Synapse – Impulse Review
We are lucky to have had early access to such an album! Synapse’s first EP is set to be released on the 16th of September, but we couldn’t wait to review it! With 6 songs and a whopping 30 minutes of length, they sure made a strong entry into the prog metal scene. The influence bands like Dream Theater and Extreme had on their style is impossible not to see, which is normal as the band started their journey by doing covers. Needless to say, they made a good decision to produce their own music, read the rest of the review while you wait for the release to find out why!
Thomas Valentin – vocals
Sacha Le Roy – bass
Alexandre Sacleux – lead guitar
Carlos Bardonnet – drums
1- One Bad Day Away (6:39)
The opening track “One Bad Day Away” of the album starts with a riff that’s psychedelic ness reminds us of the prog metal songs like “Home” by Dream Theater and “Forty Six & 2” by TOOL. However, the intro changes and the songs proceed more harshly than those two songs. As the drums and guitars kick into the song, we get a taste of the power metal influence on the band’s musical scenery. Then comes the part where the guitar plays an Adam Jones-ian guitar solo while we also get to hear the main riff from a bad-a** bass tone. Band also plays with different musical narrative techniques such as harmonic guitar parts and pinch harmonics.
Then the lyrics kick in with a riff change, singing “you are just one bad day away from here”, directly leads our way through the mind of the lyricist. The lyrics are written from the perspective of a character that has been alienated from the outer world because they have been seeing him as a “monster that has no bounds”. However, our narrator faces all the judgments and accepts that s/he has become something that has no place in our society. But, as the narrator mentions, people are “one bad day away” from becoming the person that s/he has become. As we deal with pain, we tend to see the emptiness of the moral values of the society-and this “growth” can only happen if one suffers(one can call this “lachrymology”. The song that shows how life’s unexpected painful events changes and alienates one once for all.
With your hero code judging all my actions all you find is obscene I will lose control deep within my hopes
After the first vocal section, we get to see the progressive aspects of the band-such as the use of polyrhythms, extended power chords, and the wontless syncopation between the bass & drums. Then the jazzy riff takes its place, expanding the general sound of the band as we see how much more they are capable of.
When the chorus part comes, we are faced with a chorus that inoculates power to its listeners. While using the same kind of build-up technique and chord progressions, the band SYNAPSE becomes one of the few bands that are able to create this sense of power on its listeners (RATM, DT, etc.) Another thing that the band showed mastery was the variety if different styles that they were able to use on the same riffs.
Overall, the band SYNAPSE opens up the EP, showing off their abilities to create tasteful and yet progressive music, while not being afraid of showing their musical influences.
2- The Stream (5:08)
The first single from their new EP, called “The Stream”, demonstrates the band’s influences perfectly. Though it was released in 2018, this song will have established value in the EP with its progressive metal roots and its inventive play with time signatures. Opening with a Dream Theater-esque guitar riff by Alexandre Sacleux, the song starts far away and low. It almost prompts the listener to increase the volume to hear it better, I said “almost” because RIP to headphone users, the 7/8 riff blasts fully into your ears before you can even realize it’s in 7/8 (though the last bar of the pattern is in, what sounds like, 10/8). However, this riff really shines with the addition of Carlos Bardonnet’s drums, because what started as a catchy and odd time riff; thanks to Bardonnet’s heavy emphasis of hi-hats and cymbals with the right amount of snare, turns into hardcore and ferocious metallic outcry that deserves a place of its own besides the giants of the genre.
Upon this guitar and drum dominated section, the vocals enter. In the 2018 release, the vocals were recorded by Romain Le Bihan, but the album version includes it re-recorded by Thomas Valentin. Just from his pronunciation of the syllables, it is clear that it’s not easy to sing to a 7/8 beat while still preserving the accents of the words. Fortunately, Valentin, with small but clever techniques and deliberate intonations, succeeds to give the song just a taste of the alternative rock flavor while still keeping the beat in the front of our attention.
Lyrically, the song is very pessimistic and hopeless in its tone. The stream, for instance, symbolizes the unopposable nature of life. You can’t fight back nor deny it, because this would just make it worse (or as the song states, “day becomes the night”). The narrator is someone who went through a lot in his past, all he desperately wants now is to “start from scratch”. But no matter how much he tries, he is buried too deep in what it is that’s bothering him, almost like a metaphorical grave for the narrator to face his past regrets. There is a central theme of hopelessness that arises from the narrator’s endless fight with the stream, as he wants to swim against the natural flow of the stream.
All is worthless now that I’ve tried everything Nothing was right I fought the stream, now day becomes the night
After this first lyrical section, an instrumental break kicks in. Sacleux’s guitar solo during this section is particularly important because instead of trying to attract all our attention, Sacleux’s guitar especially shines with the instruments that surround it: Carlos Bardonnet’s drums and Sacha Le Roy’s bass. With Le Roy’s bass guitar, the solo acquires a foundation, a memorable musical phrase that will keep the solo grounded yet still giving it enough freedom to let Sacleux do his magic. And Bardonnet’s frequent use of the snare drum gives the song its stiffness, making the song ready to burst any second.
Though we don’t ever learn what it was in his past that left the narrator almost begging to forget it all (only mentioned as “old ghosts from the past”), the future doesn’t look so bright for him either. The last verse, which comes after the guitar solo, is thematically very different from the rest. The narrator has finally decided to stop his fight “against the current of life”, “river of lies”. This acknowledgment leads to maybe the most powerful line in the song: “Carry me now, violent stream”. The narrator, who had tried everything to fight the stream, now sees that he has only one choice left, to give up and flow with the stream, even if it means drowning.
