Meshuggah – Immutable – Album Review

Artist: Meshuggah

Album Title: Immutable

Label: Atomic Fire Records

Date of Release: 1 April 2022

Immutable. An adjective meaning “unchanging over time or unable to be changed.”

In many ways, the title of this album is perfect. Over the past three decades, Meshuggah have consistently and stubbornly stood at the pinnacle of extreme progressive metal. The term ‘djent’ and the bands that plunder this genre were born largely thanks to the Swedish behemoth, a band that has consistently created music that’s both incredibly technical and challenging, earning the tag of ‘pioneers’ and rightly so.  Refusing to compromise, and refusing to recover old ground, ‘Immutable’ is a great title.

Looking at it another way, though, to play devil’s advocate, the title could also be argued to be misplaced here. For ‘Immutable’ offers, somewhat paradoxically, yet more change and new elements to the Meshuggah sound. The very fact that Meshuggah never stand still just proves that they are not immutable. We could argue over the title for hours – as someone with a law degree, and who deals with deciphering legislation on a daily basis, this would see me in my natural element. However, to do so would be to miss the point of this review and bore everyone to tears. Instead, allow me to say that this might be my new favourite Meshuggah album.

This is, I grant you, a big claim, given the music that the quintet have created over the years. But I stand by this statement. On one hand, it isn’t that much of a surprise because I’ve never given myself over fully to Meshuggah. I’ve often found that as extreme, heavy, and technical that their output has been, it has sometimes lacked sufficient melody and immediacy for my personal tastes. I don’t question the ability of the musicians for one second because to do so would be folly of the greatest proportions; these five musicians are some of the most talented within the world of heavy music, able to do things that my poor brain simply cannot begin to fathom. But albums like ‘Catch 33’ and ‘Chaosphere’ were just relentless in terms of complexity and aggression, and just left me a little bit cold. I admire them, but I cannot lie and say that they are albums I gravitate to with any great regularity.

I enjoyed ‘The Violent Sleep Of Reason’, their last album, released a full six years ago. But I like ‘Immutable’ even more. And the key to my enjoyment is that, by the admission of Meshuggah themselves, ‘Immutable’ is more melodic and definitely more dynamic than most of what’s gone before. This revelation will not find favour with everyone, as music taste is entirely subjective. But for me, a more melodic and varied Meshuggah is very welcome news indeed.

I do have a ‘but’ though, and that ‘but’ is that ‘Immutable’ is too long. I’ve said it many times before, but generally, albums that extend beyond the hour mark are too long. ‘Immutable’ is comprised of thirteen separate tracks that come together to form a monolithic 69 minutes of music. It feels a little miserly of me to say, after a long six-year wait, that a band as good as Meshuggah have presented us with too much music. But I’m nothing if not consistent and, when you consider how intense their music is, the length of this record will likely test all but the most masochistic of metalheads.

Bear in mind too, that words like ‘melodic’ and ‘dynamic’ have different meanings depending upon the surrounding context. ‘Immutable’ is not melodic in the same way as a power metal record might be, so it is still an intense aural battering, of that there is absolutely no doubt. And when that battering lasts for well over four thousand seconds, that’s one hell of a beating in anyone’s language.

Let’s leave this small critique at the door though and move onto the music itself, because therein lies the real magic. Firstly, as with most of their studio releases, the production on ‘Immutable’ is fantastic.

The first immediately noticeable difference on this album is with the use of clean, whispered vocals from Jens Kidman around which the unmistakeable complex polyrhythmic riffs and beats thunder through the speakers, albeit a little less aggressively than they have in the past. The dark undercurrent is marvellous and cloaks the track in a menacing, unsettling atmosphere. Only towards the end do we hear the archetypal growls from Kidman, although he reverts to the whispers at the death.

The riffing from Mårten Hagström and Fredrik Thordendal within ‘The Abysmal Eye’ are much more in keeping with the more ‘standard’ Meshuggah sound if such a thing truly exists, as does Kidman’s deep, rasping vocal delivery. But for me, it is Tomas Haake that steals the show, producing an incredible beat the likes of which few could possibly emulate or even envision in the first place. Alongside Haake, the bass of unsung hero Dick Lövgren rumbles superbly, creating the most solid of skeletons upon which all else sits. It’s as you were for ‘Light The Shortening Fuse’, the other advance single with which most of us are already acutely familiar. As Someone who struggles with a simple four-four time signature, the smooth, effortless, occasionally almost unnoticeable changes just blow my tiny mind and I sit and shake my head in forlorn appreciation.

There are so many great moments within ‘Immutable’ that it’s hard to pick just a few in order to maintain the pretence of brevity. However, I have to mention the fantastic lurching, almost tribal sounding chug of ‘Ligature Marks’. I love the lead guitar notes that soar above the heavy riffing, injecting melody of a strange, haunting, almost dissonant style; it’s certainly an intense and ear-catching moment on the record.

The melodic intro to ‘They Move Below’, a monster of a song that spans nearly ten minutes, is utterly delightful and allows a period of calm and beauty to emerge just when it’s needed. It is a delicate, beautiful couple of minutes, but the calm is shattered in a heartbeat, only to be replaced by something equally beguiling, albeit of a much more aggressive and nasty disposition. The djent aspects of the Meshuggah sound loom large through the muted guitar notes that weave yet another mind-bending sonic tapestry. It is songs like this that ensure that ‘Immutable’ justify the accolade of being my personal favourite Meshuggah album – with this level of songwriting prowess, how could it not be?

But we’re not done, as ‘Kaleidoscope’ plays around with a more modern djent sound, whilst lacing it with their own inimitable complex magic, including some insane guitar leads that defy logic, at least to me anyway. But the biggest eyebrow raise comes in the form of ‘Black Cathedral’. The first time I heard it, I had to check the promo download to ensure that I was still listening to Meshuggah. It may only be two minutes long and an instrumental to boot, but it makes an impression. With fuzzy, fast-picked staccato riffing, it’s undeniably a black metal -inspired composition. And as such, it’s dark, foreboding, and downright evil. I wasn’t expecting this, and I suspect neither are you.

