Berlin post-hardcore band syn*error began in 2006 as what was likely a group of eager, early 20-something kids intent on making music that had long since been irrelevant. But there’s nothing immateriality loves more than to be challenged, and the band persisted, carving for itself an alternative niche within the techno-laden streets of Germany’s capital city.
And now, five years, four splits and one demo later, the band’s first (and perhaps long-awaited) full-length, Verlustgeschäft, exists, released in January of this year. Full of tinkering spoken interludes (of which there are seven) nestled between aggressively melodic songs which average out to two-and-a-half minutes each, the album’s 17 tracks fly by in the matter of a half hour. Do the proper math and what you’re left with are 10 unapologetic and characteristically un-German songs that transport the listener back to some place in musical history that exists only between the heyday of Dischord Records and the not-easily-forgotten angst-ridden teenage years.
The band today consists of Stephan (bass, vocals), Rob (guitar, vocals), Timo (guitar) and Mark (drums) – four German guys who have a penchant for coffee, lowercasing and unusually enthralling songwriting.
The actual flow of the album is surprisingly seamless, with the overt stochasticity of the track order creating the effect of a mini-symphony. Each tune packs a punch, or a pinch, or a bite, further molding distinct impressions upon the listener with successive songs. While the tendency of many post-hardcore bands is to throw predictable vocals on top of a distorted guitar line, with little divergence between the path of the two instruments, syn*error veers away from this formula. But this step away from the main thoroughfare is so subtle, it’s like the members themselves have grabbed you by the hand and gently led you someplace achingly familiar yet still unknown.
From the calming 6/8 introduction of “what would clark griswold do?” to the alternating dynamic reference points in “these pretzels are making me thirsty!” to the driving jangle-y certainty of “i’m just trying to be a better person,” each song maintains a unique feel while remaining distinctly part and parcel of the syn*error sound. Certainly, there are times when the vocals falter, going flat in the moments when the low end softens or drops out, or others when the guitar lines fall short of inspiring, but that’s nothing out of the ordinary for the most part, and that unpolished edge also happens to keep things interesting.
In fact, in spite of those shortcomings, most impressive with the album is the ability for syn*error to remain riveting throughout. Even during the aforementioned weak points, the songs manage to have enough of a grounding that they hold their own. The reason for this might vary from listener to listener, but arguably, it’s because of the wealth of influences the band draws from. Not just another hardcore band (is there anything more boring?), syn*error mixes and skews elements from post-punk, indie rock and the pervasive emo stylings of the 90s, to create something that is hardcore in name, but actually something much more.