Despite everything, this has been a Very Good last twelve months for being constantly surprised and wowed by new music, new bands of every description and genre. Whatever your taste, I bet you’ve unearthed something very tasty and new to help you Keep The Faith!
The latest new arrivals to massively impress me are these three lads who combine to form Sinoptik. Musically, they’re pretty old-school 70’s heavy rock, you’ll find hints of Sabbath, Hendrix, Uriah Heep, Floyd in here, but also with more contemporary sounds of The Answer, Witchwood, Porcupine Tree etc. They’ve dabbled in Occult Rock, mixed it with huge stadium rock production values and got dubbed ‘The World’s Best Rock Band’ by the Berlin Global Battle of the Bands event in 2016!
Their new album The Calling comes out on 11 June, it’s their fourth full-length production including their debut Interplanet Overdrive from 2016 – and I can tell you it’s a whopper!
Despite the traditional rock looks and poses, these three have seen more than their fair share of life’s twists and turns. Ukrainian by birth, they had to leave their war-torn home city of Donetsk in 2014 which was then (and to some extent still is) the front line in the Ukrainian Civil War. The trio moved to Kiev, the capital city.
There, despite being native Ukrainians, they were poorly treated by their own countrymen as Lead singer Dmitriy Afanasiev describes: “We had to leave our home and move to Kiev, where we as native Ukrainians were treated as some sort of second class citizens. So many people like us were segregated and oppressed just on the basis of the city of origin, where we were born. We were told that we were different and it’s our fault the war started. We were faced with radical social segregation and inequality, in our own country with people of the same race. We do understand that this oppression is initiated and supported by politicians, but society is now responsible for this too”
This experience has resulted in Sinoptik having a strong vision to promote better understanding and compassion. Dmitriy continues“Music is a tool, which should have a clear message – to change the world for better. “It’s your time to change the fate” is our main message in some of our songs – like Black Soul Man, as each of us can change his or her own destiny. And if we are united all together we have the power to alter the fate of humanity and the world. We all can change and make our planet a better place by becoming kinder to each other, more understanding and tolerant. We need to build a new future now. Now is the time for us to unite, but most of the people don’t seem to comprehend that.”
So… Far from dabbling in The Dark Arts etc, Sinoptik do their damnedest to use Rock to promote enlightenment to relieve, not just their home country but the world’s, ongoing pain. Several of their recent single releases have focussed on this, the latest being The Call, celebrating the importance of Art and Science working together within, would you believe, International Museums Day (18 May). The Call celebrates that sense of wonder in our world and other worlds out there. The previous single “Sell God’s Number” was a reaction to witnessing first hand the children in a local boarding school, and the everyday battles they each lose and win. Another song, AppleTree, aims to re-inspire the sense of magic and love experienced in childhood memories.
Heavy stuff, eh?! But fair play to them. And in their music Sinoptik manage to pay homage to the classic era of rock bands whilst injecting a contemporary edge that makes their songs something different, unmistakably Sinoptik! So with that unusually weighty intro, lets get down to it!
The album opens with a short piece of rhythmic psychedelic electronica that bleeds into the aforementioned Apple Tree. The track is a medium-paced piece of psych-prog-rock, keyboards up front sounding quite like a heavy version of Yes in the bridge section! The rest of the track is good quality, straight forward rock.
Next up is Black Soul Man, a pondering, dark number that has a lovely density to the riff-driven sound and a simply massive chorus/hookline. A deceptively simple chord-mix of piano and guitar is hypnotic, it conjures up traces of Heep, Witchwood, Pineapple Tree and a host of others. I often find that the very best heavy rock does that to me – hints of hundreds, I love this!
And then we have the nine and a half minute epic that is The Call. Sumptuous, beautifully tonal guitar work slowly introduces itself and beguiles you, vocals are a cross between Pink Floyd, the Manics and The Beatles. This really is the heart and soul of the album, and the overall sound-mix is stunningly melodic. Around half way, the rocky first section gives way to a spaced-out piece of keys, floating harmonically before the meaty bit starts building again. It’s actually quite slow and bluesy, but sumptuous is the best single word for capturing it. As the reverb builds, it again becomes more Manics-like, both vocally and band-wise. The overall depth and timbre of sound this threesome create is truly impressive. As the song winds down, so does the lovely guitar work slowly take us out….
Granny Greta has the unenviable task of following that, so they wisely pitch for a conventional chunk of rock, a monochrome riff underpinning swirling choral vocals. Again quite retro and 70’s sounding, there’s a slab of Hammond organ in the middle that could be Purple, Heep, it even has a false ending – very satisfying! Completely different is the next short piece Inception, mostly instrumental, mostly spaced psych-rock again. The variety of pace and mood as you traverse this album is top-rate!
Le Menteur is different again, it strongly reminds me of another of this year’s amazing discoveries – Kimono Drag Queens. It has a sense of muffled tribal rhythms, a hollowed out riff, echoing vocals on a psych-rock echo-loop, before a fairly dark riff takes over. All pauses then bar a heartbeat-like bassline as the middle bridge supplies a spacey sort of chant, before Mister Riff comes hammering! Sinoptik have a knack of being simultaneously heavy, proggy, melodic, tuneful, mesmeric, the whole being a very happy rock mix -perhaps imagine Heep crossed with Yes!
Sell God’s Number is the last of the earlier singles, it continues that radio-friendly mix of stadium rock, darker, proggy stuff, interspersed with a more spacey bridge section. Again very varied, I guarantee this lot will never be predictable! The album is brought regretfully to an end by Young and High, a highly tuneful and toneful guitar lick once again introducing it before another interplay between a quite dark, heavy riff and uplifting chorus of vocals -fair to say all three can sing. I have to say the overall production values on this album are great, exemplified by yet another keys-led psychedelic bridge section, with a simple, reverberating bassline nailing it down. The last section builds into a suitably Yes-like proggy climax. Simply Great Fun!
I’ve thoroughly enjoyed this album! Seemingly so many influences at work, the simple variety of pace, mood, sound – it just leaves you wanting more!