Add in some very demonstrable death metal nuances within ‘I Am That Thirst’, a hypnotic groove within ‘The Faultless’ and the all-out balls-to-the-wall speedy aggression at the outset of ‘’Armies Of The Preposterous’, and you hopefully get the idea just how varied and dynamic this record truly is, and why I like it more than any other Meshuggah record in their now nine-deep discography. It may be a little too long but that’s literally the only gripe I have. In every other way, it’s Meshuggah. But more than that, it’s Meshuggah at their glorious best. And that means that with ‘Immutable’, we’re in the presence of heavy metal greatness.

The Score of Much Metal: 93%

Check out my other 2022 reviews here:

Chapter Of Hate – Bloodsoaked Decadence EP

Ancient Settlers – Our Last Eclipse

Tranzat – Ouh La La

Playgrounded – The Death Of Death

Father Befouled – Crowned In Veneficum

Abbath – Dread Reaver

PreHistoric Animals – The Magical Mystery Machine (Chapter 2)

Kvaen – The Great Below

Michael Romeo – War Of The Worlds, Part 2

Dark Funeral – We Are The Apocalypse

Carmeria – Advenae

Agathodaimon – The Seven

Moonlight Haze – Animus

Hellbore – Panopticon

Konvent – Call Down The Sun

Idol Of Fear – Trespasser

The Midgard Project – The Great Divide

Threads Of Fate – The Cold Embrace Of The Light

Arkaik – Labyrinth Of Hungry Ghosts

New Horizon – Gate Of The Gods

Cailleach Calling – Dreams Of Fragmentation

Tundra – A Darkening Sky

Sylvaine – Nova

Hath – All That Was Promised

Sabaton – The War To End All Wars

Kuolemanlaakso – Kuusumu

Oh Hiroshima – Myriad

Godless Truth – Godless Truth

Shape Of Despair – Return To The Void

Eight Bells – Legacy Of Ruin

Embryonic Devourment – Heresy Of The Highest Order

Serious Black – Vengeance Is Mine

Allegaeon – Damnum

HammerFall – Hammer Of Dawn

Immolation – Acts Of God

Veonity – Elements Of Power

Nightrage – Abyss Rising

Arjen Anthony Lucassen’s Star One – Revel In Time

Pure Wrath – Hymn To The Woeful Hearts

Dagoba – By Night

The Last Of Lucy – Moksha

Arð – Take Up My Bones

Embryonic Autopsy – Prophecies Of The Conjoined

The Devils Of Loudun – Escaping Eternity

Cult Of Luna – The Long Road North

WAIT – The End Of Noise

Abysmal Dawn – Nightmare Frontier

Amorphis – Halo

Nordic Giants – Sybiosis

Persefone – Metanoia

Vorga – Striving Toward Oblivion

Mystic Circle – Mystic Circle

Nasson – Scars

Burned In Effigy – Rex Mortem

Silent Skies – Nectar

Celeste – Assassine(s)

Abyssus – Death Revival

SOM – The Shape Of Everything

Ashes Of Ares – Emperors And Fools

Beriedir – AQVA

Lalu – Paint The Sky

Nocturna – Daughters Of The Night

Battle Beast – Circus Of Doom

Lee McKinney – In The Light Of Knowledge

Descent – Order Of Chaos

Aethereus – Leiden

Toundra – Hex

Ilium – Quantum Evolution Event EP

Power Paladin – With The Magic Of Windfyre Steel

Necrophagous – In Chaos Ascend

Infected Rain – Ecdysis

Wilderun – Epigone

You can also check out my other reviews from previous years right here:

2021 reviews

2020 reviews

2019 reviews
2018 reviews
2017 reviews
2016 reviews
2015 reviews

A Sense Of Gravity – Atrament – Album Review

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Artist: A Sense Of Gravity

Album Title: Atrament

Label: Independent Release

Date Of Release: 18 November 2016

An album like ‘Atrament’ from Seattle metallers A Sense Of Gravity is almost certain to raise a few eyebrows and catch significant attention. Prior to this review, I’d never heard of A Sense of Gravity but on the strength of ‘Atrament’, they are well and truly on my radar. More than that, they have given me cause to reassess my opinion of the whole tech/djent genre.

Going back a step, A Sense Of Gravity are, as they state on their social media pages, ‘six polite, well-educated gentlemen that make metal’. They formed in 2011 and have since been dedicated to playing ear-catching extreme metal. Their ranks are made up of vocalist C.J. Jenkins, guitarist/programmer Brendon Williams, guitarist Morgan Wick, keyboardist/guitarist Brandon Morris, drummer Pete Breene and bassist Chance Unterseher.

And, whilst I can’t attest to their politeness yet, I can certainly believe that they are well educated if their music is anything to go by. This isn’t simple paint-by-numbers stuff, I can tell you.

And on that note, with the background information dealt with, I can now get back to what I’m chomping on the bit to write about: the music on ‘Atrament’, the sextet’s sophomore independent release.

I’ve been growing a little tired and jaded of late with the whole tech metal, djent genre. There are plenty of good exponents of this kind of music and plenty of good albums have been released during 2016 by some of the biggest hitters, from Meshuggah, to Textures. However, it is a type of music that has to be done very well in order for me to take it to my heart.

With A Sense Of Gravity, they have used the tech/djent style of music as their core framework sound and then built upon it expertly, adding plenty of other styles, sounds and textures to it to create something very exciting indeed. Not just exciting – thoroughly enjoyable and immersive too.

