Alt-metal titans Gemini Syndrome have been busy by the sounds of it… very busy. 5 years have come and gone since their second album “Memento Mori” hit us, so it is not hard to imagine their enthusiastic fans baying for more. Well, bay no more… the boys are back, and they’ve brought some incredible power back with them in the form of “3rd Degree – The Raising”.
Since 2013’s “Lux”, Gemini Syndrome’s musical offerings have felt so deliberate, so confident. There were immediately mentions of similarities to acts like Mudvayne and Five Finger Death Punch. It’s fair to say some artists form their identity, or refine it, as their discography evolves, yet with Gemini Syndrome they have been sure about who they are, musically, from the beginning. “Anonymous”, the opening track to the band’s sophomore album, contains verses in which the vocals are punched out with such sureness by original vocalist Aaron Nordstrom, and this was a demonstration to me of their certainty in who they believed they were.
With that being said, “Memento Mori” had one shortfall for me (but what’s my opinion worth… the album hit #1 on the Billboard Heatseekers chart). The production was clear, but the heaviness and energy that was being put out by the band wasn’t translated into the mix. Some large and powerful moments were lacking in density, and I wanted there to be something more to it. More bass? A bit more dynamics between said big moments and regular choruses? I’m not sure, but it needed more to move me. There was a taste of it in the ending of “Zealot” and “Sorry Not Sorry”, but overall, I was aching for more weight, not more heaviness.
Jump to 2021, and “3rd Degree – The Raising” is a big step up in essentially every way. It’s expansive, the tracks are super-glued into your memory, and I’m beyond pleased to say that the production has that weight that I sorely missed in “Memento Mori”. The drums are thick, yet work in perfect symbiosis with the guitars to fill out the sonic space in front of the listener. The heavy moments are heavier, and the hooks have become, well, hookier? However you want to describe it, it is painfully clear that Gemini Syndrome have put their hearts and brains into concocting an album that builds on everything they’ve done so far.
“3rd Degree – The Raising” commences with 3 tracks that were released as singles in the build-up to the album’s release. Huge techno-infused metal sounds in “Reintegration” start us off, a track that wastes no time setting the tone musically and thematically for the album. “IDK” gives the listener no time to absorb the previous track. Its chorus is extremely memorable, refusing to leave my head for days. It also holds a monstrous sequence towards the end, and Nordstrom’s lower, more ferocious vocals get a great amount of time in the spotlight in this bit. The beautiful little guitar fill in the final chorus is a wonderful addition, and shows that Meegs Rascón contributed greatly as the new guitarist for the band. “Die With Me” follows immediately after, with an almost country-metal personality that powers along with a relentless sureness. The track even contains a little homage to the early days of the band, with the lyric “is this the pleasure or the pain?”
The album refuses to relent as the listener is introduced to “Baptized in Fire”. It has this oppressive waltz-like personality, and the guitars stand out with their groovy performance. They’re mixed in well with stretches of haunting ethereal soundscapes that create this hollow and empty air. It doesn’t stay empty for long though, as it’s filled back up to create a dominant melodic atmospheric chorus. Brian Steele Medina, one of the original members of Gemini Syndrome, gets to play a refreshing drum performance through this track, something with a bit more variance that helps change up the already well-established formula the band employs in their songwriting.
Most of the tracks in the band’s third album had me satisfied and delighted within one listen, yet “Children of the Sun” was the exception. This one took me a while to warm up to. It didn’t engage with me the way the other tracks did, but after going back a few times to dig deeper, it grew on me. It has some really enjoyable moments; the verses slither along with a good old rock and roll feel, the chorus is immense which includes a rapid and consistent synth layer accentuating the triplet style of the song, and the bridge builds and builds into a climactic symphony of power. It’s not a standout track, but it’s undoubtedly a good addition to the album.
“Children of the Sun” is no match for the weapon that immediately follows it. “Abandoned” is an intimidating number armed with numerous tempo swaps and crushing sequences. I knew something was coming when a fuzzed up bass guitar, at the hands of the always impressive Alessandro Paveri, gives us a devious little break between sections. It had me revved up, and I was not disappointed. The almost breakdown-like section comes down with unbelievable force. This is arguably the heaviest version of Gemini Syndrome yet. I did find the slightest bit of irony in this section in that Nordstrom screams “I’m not angry any more” over what is certainly the gnarliest and angriest part of this whole album. He even throws some demonic shrieks in, rivalling vocalists in that realm such as Dani Filth of Cradle of Filth or the more recent, but equally disturbing Cameron McBride of Methwitch.
The ending of “Abandoned” escalates in severity to the point that it could sit comfortably on the “Iowa” album from Slipknot. The vocals are animalistic, the drums play at blistering speed and the guitars are throwing about some absolutely beautiful dissonance. It’s got chaos written all over it.
