SINNER, Mask of Sanity (2007, MTM)
The very first skull in the Skullection is Krokus’ Headhunter. That cover is a masterpiece of skull-and-crossbones simplicity. Sinner’s Mask of Sanity is a whole lot like that album cover, just on fire. Fire burns in the eyes, on the left cheek, on the head, even on the bones behind it. You might think that the skull, to use a song title on the album, “Can’t Take the Heat.” Neither can the wall of red clay behind it, which apparently is cracked from the heat. So, is this the mask of sanity? It doesn’t look sane. Or has the mask of sanity burned off? Which would make this skull insane. Perplexing.
This is Sinner’s 14th album. They’ve been around forever. I feel like I’ve been around forever too, but have had very few meetings with the music of bassist Mat Sinner and company. And although I appreciate what they’re doing on this album, it’s a little lackluster. “The Other Side” comes out swinging its cock in an almost glam-metal sort of swagger; “The Sign” is a dull plod with some strained, off-key vocals. “Thunder Roar” has a bit more depth, with a cool piano theme paired with organ and chugging metal histrionics, its first minute being the most exciting thing on this album. There’s a cover of Thin Lizzy’s “Baby Please Don’t Go” that does no favors to the original, although it’s a damn fine attempt at nailing the killer guitar solos of the original. The vocals throughout are throaty and, uh, manly without being overly gruff. Kinda Blaze Bayley-like, but better than that. The music skirts the line between traditional heavy metal and AOR, which explains MTM’s interest. Ultimately, what’s happening here is territory that Sweden’s Nocturnal Rites have begun to explore and, frankly, they’re better at it than these long-running, hard-working metal vets. But hey, respect…lots of respect.
— Friar Wagner