There is an overt cinematic influence at work on these ambitious Americans, as demonstrated most eloquently on the opening track, ‘Drowning In The Ink’ for example. It is a piece of music that could easily be part of a film score, such is the tangible drama within it. The tension is increased as the composition builds, accented by C J Jenkins’ more-than-solid clean vocals.

But it’s not just symphonic, cinematic content that’s added. Also included is a very sophisticated progressive element, post rock, a touch of ambient and lots of subtle little inflections that become more evident the more I listen, be they nods towards the realm of death metal, jazz or metalcore. Polyrhythms feature, as do impressive sections of melody and plenty of mind-bending solo instrumental flamboyance.

‘Reclusive Peace’ takes over and, from the off, it is a roiling, tumultuous composition that is bold, expertly technical and grandly melodic and epic in scope. I hear faint echoes of Haken in the surprisingly deep and emotive repeated chorus whilst the instrumentation, not to mention the tightness of the band is impressive to say the least.

‘Echo Chasers’ is more down the line tech/djent meets death route which demonstrates tremendous instrumental abilities, from the bursts of warp speed drumming from Pete Breene, to the blistering riffs of Williams, Wick and Morris, not to mention bold synth work and a plethora of vocal styles, from a caustic rasp, to a more guttural death growl via more clean, melodious singing. In fact, it is the vocal delivery which is one of the strengths of the A Sense Of Gravity. C J Jenkins is hugely adept behind the microphone, acting like a vocal chameleon, effortlessly moving from one delivery to another as the compositions demand.

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‘The Divide’ features some of the best death vocals this side of Omnium Gatherum, but begins in a very different manner. The quieter intro is more classic prog metal in sound and approach but it remains dense, atmospheric and almost claustrophobic in tone. In fact, the entire track is one of the most diverse cuts on the album, flowing organically from one idea to another with aplomb. Slow, monolithic riffs give way to bursts of faster paced material, shifting between heavy and softer passages seemingly at will.

Mind you, this modus operandi could be thrown at many of the songs on this album. No single song is easy to define as the whole thing is a multi-layered, multi-faceted beast. ‘Artificially Ever After’ is a cracking song that’s all-out aggression one minute and then soothing , atmospheric and highly melodic the next. The keys of Brandon Morris are all over ‘Revenant’ as it juxtaposes a bludgeoning riffs and complex beats with moments of soothing clarity.

‘Guise Of Complacency’ briefly features some classic NWOBMH wails but they fit perfectly into the much more modern and dystopian-sounding soundscape that surrounds them. In fact, this is one of the most challenging and daunting tracks on the album, liberally channelling their inner Meshuggah one minute and then trading supersonic guitar and keyboard solos the next in some hedonistic display of dexterity and prowess. And yet it comes together and works.

By contrast, ‘Shadow Lines’ is one of the most immediate tracks on ‘Atrament’. It begins quietly where the guitars and piano shine, alongside a very self-assured and subtle vocal performance from Jenkins. It builds in intensity as it develops and, in the process, offers some of the strongest melodic refrains anywhere on the album.

I really enjoy the nonchalant swagger within ‘The Projectionist’ which also features some of my favourite bass playing on the album courtesy of Chance Unterseher. And the classical guitar intro to ‘I, Recreant’ is a thing of beauty, particularly when coupled with such a cool beat and given the way the song builds from such modest foundations to explode with barely contained bursts of epic and highly memorable melody. This has to be my current favourite track on the entire record.

Oh and the near nine-minute closer ‘Manic Void’ is too huge and epic for words. It is a grandiose conclusion to the album and offers A Sense Of Gravity one final opportunity to batter the listener with an intense composition that features just about every positive aspect of the band’s sound in one hell of a rousing finale.

I feel churlish mentioning anything negative at this point. However, to maintain a level of honesty, I must. Therefore, if I have any gripes with A Sense Of Gravity’s latest release, it is that the album feels just a little too long, particularly given the intensity and complexity on offer. At around the 70 minute mark, I get the feeling that the record might have been better served being a little more succinct. It’s a sad indictment on the human race but at a time when attention spans are decreasing at an alarming rate, I fear that ‘Atrament’ might be too much for some, thereby putting them off.

Everything else about A Sense Of Gravity and ‘Atrament’ however, is very positive and as such, it has genuinely grabbed my attention. I’m really surprised that a band as good as A Sense of Gravity isn’t signed to a decent metal label. However, if this level of quality is maintained and their creativity is not stifled, it surely cannot be too long before the situation changes. If you’re a fan of ambitious and challenging modern extreme heavy metal, the progressive sounds of A Sense Of Gravity come with the highest of recommendations from me, the latest convert to the cause.

The Score Of Much Metal: 8.5

If you’ve enjoyed this review, check out my others via my reviews pages or by clicking the links right here:

