For the better part of 5 years Tobias Sammet and his two projects have kept me guessing, and that is not meant in a way to suggest that the changes occurring have been positive, quite the contrary. Somewhere between “The Metal Opera - Part 2” and “Hellfire Club” this trend started to creep into the music of both EDGUY and later AVANTASIA that placed really weak toned and fuzzy distorted guitars punching out hypnotic grooves and dumb down Ritchie Blackmore riffs ahead of a fast, furious, and full of energy rush of melodically tinged Speed Metal ala late 80s HELLOWEEN and BLIND GUARDIAN. This wasn’t unique to Tobias’ projects, but was embraced by a lot of bands in the German scene who came out within the past 15 years, with varying levels of groove and modernist practices mixed in with the older, more metallic style.
In addition to finding itself now coasting in the plodding world of mid-tempo fluff Rock, “Tinnitus Sanctus” all but completely underscores a good deal of what is wrong with Power Metal today, albeit maintaining some of the past practices of better days. There are very few majestic riff sections to speak of, what little speed and fury comes out of the mix is presented in a dryly produced and sloppily preformed fashion, and the lead vocals overcompensate on the attitude factor to replace the lack of polish in the sound. The only thing that really separates this from the garbage that made up early SYMPHORCE is the tinny sounding guitars and the QUEEN inspired backup choruses.
From beginning to end, this album has a very clear format to it that is occasionally deviated from, and that is an overemphasis of the chorus. This is an accusation that gets thrown at the entire genre of Power Metal by some, but here everything is formatted all but completely within the parameters of Rock radio. Hooks are everywhere, but twists and changeups are sparsely placed and often anticlimactic. A single listen to cliché progressions with little variance such as those heard on “Nine Lives” and “Ministry Of Saints” induce an instant sense of boredom and monotony, while would be throwbacks to 70s Rock brilliance ala DEEP PURPLE in “Sex Fire Religion” and “Dragonfly” get bogged down in excessive repetition and modern guitar and bass effects and don’t really go anywhere musically.
Digging through this for good moments is a bit of a to do, as most of the positive elements are found within otherwise mediocre songs, but there are a few gems in this pile of dirt. If you’re either able to survive the utter snore fest of the first two songs, “The Pride Of Creation” actually kicks things up a notch, though more in the way that “Judas In The Opera House” did rather than anything from the band’s glory days in the late 90s. The guitar tone and drum character clashes a bit with the style of the song, but the riffs are busy and interesting, and there are plenty of amazing vocal moments. “Wake Up Dreaming Black” is pretty solid as well, although the song is driven more by the beat and the vocal work and suffers from some half-Groove/half-Hard Rock moments here and there. The highlight is “Speedhoven”, which aside from having a really ridiculous name, is something of a slightly inferior but still fun visit back to the fast melodic and epic days of “Theater Of Salvation”.
The bleeding ears of Jesus on the album art is an accurate warning label for this album, but not in the way that I think Tobias would have you believe. The blood is less a result of a grand assault on the eardrums in the Metal sense and more of a product of blood vessels in that region of the head bursting due to intense frustration at waiting for this damn album to get going. Unless you can stomach a whole lot of really dull half-ideas being thrown at you in a similar fashion as what you get from mainstream Hard Rock, this is what will end up happening. It’s dreadfully mediocre and unfortunately also accompanied with some goofy tomfoolery at the end as well, and I’m not talking about a good song with buffoonish lyrics like “Save Us Now” either. Three decent songs equals a net worth of $3 for this, no more, no less.
(Online September 1, 2009)