Sengir – Sign of Devotion
24/02/2006 § Leave a comment
After three years of ups and downs, sacrifices and concessions, Sengir have finally managed to put out their second album through not going to their day jobs, recording in 72 hour shifts and then posting on their blog about how dreadfully easy it was when we all know that they were banging their heads against the studio walls and lobbing hardware at their producers through frustration. That, ladies and gentleman, is a sign of devotion: being able to throw everything at an album and to walk out of a recording studio with no homicides having being committed. Maybe we should send these people to the Middle East to negotiate on the peace process: however, they wouldn’t fit in so well since none of them have got silly beards. Not yet anyway. But in a couple of years Bruno could go that way, I think he’d look pretty fetching in a kaftan.
So what does Sign of Devotion offer above their debut? Well, quite a few things – firstly, no-one mentioned that the reason Sengir’s first album was called Guilty Water was because it sounded like it was being played in a swimming pool, that’s how stodgy the production was. It’s clear that this time round, Buzzville have spent a lot more money on getting the sound right and have given Sengir the opportunity to be one of their flagship bands rather than just another label minion. The sound quality is sharp and even the front cover is rather nice. I can’t actually work out what it is but then what the hell is the cover of Moonlight’s Audio 136 about? Who knows.
I always had the idea that Sengir had the ability to make a much better album than Guilty Water and Sign Of Devotion shows that they have the nouse to write very good, accessible numbers that you’d want to listen to time and time again. They may make stock, standard Gothic Metal but they manage to do it without the wafer-thin flowery flair that makes bands like Elis so terribly dull: there’s a certain punchiness to the guitar, a certain sincerity in the lyrics which means that you can actually relate to what they’re talking about when a lot of time I couldn’t care less for what Gothic bands have to say. Songs like Back To Reason, Close To The Bone and Conscience Awake certainly have some kind of very personal centre to them. Still, what is difficulty for if not to produce art and Sengir seem to have adopted this philosophy very well since Sign Of Devotion has been very much a cathartic work for them.
The album starts off with Calling’s powerful synthed chord structure that dominates the song, as it does in Time, and this is widespread on the album – there is a large use of synth which really beefs up the songs and gives them some depth. In this way it’s just as well that the sound production is better since if it weren’t it would be like listening to an album being piped through a casserole. Another new element that Sengir have employed on the album is the extensive use of backing vocals which elevates Time and Conscience Awake to an altogether higher plain. Every song on the album is strong and pleasurable, though it is the final two, Prove Me Wrong with its fantastically simple and effective guitar outro and Lose The Moment, a four minute whinge about walking home in the rain, that makes the album something a little bit different.
Ellen’s singing has come on leaps and bounds since last time and one gets the impression she’s rather proud of this fact, especially in numbers like Day You Take Me Over in which she seems to be able to sing with spot-on perfection. However, unfortunately this doesn’t hold throughout the entire album since there are a couple of moments where she goes seriously off, one notable example being in Time where she hits a note so wayward that I actually flinched when I first heard it. As a listener, how you take moments like this depends on whether you think it adds to the honest and genuine humanity of the album or whether, like me, you think it spoils an otherwise rounded and wholesome work. Not only this, but though a lot of the songs are very well written, the vocal lines ride the chords too perfectly and predictably, following the root notes quite often. This makes it a very unchallenging experience at times since it’s easy to guess where the next song section is going to go.
As interesting as the lyrics can be though, ideally Sengir’s next album should not be so full of personal laments since Sign Of Devotion tends to be written for everyone but the audience. It’s this fact that detracts from the listening enjoyment since the highly personal nature of the songs creates a screen between the band and the listening demographic ending up in some kind of projected therapy session. This is not a band who are communicating through music but communicating with it, and as beautiful as that can be it does tend to weigh down and stifle the songs in places. In a sense I feel like Tantalus – being able to see and hear the music but I’m not quite allowed to reach out and touch it because it’s not for me. A little more lightness in sentiment would have made Sign Of Devotion an even better album, though it’s a very enjoyable and well-produced offering.