Devilment – Devilment II: The Mephisto Waltzes
Maschine – Naturalis
Brutai – Born
False Coda – Secrets and Sins
Pretty Maids – Kingmaker
In Flames – Battles
The Neal Morse Band – The Similitude Of A Dream
Memoreve – Insignia
Enbound – The Blackened Heart
Blind Ego – Liquid
Dark Tranquillity – Atoma
Hammerfall – Built To Last
Testament – Brotherhood Of The Snake
Crippled Black Phoenix – Bronze
Riverside – Eye Of The Soundscape
Hanging Garden – Hereafter
Theocracy – Ghost Ship
Arkona – Lunaris
Oddland – Origin
Sonata Arctica – The Ninth Hour
Edensong – Years In The Garden of Years
Meshuggah – The Violent Sleep Of Reason
Alcest – Kodama
Opeth – Sorceress
Negura Bunget – ZI
Epica – The Holographic Principle
Amaranthe – Maximalism
Eye Of Solitude – Cenotaph
Seven Impale – Contrapasso
DGM – The Passage
Pressure Points – False Lights
In The Woods – Pure
Devin Townsend – Transcendence
The Pineapple Thief – Your Wilderness
Evergrey – The Storm Within
Dream The Electric Sleep – Beneath The Dark Wide Sky
Periphery – ‘Periphery III: Select Difficulty’
Karmakanic – Dot
Novena – Secondary Genesis
Witherscape – The Northern Sanctuary
Eric Gillette – The Great Unknown
Tilt – Hinterland
Cosmograf – The Unreasonable Silence
Fates Warning – Theories Of Flight
Wolverine – Machina Viva
Be’lakor – Vessels
Lacuna Coil – Delirium
Big Big Train – Folklore
Airbag – Disconnected
Katatonia – The Fall Of Hearts
Frost* – Falling Satellites
Glorior Belli – Sundown (The Flock That Welcomes)
Habu – Infinite
Grand Magus ‘Sword Songs’
Messenger – Threnodies
Svoid – Storming Voices Of Inner Devotion
Fallujah – Dreamless
In Mourning – Afterglow
Haken – Affinity
Long Distance Calling – Trips
October Tide – Winged Waltz
Odd Logic – Penny For Your Thoughts
Iron Mountain – Unum
Knifeworld – Bottled Out Of Eden
Novembre – Ursa
Beholder – Reflections
Neverworld – Dreamsnatcher
Universal Mind Project – The Jaguar Priest
Thunderstone – Apocalypse Again
InnerWish – Innerwish
Mob Rules – Tales From Beyond
Ghost Bath – Moonlover
Spiritual Beggars – Sunrise To Sundown
Oceans Of Slumber – Winter
Rikard Zander – I Can Do Without Love
Redemption – The Art Of Loss
Headspace – All That You Fear Is Gone
Chris Quirarte – Mending Broken Bridges
Sunburst – Fragments Of Creation
Inglorious – Inglorious
Omnium Gatherum – Grey Heavens
Structural Disorder – Distance
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

Oddland – Origin – Album Review

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Artist: Oddland

Album Title: Origin

Label: Sensory Records

Date Of Release: 9 September 2016

Don’t you just love it when you ‘discover’ a new band? I know I do. It is one of the most exciting things that I can think of, even after over two decades of listening to music. Today’s interesting discovery is a band called Oddland, via their second full-length release, ‘Origin’.

Oddland are a Finnish quartet comprised of vocalist/guitarist Sakari Ojanen, bassist Joni Palmroth, drummer Ville Viitanen and guitarist Jussi Poikonen and their chosen weapon is progressive metal. However, this is not progressive metal in the conventional sense which is nice, because surely the whole meaning of ‘progressive’ is to be different and to forge new ways of doing things? So on that level, Oddland already score highly with me.

Oddland are not completely and utterly unique either, although as I type I am struggling to think of anyone else that’s within the same rough ball park as this lot. Mind you, if you were to put early Pain Of Salvation, Katatonia, Tool and Leprous in a blender, you might end up with something on vaguely the right stylistic path. Hell, while we’re at it, let’s sprinkle in some Distorted Harmony and possibly a smidgen of Pantera too. Why not eh?

During my research, I have seen the word ‘djent’ mentioned on more than one occasion but this is, in my opinion, misleading, and inaccurate. The style of Oddland is most definitely dominated by the word ‘heavy’ with the riffs courtesy of Ojanen and Poikonen sounding hard-hitting, powerful, and uncompromising, but they are not in the djent style as far as I’m concerned. The riffs are also deceptively intricate too. That’s not to say that djent riffs aren’t, but this is a genuinely different beast altogether, typified by plenty of clever shifts in direction and tempo, not all of which become apparent on first listen.

Perhaps the djent tag has been applied as a by-product of the fact that ‘Origin’ was mixed by Daniel Bergstrand, renowned for his work in the past with the originators of the djent movement, Meshuggah. Even so, it is still wrong, even if there is a hint of the Swedish giants in the opening twenty seconds or so of opener ‘Esotericism’.

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What Oddland are very good at, on the evidence of ‘Origin’ at least, is creating music that is technical and subtly complex whilst not forgetting the important ingredients of groove and melody. Add to that a refreshing succinctness to their song writing, an oppressive, occasionally claustrophobic atmosphere and plenty of drama it is hard not to get wrapped up in this impressive album. I say that the song writing is succinct because with an overall length of around the 45-minute mark, nothing about ‘Origin’ is overworked or outstays its welcome.

All-too-often in prog circles, a poor voice can down let impressive and tight instrumental prowess such as that on offer here. However, I cannot find fault with Ojanen’s vocals. I like the fact that he can belt out some aggressive diatribes with a cool raspy tone when the music requires it. But in general, Ojanen provides the extra layer of melody within the compositions to help elevate the album ever higher in my estimations and to enhance those much needed earworms that do emerge the more you listen.

Just take ‘Unknown’ as a prime example where the vocals are concerned as Ojanen moves from soft and gentle to all-out angst in the blink of an eye so apparently effortlessly. Mind you, I could have picked just about any of the nine tracks if I’m honest.

Whilst on the subject of individual tracks, I love the big bang that the aforementioned ‘Esotericism’ offers thanks to huge syncopated riffs, a muscular rhythm section, inventive vocal delivery, slick lead guitar work and more than a few catchy melodies.

‘Thanatos’ offers more of a sprawling feel with the bass catching my ear, whilst ‘Penumbra’ features arguably my favourite chorus of sorts on the entire record. It is huge and when blended with the various time changes and technicality, it works brilliantly.

‘Untrue’ has a really nice early Pain Of Salvation vibe to it thanks to the expressive guitar work and ‘Faraway’ is worthy of mention. It begins quite beautifully and, as the heavy headbang-worthy riffing enters the fray, I like the Cynthesis-esque lead guitar runs that sit just below the surface, not to mention the shifts in intensity throughout including a wonderful closing Pantera-style groovy riff.

