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Monday, January 30, 2017

Review: Sunterra - Reborn

Sunterra is an Austrian band that emerged from the remains of a rock band called Virgin Seed back in 1998. They didn’t waste any time releasing a demo in 1999 called ‘In diebus illis’ (in these days). Where Virgin Seed played rock with some psychedelic influences, Sunterra turned its attention to gothic metal with a touch of industrial metal, but the psychedelic influences remained to some extent. In 2006, after two increasingly successful releases in 2002 and 2003, a truck load of reasonably successful live shows and for most people completely out of the blue, the band decided to take a break. It was effected in December that year and that eventually lasted for a decade until in 2015, again completely out of the blue, a message on the band’s Facebook page appeared stating that the band was working on new material with an altered line-up. Behold a reborn Sunterra, consisting of programmer and guitarist Ivan, vocalist and flutist Carlos, vocalist Lily and bassist Chris who is also responsible for the lyrics. The new material, at least for now, proves to be a six-song EP appropriately called ‘Reborn’. There is however more to the title than the obvious relation with the band’s awakening from hibernation, since its lyrical themes are the end and the sequential reincarnation of mankind. Quite a sinister subject to describe in the reintroduction of yourself to the world.

Music-wise there’s still the gothic metal that plays a substantial role in the band’s sound, but right from the bat it’s clear the long absence has had an influence on it as well. Rather than picking up where they left off they chose to experiment resulting in them having woven quite a large portion of dubstep and techno influences into their music, creating a more or less unique sound otherwise known as metalstep. Add to that a wide variety of vocal styles, ranging from operatic to black metal growls and everything in between and it’s not hard to imagine there’s really no telling what type of music Sunterra actually plays. The effect of this unusual mix is variable in my opinion. Fitting one moment, but equally confusing the other.

Opener ‘Reign Supreme’ would have been a pretty straight-forward gothic metal song with solid but not overly original riffs, an equally solid rhythm section and nicely interacting male and female vocal lines if it wasn’t for the dubstep noises. It’s not a bad song, but I guess the mix between metal and dubstep/techno does not really captivate me. Not just in Sunterra’s music, but in general. Anyway, the next song, called ‘Shadow In The Dark’, is a ballad, also mixed with a dash of the same dubstep/techno style, but this time it’s more fitting, making it a more coherent song. The same goes for its successor, ‘Lord Of Lies’. Here too solid riffage and a solid rhythm section mixed with the interacting vocals make for a solid song, in which Lily’s vocals are particularly striking at times. It’s obvious she definitely has potential.

And then there’s ‘This is W.A.R.’ which is the epitome of Sunterra’s sound. The music is all over the place, effortlessly alternating from dance-metal to almost doomy to sweet and soothing right back to dance-metal in the blink of an eye, but in this case that is actually a good thing. It keeps you focused at any given moment, simply because there’s no two seconds the same. Both the most confusing and most exhilarating song on ‘Reborn’. Next up is ‘Ministry Of Thoughts’, a darker song with a more unnerving atmosphere and more emphasis on the industrial side of Sunterra. Here too there’s room for dubstep influences which in my opinion do not really contribute to the song, but also do not degrade it. Album closer ‘Shut up!!!’ is a peculiar song when it comes to structure and vocal lines, but by now that is no surprise anymore. A few riffs in the background still reveal Sunterra’s original roots, but other than that it wouldn’t be out of place on any techno album.

It’s safe to say that Sunterra’s first feat of arms after awakening from their lengthy slumber will undoubtedly be received with mixed critics. I for one will probably never be a big fan of metalstep, simply because the two genres are too far apart to mix well in my opinion, but I’m sure there will be plenty of people who will truly enjoy this, including their fans from earlier. Objectively I think ‘Reborn’ is not a bad release, but it’s never striking or particularly original in its sound. Apart from that the mix of dubstep/techno with metal is quite complicated making it a tad confusing at times. Nevertheless it has been an interesting journey to hear this one unfold. Sunterra’s members are certainly sufficiently skilled to pull this off, and the production is a plus as well. If you have no clue what metalstep beholds ‘Reborn’ is as good a start as any.

Written by Henric van Essen

Earlier, Tim van Velthuysen interviewed Sunterra, check it here.

Sunterra Official Website
Sunterra Facebook

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