— Disturbed (musical group): Straightforward “dude” rock that features crunchy guitars and tight production combined with sometimes-growling vocals. Most common fan: men with barbed-wire tattoos who drink cheap beer regularly and can be seen perusing the grounds at Outlaw Jam.
— Renee Fleming (singer): Arguably the greatest living American soprano in the world of opera right now. Most common fan: people who have enough money to buy the state of Maryland.
— Cassandra Syndrome (musical group): A local group who has tried to combine the above definitions with their own blend of hard rock and a female vocalist who spends too much time reaching for notes in the one register she thinks she can obtain. Most common fan: very, very confused people (or at least they will be after listening to this album).
And so it goes. “Satire X,” the latest offering from the Frederick-based outfit, suits that very definition quite well, actually. Nevermind the absurd outfits or clownish get-up the band displays in an attempt to claim they offer showmanship. The songs that make up the group’s sophomore release are as technically sound as any rock band around at best, and a boring, one-trick-pony snooze-fest at worst.
What lead vocalist Irene Jericho’s soprano voice admittedly does for the end product is create an element of theater that grabs any listener’s attention from the start. What it can’t do, however, is save Cassandra Syndrome from the depths of its own monotonous nature, and the blame for that lies heavily on guitarists Chris Kackley and Jen Tonon, both of whom can’t seem to escape the three chords he or she has latched onto whenever the band sits down to write a song.
Take your pick. “No More Peace Forever,” “The Iron Cross,” “Hell On Earth” or “The Priestess,” all fall into a redundant pattern that not even drummer Jay Jericho could save from becoming boring (though with his occasional off-time fills and double kick-drum riffs, any listener can tell he’s at least trying, which has to count for something, right?).
Ironically enough, when the two powers that combine to form Cassandra Syndrome (the band and the singer) are left to their own devices, they prove their worth. For example, while “Shackles” features an annoyingly generic trick in each chorus as Irene embarrassingly yelps in staccato form at the end of every other line, the finger-tapping guitar solo that eventually proceeds it is worth any hard rock (not metal, mind you) lover’s time. Or, for instance, when the band fades during “The Fool” and the singer is asked to fill in the blanks, she ultimately provides enough pop sensibility to finally escape the out-of-place feel her operatic voice often provides throughout the disc.
But then “The Magus” happens, and all hope is lost. While the track features quite possibly the best two minutes of hard rock the band has ever mustered, the bridge not only kills any possibility of success, but it also makes Cassandra Syndrome look foolish. Put together like two puzzle pieces that don’t even belong in the same box, a chant about “power, a shield and a spell,” among other nonsensical, pretentious objects, is some of the best unintentional humor a music fan could ever find.
And that’s the underlying theme of why “Satire X” has problems: the members of the band take themselves too seriously. It’s presumably easy enough for any fan to get past the awkward compositions or the predictable musical performances. What’s not easy to justify, though, is the amount of importance these guys seem to think they have.
Evanescence, Cassandra Syndrome is not. In fact, heavy metal is also something Cassandra Syndrome is not (the songs simply aren’t heavy enough). Nor is the band behind the singer Disturbed (no pop sensibility), and the singer in front of the band Renee Fleming. But “Satire X” could be your new favorite comedy album.
* 1/2 STAR OUT OF 4 *