Mind you, there isn’t really a weak track per se on ‘Origin’. Oddland have produced something rather tasty here and have gone from being off my radar entirely to placing themselves front and centre of my attention. Now I just need you all to have a listen, agree with me and spread the word. The word is Oddland and it needs to be spread far and wide.

The Score Of Much Metal: 8.5

If you’ve enjoyed this review, check out my others via my reviews pages or by clicking the links right here:

Sonata Arctica – The Ninth Hour
Edensong – Years In The Garden of Years
Meshuggah – The Violent Sleep Of Reason
Alcest – Kodama
Opeth – Sorceress
Negura Bunget – ZI
Epica – The Holographic Principle
Amaranthe – Maximalism
Eye Of Solitude – Cenotaph
Seven Impale – Contrapasso
DGM – The Passage
Pressure Points – False Lights
In The Woods – Pure
Devin Townsend – Transcendence
The Pineapple Thief – Your Wilderness
Evergrey – The Storm Within
Dream The Electric Sleep – Beneath The Dark Wide Sky
Periphery – ‘Periphery III: Select Difficulty’
Karmakanic – Dot
Novena – Secondary Genesis
Witherscape – The Northern Sanctuary
Eric Gillette – The Great Unknown
Tilt – Hinterland
Cosmograf – The Unreasonable Silence
Fates Warning – Theories Of Flight
Wolverine – Machina Viva
Be’lakor – Vessels
Lacuna Coil – Delirium
Big Big Train – Folklore
Airbag – Disconnected
Katatonia – The Fall Of Hearts
Frost* – Falling Satellites
Glorior Belli – Sundown (The Flock That Welcomes)
Habu – Infinite
Grand Magus ‘Sword Songs’
Messenger – Threnodies
Svoid – Storming Voices Of Inner Devotion
Fallujah – Dreamless
In Mourning – Afterglow
Haken – Affinity
Long Distance Calling – Trips
October Tide – Winged Waltz
Odd Logic – Penny For Your Thoughts
Iron Mountain – Unum
Knifeworld – Bottled Out Of Eden
Novembre – Ursa
Beholder – Reflections
Neverworld – Dreamsnatcher
Universal Mind Project – The Jaguar Priest
Thunderstone – Apocalypse Again
InnerWish – Innerwish
Mob Rules – Tales From Beyond
Ghost Bath – Moonlover
Spiritual Beggars – Sunrise To Sundown
Oceans Of Slumber – Winter
Rikard Zander – I Can Do Without Love
Redemption – The Art Of Loss
Headspace – All That You Fear Is Gone
Chris Quirarte – Mending Broken Bridges
Sunburst – Fragments Of Creation
Inglorious – Inglorious
Omnium Gatherum – Grey Heavens
Structural Disorder – Distance
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

Meshuggah – The Violent Sleep Of Reason – Album Review

meshuggah-the-violent-sleep-of-reason-artwork

Artist: Meshuggah

Album Title: The Violent Sleep of Reason

Label: Nuclear Blast Records

Date Of Release: 7 October 2016

Despite the fact that the genre of heavy metal as we know and love it today has been in existence for the best part of half a century or so, there precious few metallic creations spawned within that time that truly deserve a moniker like ‘pioneer’, ‘revolutionary’ and ‘unique’. However, Meshuggah are clearly and rightfully awarded all these accolades.

After all, this is the band that actually spawned the word ‘djent’ and whether intentionally or not, influenced a whole host of bands with their individual sound and style. The fact that the Swedish quintet started doing this nearly 30 years ago is truly remarkable. Meshuggah are a band that were so far ahead of their time that three decades later, the band still sound contemporary and vital, continuing to forge their own path, treading paths that others dare not go. Or, more accurately, thanks to the sheer complexity that dominates their compositions, Meshuggah continue to tread where other bands are incapable of following.

For all that, I must be honest and say that I have had a difficult time enjoying Meshuggah’s output. The music of vocalist Jens Kidman, guitarists Fredrik Thordendal and Mårten Hagström, bassist Dick Lövgren and drummer Tomas Haake is undeniably impressive, full of power, innovation and technical prowess. However, being a failed musician and one with very little talent or understanding of the finer intricacies of music, a lot of the technical wizardry flew right over my furrowed brow. I always admired and respected the music but for many years I tried and failed to like it. I’m a prog fan and I’m also a lover of more brutal, uncompromising forms of extreme metal. However, the marriage of the two with very little in the way of accessibility, vague melodic respite or overt headbanging groove felt like it was simply too much for me.

However, with ‘The Violent Sleep of Reason’, the band’s eighth full-length release, I have finally scaled to somewhere close to the summit. I still think Meshuggah are one of those bands that bona fide musicians will understand and enjoy more than someone like me, but at last I can truly say that I ‘get’ it and, moreover, that I really like this music.

It’s rather strange that I say this now in many ways because, as the title of this album suggests, ‘The Violent Sleep Of Reason’ represents Meshuggah at their heaviest, most challenging, most uncompromising and most brutal. You’d think it might make me shy away further from the band. But that’s not taking into account the fact that this adds up to one hell of a combination and by heavens, it works. Fifteen years ago, I may not have agreed with my future self but with age comes wisdom as they say, and this review is proof of the accuracy of this statement.

Credit: unknown
Credit: unknown

‘Clockworks’ opens up the album with a ferocious statement of brutal intent and whilst the output is familiar, something else becomes immediately obvious. The ubiquitous polyrhythms and unfathomably intricate riffs duel with some dextrous drumming and the savage bile spewed forth with venom from Kidman. The lead guitar work too, from Thordendal isn’t exactly soulful or melodious, but it is incredibly striking as has almost always been the case.

