Syndicate – Syndicate (2011)

Posted: July 11, 2011 in Music

It’s been a long time since Australia had much of an impact on the modern rock scene here in the U.S. In fact, the only blip on the radar since the days of AC/DC, INXS and Men at Work was Wolfmother – and they seem to be missing in action the last couple of years.

My spidey-sense tells me that’s all about to change. You see, while scouring the internet for scene-related news and information, I stumbled across a little-known band out of Sydney called Syndicate – and after doing a fair amount of homework (including shelling out a few ducats for their self-titled debut), it’s apparent that we are on the back end of the calm that will soon become the storm.

I can’t give you a ton of history on these lads. There really isn’t much. But after listening to the album, I can promise you the history books are about to get a new chapter in the melodic rock section. Step aside, NickelbackSyndicate is coming through.

If you’re going to fire your cannon into the rock scene, you might as well load it with as much gunpowder as possible, and that’s exactly what Syndicate did. The band itself doesn’t have a household name in the lineup, but the production team and guest musicians on this album are loaded with ammunition.

Production assistance came in the form of Jeff Blue (Linkin Park, Limp Bizkit), Brandon Friesen (Nickelback) and Scott Humphrey (Metallica) and the album was tracked in both Matt Sorum’s (Guns n’ Roses) and Tommy Lee’s (Motley Crue) personal studios. If that’s not enough “cred”, the band also had songwriter Dianne Warren on board, who has written hit songs for everyone from Meatloaf to Bon Jovi, Celine Dion and others.

Additional firepower was added from guest musicians Matt Sorum, Brent Fitz (Slash), Rowan Robertson (Dio) and Gil Sharone (former drummer for Dillinger Escape Plan and Otep). Obviously, this wasn’t going to be a quiet, independent release. The album debuted at #4 on the Australian Album Charts after its July 1st release on Sony Records, and while it hasn’t made much noise here stateside, it’s going to. I guarantee it.

A pretty tough guarantee – I know. We’ve been mired in mediocre rock for a long time here, and honestly I was ready to throw these guys in with the ever-growing collection of Creed wannabes and subpar releases of late (you listening 3 Doors Down?) – but much to my surprise, this album elevates itself to a level I haven’t heard in a very, very long time.

For a debut, this record defies common sense. There is no way something this polished, genuine and – dare I say – perfect comes from a bunch of “newbies.” It sounds like the better effort of an established, veteran rock band – not a premiere release from a bunch of unheard-ofs. It has, inexplicably, the complete package. The perfect mix of rowdy rockers, alt-rock slow-me-downs, and beautiful ballads – all balanced equally and spread across the album in grand fashion.

You like to rock hard? Syndicate has no problem throwing down. The album opener “Pushing Me Away,” “My Mom Hates Me” (this author’s favorite track), “Long Way Down,” “Don’t Hate On Me,” and “Bring It On” are as hard as they are contagious – each one feeding off the high-energy buzz of the next.

Like it melodic? No problem there, either. “Shout” (which is destined for chart greatness,) “Holding On” (with smart lyrics and mesmerising vocals,) “All My Life” (which is also presented acoustically as the album closer,) and “Give You The World” (which Steven Tyler probably wishes he wrote) shine with the freshness that other rock bands seem to be striving for yet missing.

Need it down and dirty? Check out “Tightrope Walker,” which has all the swagger and attitude of Velvet Revolver without the primadonna back story and drug-induced bullshit.

There is even something for the true ballad lover. “Right In Front Of Me” and “Here We Go Again” carry the slow-dancing heaviness of the power ballad made popular in the hair-metal age, and “Falling Apart” is nothing short of just beautiful, with a piano/vocal combination that is eager, sensitive, and majestically written.

There’s no doubt in my mind that you could throw all of these songs into a hat and randomly pull out any one to send to rock radio. They are all that good. That said, though, there is one selection that – at least for me – stood at the top of this mountain of rock triumph, and that’s the track “My Confession.”

The blues/country intro almost sent me packing (I hate country), but the track quickly started its dedicated build into what might be one of modern rock’s best songs ever. Deep, personal lyrics combine with epic structure taking this track to unexpected heights. Lead singer Greg Ager really lets it all hang out here, and the band joins him in pushing the sound to the extreme. It’s poignant, powerful, and lovely and should give the band – and this release – the recognition it truly deserves.

Very few albums come around that are worth buying blind, based solely on my humble and often idiotic opinion – but this is one of them, without a doubt. If you need to wait a bit until the whisper becomes a scream, I’ll understand – but keep your earplugs handy. That scream is closer than you think…


Buy it at: iTunes

MySpace: Link | Official Band Site: Link

  1. remco says:

    Hi Randy nothing more then the truth brother i have know the boys from syndicate now for a few years and they are the real new deal true musicians and they can rock the roof of off your house keep on spreading there name in the U s of a they will soon be there to take it over
    watch out America there will be a Australian invasion.

  2. rick benson says:

    Pay close attention to the drums of Jason Russo.Not only a clockwork precise powerhouse, he ha sensitivity and finesse as well. This is a ROCK DRUMMER we will be hearing a lot about in future!

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