“Broken Reflection” had the same effect on me as “Children of the Sun”, yet I’m sad to say it still didn’t grab me, no matter how many chances I gave it. The introduction is very fun and bouncy, grooving along in a solid way, but ultimately falls victim to a verse and chorus that unfortunately doesn’t stand out as different to ones the band has done before. In an album that progresses and moves up to a new level compared to their previous releases, “Broken Reflection” struggles to keep up. “Sum Quod Eris“, or I am what you will be, for those interested in the translation, is an ambient track that immediately follows, and I felt that this could have been left out. It’s just under two and a half minutes, yet in that length I felt that it didn’t offer much or add to the experience of the album. What it does do is provide a transition from some of the heavier tracks to the more gentle and melodic second half of the album.
The following track, however, doesn’t have any issues with keeping the listener ensnared. “Best of Me” is a moving rock ballad that breaks up the heaviness which permeates the vast majority of the album. The vocals are poignant, yet beautiful. The strumming of acoustic guitars is present throughout the whole album but are best displayed and celebrated in this track, giving off this crisp and bright layer of sound that floats across the mix, tying in perfectly with the rest of the band and the synth layers. I do feel that the final chorus was a slight let down, however. The bridge swells and holds a huge number of layers of sound, really opening up to be a big moment. Afterwards, we’re dropped back into the original chorus to finish off, and it almost feels deflating not to finish the track with the same emotional and musical weight that the bridge was promising. Nonetheless, it is certainly a gorgeous track, and I’m still going back to it after multiple listens (and singing along shamelessly).
“Absolution” is a little bit hit-and-miss for me. Whilst it chugs through some mundane sections with (I hate using this word) cliched lyrics, it has an extremely unpredictable moment before the final chorus which I loved. The listener is transported from a melodic rock beat straight down into a barrage of rapid vocals and aggressive punch-like palm-muted chugs. Almost as quickly as it appeared, the crushing moment disappears and is replaced by a gentle little guitar melody, bringing us back to the original theme.
My favorite track, “Hold The Line”, comes in at number 11 on this near 50-minute release. It does for me what “Best of Me” fell ever so short of doing. The track builds and evolves all the way to the finish, and left me feeling completely fulfilled. The chorus has a simple yet effective melody that Nordstrom has successfully implanted in the forefront of my mind for the foreseeable future. I love the little bass melody that Paveri plays towards the end; a fluttering of notes that adds a good dose of subtle yet wonderful variance to the chorus. With a bit of focus, the listener can swim through the ambitious mix and find these great little motifs from Paveri across the whole album, but this track is where they stood out for me the most.
The second last track, “Where We Started From”, possesses some real metalcore moments, especially in the bridge. I could imagine this track ringing out over a stadium; it feels like it was made for huge open-air festivals. It’s catchy and full of energy, making it hard to resist bopping your head along with the rhythm. The change of pace from this track to the final offering, “Fiat Lux”, is about as stark and abrupt as it could be. “Fiat Lux” is an unnerving ambient closer that paints a vivid picture. A robotic voice rattles off a sci-fi script whilst a deep and dissonant atmosphere bleeds around it. It immediately transported me to a dark environment in which I was a participant in the observation of the subject mentioned by the voice. What I liked was that the voice mentions the process of reintegration, so if you put the album on repeat (which you most certainly should) you’re taken back to the opening track of the same name, which I thought was a great little way to transition from the end of the album back to the beginning.
When preparing this review, I didn’t plan on writing little tidbits on every track, but they all seem to have their own personality worth mentioning. It’d be like writing about La Casa de Papel (Money Heist) on Netflix; you could just write about the heist, but unique characters like Tokyo, Denver and Berlin really make the series entertaining.
Ultimately, this album holds some tracks that prove to be a unique and elevated offering in Gemini Syndrome’s discography. In the grand scheme of things, the album isn’t ground breaking in the genre. The tracks certainly carry the alt-metal flag high, and the catchiness is undeniable, as is the talent and personality on display by the whole band. It’s diverse enough that each song is truly deserving of a spot on “3rd Degree – The Raising”, and fans of the band will surely be impressed with how they have evolved since their last release.
Releasing On: October 15th, 2021
Released By: Century Media Records
Genre: Alternative Metal
- Aaron Nordstrom / Vocals/Keyboard
- Brian Steele Media / Drums/Programming
- Alessandro ‘AP’ Paveri / Bass
- Meegs Rascón / Guitar
- Nicholas Paul Arnold / Touring Guitar
“3rd Degree – The Raising” Tracklist:
- Die With Me
- Baptised in Fire
- Children of the Sun
- Broken Reflection
- Sum Quod Eris
- Best of Me
- Hold the Line
- Where We Started From
- Fiat Lux
Gemini Syndrome have brought the full weight of their power to the forefront of their latest release. The 13 tracks bring an emotional energy that doesn’t falter in its rawness and honesty, but varies greatly in its sonic delivery, whether it be through ballistic barrages of aggressive sound, or woven tapestries of harmonized melodies. Despite a couple of tracks that feel stagnant in an album that is confidently moving the band forward, “3rd Degree - The Raising” is a solid album to round out the impressive ‘debut trilogy’ that Gemini Syndrome promised fans back in 2013.