However, there’s a rawness and a much more pronounced organic feeling to the music. A quick read of the accompanying press release and this is revealed as a deliberate facet to this record, a way of the five musicians consciously moving away from the highly polished and spotlessly clean productions that typified previous releases. I really like this change as, in many ways, it makes a bolder statement regarding the prowess of these musicians. Nothing is hidden in the mix, nothing is airbrushed out – this is the real Meshuggah and it’s tremendous.

‘By The Son’ twists and writhes, whilst ‘MonstroCity’ is unsurprisingly my favourite track of the record thanks to an understated groove that gives the song a much more immediate and accessible feel. I’d not say that it is hook-laden or anything, but it is certainly the closest thing to catchy that Meshuggah have penned in a long while.

The title track begins with a dissonant, hectic tumult from which there is no escape. The entire seven minutes of music feels claustrophobic, toying with the listener in the most deliberately cruel but clever manner. It is a swirling, majestic composition that never settles, never lets you rest and teases with playful yet monstrous rhythms, riffs and sounds emanating from the darkest recesses of these Swedes’ minds.

I also really like the closing section to ‘Stifled’ which, in a huge change of pace introduces something far softer and gentle in the form of a minimalist, almost ambient interlude of sorts. It cuts through the mindbending aggression like a knife through butter and is all the more striking because of it. The follow-up, ‘Nostrum’ by contrast, has a more frenetic, vaguely black metal feel to it, offering a real smack in the face in the process.

This most impressive record then closes with ‘Into Decay’, a slower piece that by way of a dirty and clandestine groove, sums up the magnificence and indeed the sinister malevolence of the preceding nine tracks superbly.

I’ll admit that when this album ends, I’m left battered, bruised and more than a little befuddled of mind. But it is unquestionably worth it. Such intensity, skill and daring means that ‘The Violent Sleep Of Reason’ is a success of monolithic proportions, further emphasising the fact that Meshuggah are the very best at what they do.

The Score Of Much Metal: 9.25

If you’ve enjoyed this review, check out my others via my reviews pages or by clicking the links right here:

Alcest – Kodama
Opeth – Sorceress
Negura Bunget – ZI
Epica – The Holographic Principle
Amaranthe – Maximalism
Eye Of Solitude – Cenotaph
Seven Impale – Contrapasso
DGM – The Passage
Pressure Points – False Lights
In The Woods – Pure
Devin Townsend – Transcendence
The Pineapple Thief – Your Wilderness
Evergrey – The Storm Within
Dream The Electric Sleep – Beneath The Dark Wide Sky
Periphery – ‘Periphery III: Select Difficulty’
Karmakanic – Dot
Novena – Secondary Genesis
Witherscape – The Northern Sanctuary
Eric Gillette – The Great Unknown
Tilt – Hinterland
Cosmograf – The Unreasonable Silence
Fates Warning – Theories Of Flight
Wolverine – Machina Viva
Be’lakor – Vessels
Lacuna Coil – Delirium
Big Big Train – Folklore
Airbag – Disconnected
Katatonia – The Fall Of Hearts
Frost* – Falling Satellites
Glorior Belli – Sundown (The Flock That Welcomes)
Habu – Infinite
Grand Magus ‘Sword Songs’
Messenger – Threnodies
Svoid – Storming Voices Of Inner Devotion
Fallujah – Dreamless
In Mourning – Afterglow
Haken – Affinity
Long Distance Calling – Trips
October Tide – Winged Waltz
Odd Logic – Penny For Your Thoughts
Iron Mountain – Unum
Knifeworld – Bottled Out Of Eden
Novembre – Ursa
Beholder – Reflections
Neverworld – Dreamsnatcher
Universal Mind Project – The Jaguar Priest
Thunderstone – Apocalypse Again
InnerWish – Innerwish
Mob Rules – Tales From Beyond
Ghost Bath – Moonlover
Spiritual Beggars – Sunrise To Sundown
Oceans Of Slumber – Winter
Rikard Zander – I Can Do Without Love
Redemption – The Art Of Loss
Headspace – All That You Fear Is Gone
Chris Quirarte – Mending Broken Bridges
Sunburst – Fragments Of Creation
Inglorious – Inglorious
Omnium Gatherum – Grey Heavens
Structural Disorder – Distance
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

Album Of The Year 2015 – Number 1

So, here we are. I’ve made it. One month and over 30,000 words later, my ‘Album Of The Year 2015’ Top 30 countdown comes to an end. It has been challenging, tiring and occasionally frustrating but well worth the effort. I have enjoyed the banter, the more serious conversations, the arguments and the positive comments that this series has created. But best of all are the comments from people who say that they have discovered or re-discovered a particular band thanks to one of my posts. This is exactly why I do this.

People ask me why I don’t just write a simple list and put it out there on the Internet. It would be simpler I admit but then, those that know me know that this isn’t the Man Of Much Metal’s way. And it certainly isn’t the Blog Of Much Metal way either. Each and every band that features in this list has spent months creating great music for us all to enjoy. Therefore, the least I can do is spend a decent amount of time giving credit where it’s due and explaining why I feel so passionately about these albums. Giving something back to the music that has given me so much is what I and this blog is all about.

If you’ve stuck with me throughout this series, I offer one last heartfelt thanks to each and every one of you. If you’re new and like what you read here, be sure to spread the word and check out the other 29 albums in my list via the links at the end of this post.

But enough of all that. Let’s get down to business. Ladies, gentlemen and children of all ages and of discerning taste, I give you my gold medal choice for 2015, the best album of a strong year for the music I love…

Number 1

earthside coverEarthside
‘A Dream In Static
Independent Release

I thought long and hard before awarding this album the title of ‘best album of 2015’. I mean, could I really award the title to a debut album from an unsigned band? But then I came to my senses, severely chastised myself and here we are.

