that is just that: A product, intended for easy marketing and easy digestion, but without much by way of unique or exciting musical traits.
Much of the blame goes to vocalist Adam Troy, a competent singer, but one with absolutely no detectable individuality, basically presenting a bland combination of the late Layne Staley of Alice in Chains, Aaron Lewis of Staind, and pretty much any of the (mostly American) cookie-cutter "modern rock" vocalists who have been cramming the airwaves with more of the same for the last few years stateside. The rhythm section is also pretty dull and indistinct, with the drums recorded in a rather thin, clanky and overly sanitized fashion, and the bass sleepily staying out of the way most of the time. Only guitarist Lawrence Falcomer makes anything I would call a remarkable contribution to this band's sound, with his vaguely George Lynch-like chops deserving a tip of the hat, but most of his riffs only rising slightly above the status quo-reinforcing efforts of his band mates.
It's too bad this band displays such a predilection for modern rock mediocrity, because on the rare occasions when they stray from the formulaic, their true potential shows. Unfortunately, this is only evident on the odd mellow, reflective track found on this album, with the very Zeppelin-esque acoustic number "Shine" and the slide guitar-wielding "Seeds of Thunder" being particularly impressive. The band clearly likes to rock as well, but with the dull, simplistic and repetitive stuff that passes for heavier fare on this album (opening cut "Crawl" is just garbage, I'm sorry!), these two tracks are akin to hearing a previously unreleased Led Zeppelin III outtake after an album's worth of commercial rock snooze-fests. Bottom line: A frustratingly average album that hints at the possibility of future greatness all too infrequently.
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