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Stryfe - Cursed Theatre Award winner

Cursed Theatre
by Andrew Harvey at 26 May 2023, 3:47 AM

Los Angeles based rock band STRYFE are very much the next best thing to come from LA and perhaps seen as a “metal band with a vibrant sound of heavy rock accents, mellifluous chord arrangements, and powerfully captivating vocals”. However they seem to bring together a wealth of experience as their influences can be best described as a “modern metal band with progressive ambitions, while maintaining a rock sensibility and cohesive song structure, with stylistic influences ranging from death metal to Armenian classical and folk.” The band are led by vocalist SERGIO OCHOA as his voice is very much the personality and leading the band from the get go, backed up by guitarist KAR KURSHUDYAN and bassist KARO TOROSYAN providing the melodic or hard rock riffs that we can only dream of but have no fear, drummer DEREK VARDUMYAN is the fourth guy to complete the band.

They are very much a new band now on the way to promoting themselves and they have brought to us their debut album CURSED THEATRE which was released last year in August 2022. The album begins with “Deception” as we hear fluent drums and guitars gearing up for the hard rock attitude as vocals come into the picture singing subtly. Drums throw in some accents and various accents on a rhythmic pattern which also supports vocals as guitars sustain in the verse but then switch to a more vigorous rhythm for the chorus with bass heavy tonality. Drums build up to a climax with vocals also letting it rip at this point of ascendency, a good start for this album as we head onto the next track “Palisade” is next up as alternative guitar comes in with drums stamping their authority.

Vocals join in also gaining the lead role in this track, guitars do play a big part as they did before whereas drums and bass guitar provide the low end tones very well played. Vocals take the spotlight where guitars step back but then guitar goes off some solo parts and drums provide the backup they need to guide the track onwards. A fairly short enough track so on we go into the next track which is “Duplicitous” as bass guitar and vocals join shoulder to shoulder as we hear mellow electric guitar slowly creeping in. Then vocals build up with electric guitar, drums moving around as they settle nicely in with a variety of patterns. Drums play a slower but sustained pattern with guitar as vocals lead the way mostly, a screamer off vocals come later on.

A more interesting and playful section for guitars and drums to engage in with vocals, vocals go higher in range as electric guitar enjoys a nice solo section with drums or bass guitar accompanying them. A very cool ending with racing drums and guitars as we head into the next track which is  “Velvet Revolution” as guitars take the lead to start with before vocals join in, as we hear a second vocal part which is pushed back in the mix. A pretty saucy drum pattern when the vocals focus on certain words in the lyrics, all in all, lots of creativity and initiative is taken into account. A vocal part later on is very rhythmic and bouncy but with pure class as the guitar goes on a nice adventure then more full band passages of melodic musicality.

An instrumental section has a lot to offer and vocals leads the transition now into the next track which is “Lazaro” with electric guitar picking so nicely, as vocal flow so fluently and high in range, little by little drums come into the fore. The tempo is just right for this track to allow vocals to produce clarity and so much melody, there is so much of a personal message in the lyrical content and certainly carries some meaning behind it all. Even a short phase of drums building a crescendo for vocals to take the reigns to bring this track further on with more thrilling guitar solo work, drums putting their foot down as all goes quiet for electric guitar to play alone. The next track “Cursed Theatre” as the album title as guitar conjures a warm and slicing riff with drums pulling out all the stops as they go along.

Drums and guitar have some time to really show their creative juices and vocals do come back in with style as we have some faster paced phases of play coming in and making their appearance. We can hear the bass guitar also coming through with such vengeance and tonality, vocals really echoing those key moments with certain words in the lyrical content. There is so much excellence and all round talent in this album as we move onto the next track which is “Hymn Of The Truth” opening with a more settled approach as vocals are so gentle. Drums and guitar bring the volume up as the tension is raised slightly but going back to the more quieter section as before. There is certainly an acoustic sound to this track but the melody of vocals and harmonics of guitar are the band’s advantage.

Then electric guitar takes the lead, as drums follow along with every transition or change in tempo or rhythm itself. Then as the pace quickens it comes to another quieter section for drums and guitar as we now head into the next track which is “Fake” as we hear another acoustic guitar intro at first then becoming heavier with drums supporting as before. More of an instrumental start as well, then vocals enter the frame, as we hear a wonderful correlation between acoustic guitar and vocals with drums as well giving the track the right tempo to go with. A progressive or technical section comes for drums and guitar, the precision and execution of each phase is so done so well. “Born Again” is next in line with a pretty cool drum pattern with guitar giving some vibrato as bass guitar has a chance to stand out even more than usual which is a great opportunity for such activity.

There are no vocals to even consider, so it is down to drums and guitars now to bring this album through an instrumental passage of play but out of nowhere vocals do come back just when we thought we wouldn’t hear them again. All is calm as we move on into the stage of this track with some drumming extravaganza as we come to a more interesting section where bass guitar and drums are all we hear for a short time before drum solo work. Then electric guitar rejoins the action as we hear more vibrato and sustained notation, as vocals have one more say before the next track. “Highlands - Instrumental” is the final track of this album as we hear everything except for vocals, but it gives each other instrument a last chance at making this track the conclusion this album deserves so much.

Again we hear a very interesting and maybe a rather more progressive rock approach, very experimental with guitar echoing more, drums filling in gaps or encouraging guitar to go one step further. Glam rock elements are there, but it is one last hurrah for all instruments to show what they are capable of, the correlation once more between each instrument is superb and absolutely outstanding to the extent of pure perfection. A tremendous finish to the album and I can safely these guys are the next the band to achieve greater success, if they keep this sound going, I will certainly look forward to the band’s next release.

Songwriting: 9
Musicianship: 10
Memorability: 9
Production: 9

4 Star Rating

1. Deception
2. Palisade
3. Duplicitous
4. Velvet Revolution
5. Lazaro
6. Cursed Theatre
7. Hymn Of The Truth
8. Fake
9. Born Again
10. Highlands
Sergio Ochoa - Vocals
Kar Kurshudyan - Guitars
Karo Torosyan - Bass Guitar
Derek Vardumyan - Drums
Record Label: WormHoleDeath Productions


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