Review: System Syn – Strangers

Sometimes we can be as guilty as anyone of pre-judgement. Sometimes we decide what kind of artist we are about to encounter based on the basest of trappings – cover art, a band photo, song titles, even the font used on promotional materials. So it was that at first glance we sized up System Syn and decided – very possibly wanker. Likely inaccessible industrial. Definitely pretentious. Without a doubt forgettable. We were utterly, completely wrong in that initial assessment, across the board.

In glancing over their material throughout their (by which we mean “his” as in Clint Carney, the main impetus behind this US darkwave band) decade-plus history we were delightfully surprised by how much it stood out from other, similarly themed bands were were discovering along the same timeline like the sadly wallpapery Re:\Legion. Crisp melodies, lyrics that delved a little deeper than one might have expected great, stand-out synth hooks. This guy is very, very good at what he does, so strong that he managed to record an electro-stomp version of “Losing My Religion” that works amazingly well.

Which brings us to their new release, StrangersThere are few more satisfying things then watching artists grow, album to album. To see a band build on its strengths without sacrificing what’s best about them and to watch them become the best of what they are able to be. Such is the case on this terrific, solid album. The problem with so much within the EBM or darkwave subgenres is there are scores if not hundreds of bands who fail to stand out. Pure formula bands who offer nothing new, and nothing distinct between their own songs. It’s a long run of bland aggro-synths that get blended into a tiresome pastiche. And yet System Syn have managed to put some real care into each of these very enjoyable songs without losing the genre edge.

The beats are second-to-none. The electronics sparkle. The arrangements very clever.  There is genuinely not a bad song in this batch. The delicious build to intensity on “Chemical”, the relentless “The Fall”, the pop influenced “Here’s to You”. Almost every track here works. With the exception of the somewhat disappointing, dirge-like “Hospitals”, the tempo is almost unchanged overt the course of the album, and listened all the way through it can feel a little monotonous, but track to track, each taken on their own merits, it’s truly great stuff.

System Syn have genuinely arrived as a great and welcome addition to the top of the electronic world, and they’ve truly delivered their signature work to date.

Watch: Here’s to You

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