I remember the day back in....umm...it must have been May or June of this year (2003) and Christian Rivel was telling me about this great new band on Rivel Records called System Breakdown. He led me to some samples that really got me excited.
System Breakdown plays a mix of hard rock, metal, and grunge and they play it like they've been doing it together for decades. Some will probably recognize the names of Carl Johan Grimmark and Andreas Johansson from Narnia. You may occasionally hear some slight influences from Narnia, but for the most part, this is nowhere close. Rivel lists their influences as a mix of Black Sabbath, Soundgarden, and the symphonic sounds of Genesis. I'd have to agree with those assessments for the most part.
The album opens with the rumbling "Pain". This song is big and bad. The band displays some hefty riffs and bass that is so forceful that it could crack the ground beneath your feet. Vocalist Par Hagstrom has a dynamic voice that really completes this band. He utilizes a somewhat gruff, clean vocal style that is packed with tons of power and emotion.
"A Little More of Everything" is another great rocker as they pick up the pace quite a bit. Grimmark graces us with some fantastic guitar playing on this disc and this song is a fine example. Whether it's great leads or soaring solos like in "S.F.R.H.", he makes you wish this CD was more than 38 minutes. They even do some cool atmospheric keyboard work in the middle of "A Little Bit of Everything" that kinda reminds me of Virgin Black before quickly switching back to a rockfest. Then in the song "Paths", the bands slows it down and man is the sound sweet. They throw in some acoustic guitars, mandolin, and beautiful female vocals that really top things off. And Hagstrom even proves here that he can sing "pretty" and it sounds just as good as his more harsh vocals.
I really can't say that I dislike any of the songs on this disc. Some are more attention grabbers that others...like "A Little More of Everything" and "On the Other Side", but for the most part the hooks will grab you and the emotion will keep you coming back.
Surprisingly, I wasn't too fond of this disc on my first listen. I guess the influence of some of my friends that said that it got monotonous and boring after a few listens had a bit of an early affect. However, I have achieved the opposite affect over time. This disc actually gets stronger with multiple listens. There is just so much to like, from the beefy guitars, to Grimmark's beautiful playing, to the emotional keyboard work, to Hagstrom's powerful vocals. Not to mention the fact that the band writes quality tunes.
In wrapping things up, I like the lyrics here (although some songs seem to be missing), and the production is nice and beefy. Overall, a well put together release. I wouldn't say album of the year, but this is a very good band that I hope isn't content with just one album. (Review by Matt)