A pan-European effort is presented here: an English vocalist, a Greek band, a Finnish producer. Right out of the starting gate, Greece’s Serenity Broken impressed me, by including links to 32 reviews and 21 interviews (many with major publications within Greece, such as Metal Zone or Rock Overdose) in their electronic press kit, or EPK. Having published reviews for several major label artists in the past month, I’m confident in my memory: this is the first band that really took some time to compile their press materials. ‘A band that takes time on those little details is going to follow through with attention to detail in their music’, I surmised. With Commercial Suicide, they delivered.
Production is nice and clear, in true stereo, with each instrument being given adequate sound space to express itself. That’s fairly de facto for modern professionally recorded digital releases. You’ll enjoy crunchy, quasi-thrashy, guitar-driven licks in many, many places. Some riffs sound downtuned, and others sound just plain heavy. That said, it is not a heavy metal album. It does have some very heavy moments, but it’s firmly entrenched in the world of rock and roll. The genres and artists Commercial Suicide seems to pull the most influence from are alternative, post-grunge, and classic rock and roll, with hints of, or nods to Pearl Jam, Stone Temple Pilots or Alice In Chains, and possibly Stone Sour or Tremonti.
Variations in Aris’s vocal delivery: whispering, screaming, vibrato-laden crooning, true singing, and more, are welcomed. He has a decent range, a wonderful low tone, and good command of his instrument. He brings a gritty edge when necessary, backs off when necessary, and carries the tunes well throughout. Shifting from a grunge croon to a nu-metal bark, sometimes within a few bars, without a noticeable ‘break’ is a fair degree of pyrotechnics. Drums and bass guitar are solid, adding a nice amount of low end and meter to any given moment. What’s refreshing is that although the band does use a double-bass drum attack on a few tunes, the drums never delve in to ‘typewriter’ territory. Drum sound is thick and punchy, as it should be. Finally, a two guitar band! Andy and Marios have it goin’ on here, offering the eager listener everything from acoustic to heaviest thrashing mad. They have a lot of room for solos, but don’t really use them. When guitar solos do arise, they’re nice and flashy, with sweeps, pinch harmonics, and lots of general athletic craziness, my favorite! They’re not virtuoso material, but definitely showy enough to impress the average Joe Rockfan. What’s most important is that despite the flash, they’re not overplaying on any song – the band tastefully ‘plays to’ their songs, not stepping all over them.
Every listener is going to pick out their favorite tunes or ‘best moments’. For me, the most outstanding tune on the record is “Our Hate”. It’s a melodic, heavy song, with a very catchy chord progression that delves in to …And Justice For All era Metallica clean crunch, while Aris does a fantastic job of singing over top of it all. From the grabby, nice, aggressive intro lick to the slick tempo transitions and engaging chorus, my attention is held. I tip my hat to whoever’s going crazy with the flanger pedal on “Tattooed Heart” and “Slip Up” – that tasteful use of effects remains a fantastic way to grab someone’s attention and take a track from good to excellent.
Another enjoyable tune, due to it’s stark mood shift from the remainder of the album, is the ‘hidden track’. With digital music players being so dominant today, having a false ending on your album is a bit odd. Not counting the plainly-marked bonus track, this album has a false ending. After about five minutes of silence “at the end of” “Sweet Mistake”, it crackles in, record player-like. It starts slow with acoustic guitar and drums. It’s a slow-paced, ‘ballad’ sort of tune, with an impassioned vocal performance. Lyrics are deeply personal and the song seems to be at least partially melancholy, depressive, or sad. The song doesn’t delve in to the same ‘heavy’ territory as for the rest of the album. The aforementioned bonus track features Nile‘s (an extreme death metal band) drummer doing what you’d expect him to do to a rock band – overpowering the entire mix with fill after fill after flourish after flourish. Mike Portnoy will pull back to fit the song or situation, George Kollias will not. The tune’s mix isn’t great, but if you’re a fan of Nile or insane metal drumming, you’ll adore it.
Criticism: This is minor, and regards the overall song flow. Some of the tunes have a fairly choppy idea flow – the songs are well-crafted, but the shift from riff to riff to riff can be a little jarring at times. It’s not unpleasant, just a little quirky – and something that the band will smooth out in due time. For the most part, the rest of the disc is great.
As a reviewer, I didn’t want ‘confirmation bias’, so despite all the effort the band put forth, I didn’t read the reviews. Serenity Broken has brought us an aggressive, fairly melodic, modern rock record. Commercial Suicide doesn’t fall in to the trap of ‘sameness’ that many other releases have done in the past. While it does have some derivative moments, mostly reflecting back to ‘grunge as king’ days, for the most part it presents a nice, fresh, razor sharp edge. Did the band manage to capture emotion or their chosen theme? They sure did: at the end, I find myself wondering what happened to them and if they’re okay. All this talk about death, lies, hate, feeling nothing but pain inside, not wanting to put up with it anymore… with some of the inflection, it had me scratching my head. I hope they’re doing well and working on lots of new music: count me in as a fan!
Track Listing with Run times:
Tattooed Heart — 5:19
Shadows — 4:06
Slip Up — 4:25
Alone? — 5:43
Our Hate — 4:31
Right In Me — 4:29
Another Fading Memory — 5:11
Def — 4:08
Deception — 3:50
Beat It Outta Me — 3:35
Sweet Mistake — 11:38
Def (Bonus Track, feat. George Kollias of Nile) — 4:06
Lucas (Bass Guitar)