Earthside, from New Haven, Connecticut, are comprised of drummer Ben Shanbrom, keyboardist Frank Sacramone, guitarist Jamie van Dyck and bassist Ryan Griffin. And together, they have put together a stunning album that is an utter delight and one that arguably breathes new life into the genre of heavy metal. Not content to plough one narrow musical furrow, instead the quartet have made it their mission to explore numerous different styles across the rock/metal spectrum and beyond all the while managing to keep the end product cohesive and, above all, enjoyable. You could call Earthside’s music progressive metal, djent, cinematic and symphonic or experimental…personally, I just call it damn good music.

Earthside have proved with this release that you can be ambitious, challenging to yourself, challenging to the listener and yet manage to emerge from the other side triumphant. There isn’t a moment on ‘A Dream In Static’ that is messy or clunky or even ill-advised. It all fits perfectly in spite of the myriad of influences at play and what’s more, the end product is absorbing, memorable and extremely addictive.

Photo Credit: Ian Christmann http://ianchristmann.com/
Photo Credit: Ian Christmann http://ianchristmann.com/

One of the elements of Earthside’s success is undoubtedly the unwillingness to rush the end product and to compromise in any real way. As I discovered when I interviewed Ben Shanbrom prior to the album’s release, Earthside have been around for a number of years, working away in the background to hone their craft and perfect their music away from prying ears and the lure of the limelight. In this day and age, it is all too easy to produce music, put it out on the internet and wait for the world to love you or loathe you. Very little thought often goes into the detail; the detail of learning to play your chosen instrument properly for example. And, even for those who are wizards at playing, the detail of honing song writing skills and having a clear vision for the band can be overlooked. This isn’t the case with Earthside – they’ve seemingly thought of everything. The result is ‘A Dream In Static’.

I knew from the moment that I heard ‘The Closest I’ve Come’ that something special was brewing. I had to wait what seemed an inordinately long time before I was finally able to hear the album in it’s entirety but believe me, it was worth the wait. In fact, for those of you familiar with my presence on social media, this choice won’t be the biggest surprise of your lives. I have waxed lyrical about the record over the past few months and I don’t see any reason for that stance to change any time soon.

If you’re after a really detailed look into the individual songs on ‘A Dream In Static’, please check out the review that I wrote for it around the time of it’s release. In addition, for more background about the band, check out my 2-part interview. Links to all three are as follows:

‘A Dream In Static’ Album review
Earthside Interview – Part 1
Earthside Interview – Part 2

For now, for this post, I’ll try to keep things brief. Note the word ‘try’ in that last sentence.

The album kicks off in stunning fashion with ‘The Closest I’ve Come’. In keeping with much of the album, it is an instrumental track but it oozes class and keeps things interesting by frequently altering the tempo, toying with differing levels of complexity and adding an urgent sense of drama via an inspired use of light and shade. One minute it’s heavy, the next it’s quiet and gentle. And, at the 1:30 mark, it explodes with the most gloriously epic melody you’re likely to hear for a while. Spine-tingling stuff indeed.

The title track follows and, featuring TesseracT’s Daniel Tomkins on vocals, it is equally as good as the opener. It is a groovy, djent-heavy beast that features more sumptuous melodies that are impossible to resist. ‘Mob Mentality’ which features Sevendust’s Lajon Witherspoon behind the microphone also boasts the talents of the Moscow Studio Symphony Orchestra and if you’re looking for a complex and moody film score-like feel to it, this is the song you’ve been dreaming of. Gargantuan and bruising, yet precise and subtle, it is a composition that has to be heard to be believed.

‘Entering The Light’ is the shortest track on the album but is also one of the most striking given its demonstrable urgency and the inspired inclusion of a hammered dulcimer courtesy of Max ZT to provide the song’s central melody. Then there are other compositions like ‘Crater’ featuring Soilwork’s Bjorn ‘Speed’ Strid, one of my all-time favourite metal vocalists, ‘The Undergrounding’ with its Meshuggah-like chugging riffs and ‘Contemplation Of The Beautiful’ which is an epic track full of highs and lows that ends with the mother of all crescendos, enhanced by an emotional and committed performance from the final guest vocalist, Eric Zirlinger (Face The King, ex-Seer). Hell, who am I trying to kid, every single track on ‘A Dream In Static’ is a killer and deserving of all the praise that is bestowed upon them.

Going back to my opening paragraph, it belatedly occurs to me that one of the reasons why this record is so exciting is absolutely because this is Earthside’s debut album. Prior to this album, the name ‘Earthside’ was known only to a select few but, given the staggering quality of ‘A Dream In Static’, it is a name that is being talked about more and more with each passing day. Enlisting the services of a full orchestra, convincing the likes of Daniel Tomkins and Bjorn ‘Speed’ Strid to participate and then to be able to have the whole thing mixed by David Castillo (Katatonia, Opeth) means that Earthside must be doing something right.

The mind boggles at what on Earth the band will deliver next time out. However, that’s for another day. For now, let us revel in the sounds, the textures, the emotions and the atmospheres of ‘A Dream In Static’.

In closing, I’d like to quote my original review, as the sentiment remains as true now as it did then: ‘‘A Dream In Static’ is not perfect but it is very close. It is one of the most intense, challenging and ambitious recordings I have heard in a very long time. I’m not a gifted musician, so I prefer to reflect on how albums make me feel; Earthside’s music elates me, excites me and delivers something new on each and every listen. On that basis alone, mark my words, Earthside are going to be huge. A band of this talent, dedication and focus that has produced something as jaw-dropping as ‘A Dream In Static’ as a mere introduction to the metal world cannot possibly be anything else. And you know what? They thoroughly and unequivocally deserve everything coming their way. Bravo gents, bravo.

