Rychus Syn - Rebirth 3.5/5

Reviewed: 5-9-08


1. One voice
2. Shadow king
3. Power, thunder and steel
4. Chemical warefare
5. The damned
6. Air raid
7. Contents under pressure
8. Child of mercy
9. Under attack
10. Asylum

One of my favorite aspects of the renewed vitality of the U.S. metal underground in recent years is that many bands from days of yore are reforming and releasing quality material. This phenomenon has applied to a wide range of bands, from the notorious to the obscure. To be sure, some of these reunions are both ill-advised and farcical, but in other cases it has been a gift to 80s metalheads to revisit legendary acts of yesteryear and to discover worthy bands who slipped through the cracks the first time around. New York's Rychus Syn fall into the latter category for me. Founded in 1983, Rychus Syn released a cult 5-song self-titled mini-LP on Azra/Iron Works Records in 1989. Sadly, this release remained under the radar for me, and Rychus Syn disbanded shortly thereafter. In 2006, however, core members Drew Maniscalco (guitars) and his brother Greg Maniscalco (drums) resuscitated Rychus Syn, infused with a renewed vigor courtesy of new blood in the form of members Dan Reid (vocals) and Damone (bass). Pursuant to that reunion, the band decided to re-record the classic tracks from the obscure mini-LP, and to record another 5 previously unreleased songs from the Rychus Syn vaults. The finished product, appropriately titled 'Rebirth', is out now.

Promotional materials for Rychus Syn characterize the band as heavy/speed metal, a mix of old Metallica and Black Sabbath. While such descriptors are not entirely unfounded, they are not particularly precise either. A more apt comparison would be to fellow New Yorkers Attacker, or perhaps even bands like Meliah Rage or Metal Church. Think dark crunchy classic-styled U.S. heavy metal, with snappy, compact songs and strong vocal melodies, and you'll be in the neighborhood. Vocalist Reid has a powerful, clean mid-range voice that complements the songs well, sounding a bit like Paul Souza (ex-Meliah Rage) or maybe even Cage's Sean Peck (mid-range only, no air-raid siren screams here). All 10 songs have an undeniable 80s air to them, but utilizing today's recording techniques for a richer, fuller, heavier sound. I've never heard the original versions of these songs, of course, but to my ears it sounds like the Maniscalco brothers have stubbornly resisted any temptation to incorporate modern elements into the tunes or to tinker with the arrangements in such a way as to dampen their authenticity. Interestingly, all 10 tracks clock in at under 4-1/4 minutes, with 8 of them not even hitting the 4-minute mark. Yet all of the songs feel fully developed and straight to the point, so it's not as if Rychus Syn are offering us mere song fragments that weren't fully fleshed out. The clear standout track is "Power, Thunder and Steel", which delivers a monumental chorus and features a killer sturdy main riff. Really, though, all of the songs are worthy and will be of interest to 80s U.S. metal maniacs. Speed addicts may be a bit disappointed because the material is mostly of the pounding midtempo variety. In truth, this very good CD would have been rendered even stronger had the band worked in some more variation in speeds, as a few kick-in-the-pants barnstormers would have been welcome.

The bottom line is simple: Rychus Syn are purveyors of high-quality no-frills U.S. metal from the 80s with a punchy and effective production. Those of you who, like me, are fond of that style will find much to enjoy in this 35-minute CD. By contrast, those who long for symphonic keyboard trills, soaring 8-minute epics, or bursts of speed may be best served by looking elsewhere for their metal fix. Personally, I'm most grateful that the band decided to have another go at it, because it would be a shame to relegate these worthy songs and strong performances to the dustbin of obscurity. I am hopeful that 'Rebirth' is precisely as its title suggests, and that the Maniscalco brothers will go on to write more new chapters in the Rychus Syn saga (with the fantastic Reid behind the microphone) in the years to come.




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