Although Lux is the debut full-length studio release from L.A.-based rockers Gemini Syndrome, the band has already made a pretty epic impression – no small thanks to the dynamic presence of frontman Aaron Nordstrom, a classically-trained musician who has played alongside metal icons like Otep and whose vocals here are very similar in tone to those of Maynard James Keenan (Tool, Puscifer, A Perfect Circle), especially in the album's more pensive moments. Gemini's overall sound has also been compared to arena-rock giants Disturbed, and while I can certainly hear that connection, they infuse that similar base of melodic but heavy radio rock with elements from many other genres – including jazz-tinged beats, gritty industrial riffs and symphonic soundscapes.
For Lux, the band also employs a wide range of visual and lyrical imagery from legend, myth and history: for example, each of the twelve tracks is designated by a universal symbol, together representing the universal cycles of time – the clock, the calendar, and the Zodiac – on both a personal and cosmic scale. It's quite an intimidating concept for a band's first album, but Nordstrom and company are thankfully up to the task, bringing impressive songwriting talent to bear, complemented by the award-winning production skills of Kevin Churko, who has worked with Ozzy Osbourne and Five Finger Death Punch (another band with whom Gemini Syndrome has been compared).
The opening tracks “Pleasure and Pain” and “Basement” are also the album's first singles, the first providing a suitably explosive entrance with a radio-friendly but emotionally pure melodic heart pumping within a body of muscular modern metal, alternating caustic metalcore screams with robust clean vocals layered with lush harmonies. The trashy, thrashy riffs and insistent vocals of “Falling Apart” create some of the more darkly powerful moments in this first section, bringing added aggression to the song's potent melody; the low and resonant riffs and tormented vocals of “Resurrection” come very close to capturing that same passion and power.
The following section sports a unique rolling rhythm in “Stardust,” followed by the intense chants, meditative verses and sweeping synth backing of “Mourning Star,” before driving headlong into the industrial-metal realm for “Left of Me,” which lays down some crushing, dropped riffs beneath a soaring dark anthem, and chugging away Tool-style in the menacing “Pay for This.” Acoustic guitars drive the first half of the grandiose ballad “Take This,” which effectively adds amplified layers before taking off on some cool prog-rock tangents, resulting in one of the album's most inventive and memorable tracks. The same elements don't work quite as well in a more mainstream arrangement for “Babylon,” but we're soon back to the heavy with the beefy anthem “Syndrome,” which has a stomping, crowd-rallying vibe, and the crunchy industrial rhythms return for the title track, closing the album on a hypnotic, symphonic mantra.
While the majority of Lux could be taken at face value for mainstream hard rock, there's an emotional sincerity to the songwriting that distinguishes Gemini Syndrome from much of their radio-friendly peers, and I can imagine these intensely hooky anthems getting crowds to their feet, whether it be a party playlist or an arena-sized venue. One way of finding out is to catch them on their upcoming fall tour with Five Finger Death Punch (a very good match), which kicks off next week. You can view the most current itinerary at their official site... but before you go, watch “Basement” below: