Structural Disorder – Distance – Album Review

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Artist: Structural Disorder

Album Title: Distance

Label: Lion Music

Date Of Release: 25th February 2016

Structural Disorder are a name with which I was none too familiar prior to this review. At some point in the past I had reviewed their album ’The Edge Of Sanity’ but it can’t have made that big an impression on me because I cannot remember it at all. However, having delved back into my reviews archive, I soon discovered somewhat red-faced that the Swede’s debut album had been on the receiving end of an amiable review from me a while back. With this in mind and having heard a few positive whispers, I felt compelled to have a listen to latest album ’Distance’. After all, it is rare to be left disappointed by a Swedish progressive metal band. And, joking aside, so it has proved.

Structural Disorder hail from Stockholm and are comprised of Markus Tälth (guitar and vocals),
Erik Arkö (bass and vocals), Kalle Björk (drums) and Hjalmar Birgersson (keyboard, guitar and vocals). Oh, and Johannes West, who is a vocalist as well as playing the acoustic accordion and the electric accordion. Yes, you have read that correctly – this is the unique selling point of Structural Disorder – but let’s delve in and see if it’s a positive USP or not…

If I had to be brutally honest, the accordion is one of my most disliked instruments. It’s right up there with the child’s recorder, the trumpet and the mouth organ as far as loathed instruments go. And yet, much as I have learned to appreciate brass in my rock and metal over the years, I have to concede that the accordion on this record sounds surprisingly good; it is certainly an addition that is unique to Structural Disorder, they manage to pull it off and, in the process embrace the prog philosophy of trying something new in the pursuit of creating their own personal musical vision.

Credit: unknown

Credit: unknown

Aside from the accordion which pops up now and again throughout the record, there is plenty from which I derive pleasure. Theirs is a brand of progressive music that is bathed in keyboards and synths in order to soften the edges and to create a certain amount of atmosphere. Indeed, when the dynamics of a song dictate a depressing of the metal pedal, the ensuing moments of calmer contemplation often display an almost dream-like quality.

That’s not to say that Structural Disorder are soft or metal-lite, because that would be inaccurate. Within the seven compositions that makes up ’Distance’, there are plenty of gratifying guitar chops and well thought-out riffs. The rhythm section is very strong, with the bass offering a lovely rumbling tone and the drums dishing out the occasional double-pedal assault. There’s even the occasional growled vocal, as found within the Middle-Eastern sounding opener ’Desert Rain’. Otherwise, the bulk of the vocals are delivered in a particularly soft and measured clean tone further enhancing that aforementioned dream-like feel to the music.

This all means that the music is imbued with some really nice dynamics and a sense of understated drama. Naturally with progressive metal, there are times when the songs explore extended instrumental passages but I never find them to be overly contrived or excessively self-indulgent.

From start to finish, the album is actually commendably consistent although there are a couple of stand-out moments that I feel compelled to mention. Strangely enough, they feature within the two longest tracks on the album in the form of ’Silence’ and ’Pyrene’. In the case of the former, it is the final third of the nine-minute song that works its magic on me. It features at its heart a relatively simple yet effective recurring melody that repeats until the song closes, all the while being built up to a point where it delivers an electrifying and euphoric crescendo of epic proportions.

In the case of the latter, it is the entire track. It is an ambitious track full of twists and turns but which is built around another deceptively simple melody. The combination of chunky guitar tones, expansive keboards and frequent shifts in intensity are a real winner for me. The vocals soar above the catchy music underneath and I soon find my skin alive with goosebumps.

If I had any small quibbles with ’Distance’, it would be these: firstly, the production could almost be a little more vibrant and strong. As it is, there are times when I feel the both the guitars and the drums lack a little bite and clarity which could ratchet the whole listening experience up a notch. Secondly, there are moments within different songs which sound a little familiar, as if I’ve heard them before somewhere else. But hey, these are very small and minor gripes within the context of a very strong album that has impressed me no end and which definitely won’t fade into the furthest recesses of my mind anytime soon. I therefore recommend that you check out Structural Disorder as soon as possible.

The Score Of Much Metal: 8.25

If you’ve enjoyed this review, check out my others right here:

Votum – Ktonik
Fleshgod Apocalypse – King
Rikard Sjoblom – The Unbendable Sleep
Textures – Phenotype
Serenity – Codex Atlanticus
Borknagar – Winter Thrice
The Mute Gods – Do Nothing Till You Hear From Me
Brainstorm – Scary Creatures
Arcade Messiah – II
Phantasma – The Deviant Hearts
Rendezvous Point – Solar Storm
Vanden Plas – Chronicles Of The Immortals: Netherworld II
Antimatter – The Judas Table
Bauda – Sporelights
Waken Eyes – Exodus
Earthside – A Dream In Static
Caligula’s Horse – Bloom
Teramaze – Her Halo
Amorphis – Under The Red Cloud
Spock’s Beard – The Oblivion Particle
Agent Fresco – Destrier
Cattle Decapitation – The Anthropocene Extinction
Between The Buried And Me – Coma Ecliptic
Cradle Of Filth – Hammer Of The Witches
Disarmonia Mundi – Cold Inferno
District 97 – In Vaults
Progoctopus – Transcendence
Big Big Train – Wassail
NightMare World – In The Fullness Of Time
Helloween – My God-Given Right
Triaxis – Zero Hour
Isurus – Logocharya
Arcturus – Arcturian
Kamelot – Haven
Native Construct – Quiet World
Sigh – Graveward
Pantommind – Searching For Eternity
Subterranean Masquerade – The Great Bazaar
Klone – Here Comes The Sun
The Gentle Storm – The Diary
Melechesh – Enki
Enslaved – In Times
Keep Of Kalessin – Epistemology
Lonely Robot – Please Come Home
The Neal Morse Band – The Grand Experiment
Zero Stroke – As The Colours Seep
AudioPlastik – In The Head Of A Maniac
Revolution Saints – Revolution Saints
Mors Principium Est – Dawn of The 5th Era
Arcade Messiah – Arcade Messiah
Triosphere – The Heart Of The Matter
Neonfly – Strangers In Paradise
Knight Area – Hyperdrive
Haken – Restoration
James LaBrie – Impermanent Resonance
Mercenary – Through Our Darkest Days
A.C.T. – Circus Pandemonium
Xerath – III
Big Big Train – English Electric (Part 1)
Thought Chamber – Psykerion
Marcus Jidell – Pictures From A Time Traveller
H.E.A.T – Tearing Down The Walls
Vanden Plas – Chronicles Of The Immortals: Netherworld

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