Cryolife – Exclusive Interview with Synastry

Montreal metal quartet, Synastry, released their debut album in 2008 and did not return from their hiatus until 2020. Now they cannot stop writing music and have an ambitious release schedule ahead of them.

The rebirth started in November last year when they took their first trepid step back into the metal underground with their Civilization’s Coma EP. Scream Blast Repeat enjoyed their comeback record and noted that ‘with so much gloom in the world and so many intractable problems to solve, Synastry have a fertile outlet for their rage and do a decent job of providing the catharsis we need.’ However, we also lamented a nu metal stain in their futuristic death metal onslaught. As we said at the time: ‘Let’s hope they ditch the faint traces of nu metal on their second full-length album.’

The band answered our prayers with the March 2021 release of their second EP, Dividing The Double Helix. Here, Synastry emerged as a crushing force and enhanced the levels of technicality and brutality to the standard of their buddies in Kataklysm. Our review praised their new work and declared it ‘extreme music at its face-shredding best with kick drums that resemble the intricate hostility of an industrial sewing machine and low-tuned guitars that burn like the engine of a dreadnought.’

With two challenging and energetic EPs to their name over the last six months, we wanted to find out more about the Synastry camp. We caught up with vocalist, James Aniston, to discuss their future plans and the strong bonds that united the band during their long hiatus. 

Above: Synastry vocalist, James Aniston.

Let’s start with the obvious question. Your Bandcamp page describes Synastry as “Long dormant but reawakened in early 2020.” What were the main factors that led the members of Synastry to get back together following your hiatus in 2012?

We were largely disconnected from the music scene for a long time and as passive observers decided it was the right time to start releasing material again. The four of us have always been brothers, and we have been very close, seeing each other almost as much during our hiatus. The music bug would rear its head every once in a while, but this time it hit us hard, and here we go again! 

Dividing the Double Helix is your second EP in six months after your comeback with Civilization’s Coma in November 2020. What kind of release schedule and format of releases can we expect for your next records?

We are looking to release either another EP and two singles before 2021 ends; in 2022 we will be releasing either an album, a slew of singles or three EPs; and in 2023, two 5-song EPs. We are writing and revising and are taking the time to create as much as we can.

Full-length albums are kind of old school these days, but listeners have so much competition for their attention we won’t blow our whole shot on one release a year anymore.

You brought in Katalysm’s JF Dagenais to mix Civilization’s Coma and Cryptopsy’s Christian Donaldson tracked the vocals. How important was it to have these legendary figures around you for your comeback EP last year?

We pulled out the stops for Civilization’s Coma, Dividing the Double Helix, and the next few releases. To say that J-F Dagenais, Christian Donaldson, Kevin Jardine and Jef Fortin all had their hands on those songs is a culmination of some of the best producers Montreal has to offer. We learned so much doing those songs with them, both as players and writers. It’s hard to say what we would sound like today if we hadn’t

Dividing the Double Helix is a big step up from Civilization’s Coma in terms of technicality and death metal aggression. Scream Blast Repeat enjoyed Civilization’s Coma but detected traces of nu-metal in the sound. Will you be embracing more of the futuristic death metal of Dividing the Double Helix in the future?

Yes and no. Both Civilization’s Coma and Dividing the Double Helix and the next few releases were all birthed together. The next two releases have elements of both technicality, futuristic sounding death and some light proggy elements. We don’t like to write only one kind of song, even within the context of a singular writing session/season.

The lyrics to Dividing the Double Helix appear to cover dystopian themes and reflect anxieties about humanity’s future enslavement to technology. You said: “The lyrics from these three new tracks are very personal to me. It comes from my impression of how I feel I fit in the modern world, and how I see myself.” Can you tell us more about how the lyrics relate to you in an individual sense?

These three songs relate to me creating myself in my own version of what the best kind of person I can be. Pobody’s nerfect, but if you just follow the trend, you’ll never find your ‘true’ self, let alone give yourself permission to express it. Don’t get me wrong, I’m aware this might sound pretentious and maybe idyllic, but James makes James, not the rest of the world.

It’s good to see you cite bands like Veil of Maya and Born of Osiris as influences, even though they were just establishing themselves at the time of your debut album in 2008. Which other newer metal bands of the last decade do you listen to for inspiration?

Veil of Maya and Born of Osiris are not bands we listen to these days, to be honest. Most of what we listen to from newer bands are groups like Modern Day Babylon, Rivers of Nihil, Periphery, and a few others. Paul has been listening to a lot of jazz lately, but it’s not shining through in the writing process. lol

Above: The members of Synastry in the pre-2010 era.

What are the biggest changes you’ve noticed in the music industry since returning to the scene?

Everyone is more complacent, and the environment of the industry is super toxic. Streaming is both a blessing and a curse, and the over-reliance of social media as a metric of success is a joke. If musicians could learn to function as businesses instead of the indebted existence to labels and streaming services, we would all be better for it. Bandcamp is a great platform, but 99 percent of bands, us included, don’t capitalise on making a living from their craft.

How difficult is it to get slots on the international metal festivals as an independent band?

Honestly, it’s really tough.

How would you say the Synastry sound has evolved since 2008’s Blind Eyes Bleed LP?

We are more technically proficient, and our collaborative efforts are even more intricate and interdependent in each other. The evolution of the writing style has led to growth in the overall sound of Synastry. 

Final question: When will Synastry be ready to shop around for a record deal?

Never. We are not interested. If they want us, they can come with cash and a good offer. We are not full of ourselves, but if we want something, we go out and get it and can pay for it ourselves. I don’t really know what a record label could offer us at this point, but we would be open to discuss.

*** Synastry self-released Dividing the Double Helix EP on 26 March 2021. You can purchase this and the predecessor EP, Civilization’s Coma, on Bandcamp. ***

*** Read our review of Civilization’s Coma here. You can enjoy our analysis of Dividing the Double Helix here. ***