All hope fades to black The end is coming fast No more fighting back Again
3- Sven Lilla Äventyr (2:07)
The shortest song in the album is also the most experimental one yet. Short experimental songs like this one are now becoming a part of every modern prog album. But of course, not every band can get away with it, there should still be a unified experience throughout the track. For Synapse, this experience is created by Sacha Le Roy’s bass guitar, which has a heavily reverbed sound with a soulful tone. It is also kind of creepy, in a way, the echoes remind the listener of a horror/thriller movie, especially at the start. The bass in the song is all recorded on a fretless, and its unique sound adds to this effect. But there is no denying that after a heavy, hard-rock song like “The Stream”, the tranquilizing mood of Sven Lilla Äventyr (which literally means Sven Little Adventure, possibly some kind of an inside joke) prepares the listener for the rest of the gems in the album.
4- Forgotten (4:48)
Forth track of the album, “Forgotten” becomes very distinctive with its slow tempo and touching instrumentals and lyrics. By far this is the most emotional song on the album. When it is compared with the other songs of the album, Synapse shows that their songwriting can be touching with this song. This opens with an erotic and psychedelic bass riff. Especially, with the use of pedals, the bass intro becomes extremely attention-grabbing. It works as a perfect hook for the song. Just a bass was enough for them to create interesting music. Then vocals enter and start the unburden himself to the listeners about his feelings about what happened. It can be understood that the narrator is dealing with it. The name of the song is “Forgotten” but it is really obvious that he didn’t forget.
How can I Carry on? How can I Carry on? Carry on?
Then the instrumental part enters bass plays a sexy fill to prepare the listener for a sexy guitar solo. This jazzy solo’s tone helps to create the emotional and psychedelic tone of the song. This solo represents the feelings of the narrator. It creates a saddening melody at the first and then it starts to get louder and more impressive. This part represents the anger in the narrator and creates the ground for the verse. While the guitar is playing a bluesy solo, fretless bass and drums are helping it from the behind. The drums become more audible and start to excite the listener while the bass is still creating harmony in the song. The solo ends with an incredibly smooth transition to the vocals and prepares the listener for the rest of the journey of the narrator.
He continuously talks about old simple but good times and how they are gone to never come. He realizes that life is continuing and all of the good memories are gone. He matures as the song goes and realizes he should accept the truth and move on. In the end, he is free from the delusions he was having and grown up with the song. He completed his journey. By the way, the vocalist performing his job perfectly. He manages to make the listener feel and root about the narrator. And his use of his sound is incredibly professional.
After that another guitar solo kicks in however, this feels completely different. This time everything is faster, louder, and vivacious. This solo is less jazzy and more hard-rock. Everything starts to rock. Everything goes crazy. The guitar plays amazing melodies and really fascinates the listener. The drums join the craziness and everything becomes amazingly energetic. In this solo, guitarist really shows his talent and plays the guitar impressively. Then solo ends beautifully and the energetic guitar gets replaced by an emotional soft bluesy guitar. In this song, Synapse uses the potential of a guitar to the maximum. This incredible song ends just like how it starts. It ends with the same emotional feeling but this time listener feels some emptiness inside. An emptiness that will be filled with the next song.
5- Dog Punk (3:23)
After the emotional emptiness that the “Forgotten” left the listener with, Synapse creates “Dog Punk” which is an energetic instrumental song that can psych you up. This song is non-stop energy. You can’t stop yourself from moving some part of your body. Even from the first seconds, the listener will think that this song will never lose its momentum (and they are right). This song is an interesting choice after the “Forgotten”. After an emotional ballad choice of this energetic song creates good contrast in the album. This song is the point where all of the band members decided to have some fun. After a saddening moment, the band needed the have some fun and this fun is called “Dog Punk” (I think, it can be understood even by the title).
The drums give the signal to the band to rock the hell out of this song and they did what they should. First of all, the bassline is amazing. It creates a catchy melody and gets the listener excited for the rest of the song. Drums gives a simple but effective rhythm that helps this song to become this energetic. Then loud and energetic guitar joins the bass and they put out something really fun to listen. You can headbang to it and have fun. The riff they use repeat throughout the song while something gets added. Fast passages with the guitar get added, tapping gets added and song thrives to become something even more entertaining. With small changes, this amusing riff can be repeated lots of times and still be interesting. Then after a short breakdown, the bass starts to go nuts. then other members couldn’t hold their enthusiasm to make something fun and join him which is the right decision. It all goes chaos and there is a beauty in it. Then bass, guitar, and drums come together with one last riff, they go nuts (yes once again) and end the song at its highest point.
6- Memories (6:17)
Starting on the classic metal sound with a short repeating riff, “Memories” sets the listener up for the end of the album. The song is about a long-gone memory that the narrator is reminiscing about. While we get no information about what the memory itself is about, it is clear that the departure of it hurt the narrator from the lines “I remember all / But there’s still a void / Where I used to feel.” The lyrics flow in this fashion throughout the song while the drums and guitar are going through a series of calm and fast-paced periods. After the starting riff, the song slows down, the snare turns into rim-clicks, the guitarist hits the off button on his distortion pedal, the bassist is happy to finally be heard. His happiness is interrupted by a climax reversing all the effects of the slow-down and supporting the lead singer on his screaming cry, “Losing all / Tearing down / Memories” At the 3:15 mark, when the lyrics also get heavy, leading to the ultimate ending, the guitar goes into a heavily-distorted sound and plays the main riff of the song. To top it off, the vocals do a short brutal scream. The ending can only be about death at this point. And, yes sir, “I’ll go, I’ll go in peace” is the ending line to “Memories,” and thus, Synapse’s debut EP. 3 hits to the crash and the guy is dead.