A new band for 2020, Sinner’s Blood have similarities to Russell Allen’s Level 10 and Jeff Scott Soto’s SOTO project in that their material has a genuine heaviness, but the majority of songs on their debut release ‘The Mirror Star’ also have unashamedly huge choruses. At their best, those choruses will invite you to sing along, but with frontman James Robledo often sounding like South America’s answer to Jorn Lande or Russell Allen, there’s every chance that singing at those volumes will cause untold damage – if not to yourself, at least to your immediate neighbours.
Those big choruses are absolutely vital in making the material work from a melodic viewpoint, since without them, Robledo’s approach – although very impressive – could become a little tiring. Previously the frontman for a couple of Chilean bands and Argentina’s Thabu, Robledo’s performance suggests huge confidence at every turn, and although his sheer volume could perhaps be reined in a little more from time to time, on the album’s best songs he still sounds like the perfect man for the job. Equally hefty in terms of presence, guitarist Nasson favours a hugely weighty sound; it’s made even heavier by a slight 90s downtune and on opening track ‘The Mirror’, especially, his love of horsey squeals echoing Vivian Campbell on the old Dio classic ‘Invisible’ brings plenty of entertainment. Together, these two performers are a genuine powerhouse.
Between ‘The Mirror’ boasting those horsey sounds and a massive chorus that Jeff Scott Soto would absolutely slay on one of his heavier days, it would automatically be a strong track, but the addition of a flawless solo augmented by a slight change of pace makes the perfect first impression. With ‘Phoenix Rise’ mixing pneumatic drum fills, Euro keyboards and a hugely heavy sound with a rousing chorus straight from the Animal Drive school of rock, the album opens with a terrific one-two punch, where melodic rock rarely sounded so urgent. Shifting the mood slightly, ‘Never Again’ teases with huge tribal drums suggesting a love of prog metal, before ushering in a quieter verse where James finally shows he has range as well as power. Powering through a fine and heavy melodic rocker, an increased use of harmonies gives the track a much broader appeal for AOR fans, striking a perfect balance between heaviness and a melodic charm. Here, the band’s musical credentials shine brightly with something that sounds almost exactly like something from Jeff Scott Soto’s back-catalogue, and although it sounds a lot like something harking back to the glory days of 1989-91, it’s pretty much perfect for the style. Eventually, the complex intro returns as a backdrop for a great solo, where Nasson contrasts the heavily rhythmic backdrop with some fine soaring notes, before switching to a more jagged style where his sweeping notes evoke the more melodic side of the old Shrapnel Records players. In short, this is a brilliant piece of melodic metal.
Another album standout, ‘Kill Or Die’ is one of the all-round heaviest tracks, but a huge punch in the production and a driving drum part quickly evoke the best parts of Tremonti’s debut album ‘All I Was’. The riffs attack in a speedy and dirty style, immediately creating great melodic metal, while a broader chorus allows Robledo more room to deliver a couple of bigger wails. Lovers of various classic power metal bands won’t necessarily find anything new here, but the performance has so much energy, it’s hard not to love it. Almost matching that in terms of all round presence, ‘The Hunting’ shows Sinner’s Blood’s love of driving riffs when Nasson launches squarely into another full on affair that at first seems to echo Dio’s ‘Stand Up & Shout’, before a little more of adventurous streak lends the pre-chorus a slight prog metal flair. It’s here that drummer Guillermo Pereira’s playing is at his best. Having extensively demonstrated a natural talent for rhythms best suited to classic thrash and power metal, this number’s changing time-sigs bring in a very pleasing tribal sound, where the album’s huge production really helps to place him in the spotlight. Robledo, as is often the case, attacks his performance with a real bluster. However, he sounds like the consummate old style metal vocalist, ready to rise through the ranks and take on Jorn at his best. Stretching out to a full seven minutes, the epic ‘Who I Am’ moves through a few different moods within its first couple of minutes. From the cinematic intro where an old Metallica riff is underscored by huge blankets of keys, everything then drops into theatrical piano based balladry that would seem better suited to Within Temptation than Sinner’s Blood’s usual stock sounds, before settling on a slightly overwrought chorus that could’ve been inspired by any number of power metal bands over the previous decade. That chorus is more concerned with throwing out huge vocal notes than giving the listener anything truly memorable, but the track just about works thanks to some great playing – especially from Nasson, who isn’t especially shy in tipping the hat to classic Iron Maiden during a surprisingly restrained solo. Finally, a blanket of keys fills time before everyone tackles the chorus once more, and although this is half enjoyable in a symphonic metal sort of way, its unnecessary hugeness actually makes it the album’s weak link. There might be a decent four minute song in here somewhere but, as it stands, bigger isn’t necessarily better…
Elsewhere on this almost filler-free disc, ‘The Path of Fear’ offers some speed driven Euro metal that brings back memories of early Masterplan; ‘Never Resting Soul’ fuses some great AOR tinged melodies with moments carrying a full scale power metal groove, allowing Robledo plenty of opportunity to demonstrate his gifts for suitably bombastic performances, while Nasson contributes some great soaring guitar workonce again, and set closer ‘Awakening’ fills a fine four minutes with melodic metal that carries a Tremonti-esque crunch against a SOTO derived chorus, linked by a brilliant downtuned groove. In many ways, the slightly slower tempo allows the hard edges a greater power which, allowing for one of the band’s best choruses and yet another impressive solo, ends the album very much on a high note.
With at least four or five amazing tracks to be found among eleven very muscular performances (even the album’s only “miss”, ‘Who I Am’ has its own definite strengths), ‘The Mirror Star’ is a more than accomplished debut. It doesn’t quite reach the heights of “essential listening”, but it’s a great first effort. A couple of mellower tracks would almost certainly have made a vital difference but, as it is, fans of heavier melodic metal in the Jorn, At Vance and Adrenalin Mob ballpark should definitely check this out.