Album Of The Year 2015 – Number 2
Album Of The Year 2015 – Number 3
Album Of The Year 2015 – Number 4
Album Of The Year 2015 – Number 5
Album Of The Year 2015 – Number 6
Album Of The Year 2015 – Number 7
Album Of The Year 2015 – Number 8
Album Of The Year 2015 – Number 9
Album Of The Year 2015 – Number 10
Album Of The Year 2015 – Number 11
Album Of The Year 2015 – Number 12
Album Of The Year 2015 – Number 13
Album Of The Year 2015 – Number 14
Album Of The Year 2015 – Number 15
Album Of The Year 2015 – Number 16
Album Of The Year 2015 – Number 17
Album Of The Year 2015 – Number 18
Album Of The Year 2015 – Number 19
Album Of The Year 2015 – Number 20
Album Of The Year 2015 – Number 21
Album Of The Year 2015 – Number 22
Album Of The Year 2015 – Number 23
Album Of The Year 2015 – Number 24
Album Of The Year 2015 – Number 25
Album Of The Year 2015 – Number 26
Album Of The Year 2015 – Number 27
Album of the Year 2015 – Number 28
Album of the Year 2015 – Number 29
Album of the Year 2015 – Number 30

And from previous years:

Album of the Year 2014
Album of the Year 2013
Album of the Year 2012

Album Of The Year 2015 – Number 30

Here we are again, at year’s end. I can’t believe that another 12 months has passed since I began my countdown for 2014, it doesn’t seem that long ago. And yet, in the intervening period, a lot has happened. My eldest daughter has started nursery whilst my youngest has changed from a new born baby into a cheeky, happy one-year-old. I have also moved house, relocating about 15-20 miles but remaining in the beautiful county of Suffolk. I therefore have a new ‘Mansion of Much Metal’ to use as the Blog Of Much Metal HQ.

Then there’s my decision to leave Powerplay Magazine after ten great years. The reasons are numerous but the result is that I get more time to focus on the Blog, my labour of love.

But, most importantly of all, the last year has blessed us with some amazing music. 2015 has been unbelievable in terms of the sheer quality of music but moreover, the depth of the quality is staggering. I have spent weeks mulling over my Top 20 of 2015 but it has proved impossible. On the advice of many of my kind and loyal followers, I decided to increase the countdown to 25. However, when it came to compiling the list, this was still impossible.

The aim of this blog is to get as much exposure for great music as possible. It feels unfair therefore to limit the countdown to 25 bands/artists when there are bands that miss out that are equally worthy of the plaudits they deserve. As a result, I have expanded the annual countdown to 30. I hope this doesn’t put too many of you off, but I honestly believe every entry in this year’s list deserves their place. I shall spend the next month trying to prove it to you.

Whilst I number each release and will count down from 30, the spots from 30-16 are more arbitrary and each can be considered to be as equal as each other, with the final 15 in a solid order according to my personal and very subjective tastes. I’m sure there will be some debate about who I’ve missed or who shouldn’t have made the final cut, but I’m keen to hear all views – bring it on!

If you’re interested, the previous countdowns can be viewed here:
Top 20 of 2014
Top 20 of 2013
Top 20 of 2012

But enough of that, let’s get on with the main event and reveal the first release to make it into my Top 30 for 2015:

Number 30

subversion coverSubversion
‘Animi’
Rogue Records America

I’m not the biggest fan of the whole djent/tech metal subgenre and it’s a style of music that I don’t automatically gravitate towards. However, sometimes you just have to doff your cap and say to a band ‘well done, you’ve proved me wrong’. On this occasion, it’s Subversion with their sophomore release, ‘Animi’.

Photo credit: Lauren Kelly Brown
Photo credit: Lauren Kelly Brown

Subversion hail from Kent in the UK and their music has been dubbed as ‘symphonic tech metal’ which, I have to say is an accurate description because the music is huge, rich and powerful. There are plenty of those archetypal chugging riffs that helped to coin the ‘djent’ tag as well as those Meshuggah-like gruff vocals which lay the foundations of a heavy and complex, progressive sonic output.

However, for me, it’s the other side of the Subversion sound that gives me the biggest buzz and enjoyment. Almost every composition on this 10 track album relents on the all-out spiky, tech aggression at some point and, in genuine contrast, allows something altogether more majestic to come to the fore.

‘Born Of The Sun’, for example, is an absolute monster that benefits from some truly sumptuous melodies that are enhanced by synths and programming to create a wall of sound that is epic, spine-tingling and almost euphoric. ‘Imperfect’ delivers some great post-rock atmosphere, ‘Pariah’ is a simple yet effective palette-cleanser whilst ‘Novation’ is nothing short of anthemic. The synths and huge riffs combine to great effect, creating an almost cinematic experience whereas the melodies are immediate and Kai Giritli’s vocals are some of the best on the entire record, full of passion and energy.

In spite of myself, I find a hell of a lot to enjoy about ‘Animi’. Sure it taps in to many of the aspects of modern heavy music that I generally don’t overly enjoy but such is the band’s enthusiasm, on-point musicianship and innate understanding of strong song-writing, I can’t find much to fault about it at all. Subversion have set the benchmark for me in 2015 for this kind of music & I’m excited to hear what they come up with next. A very worthy inclusion in my end-of-year ‘best of’.

Once again, if you’re interested to see who made my list over the last 3 years, here’s your chance:

Top 20 of 2014
Top 20 of 2013
Top 20 of 2012

Earthside – A Dream In Static – Album Review

earthside cover

Artist: Earthside

Album Title: A Dream In Static

Label: Independent Release

Year Of Release: 2015

The buzz of being an early discoverer of a new band is one of the best on Earth, at least for me anyway. I first became aware of a band called Earthside when I was given the heads-up by their UK publicist about a track that had just been released on Youtube. I listened almost immediately and, perhaps as much as 5 seconds later, I was picking my jaw up off the floor. Throughout the following eight minutes as the song, entitled ‘The Closest I’ve Come’ developed, I had to frequently repeat the process as well as battle goosebumps, shivers and a goofy grin that seemed to affix itself to my face for the entirety of the composition.

From that moment on, I knew that I had to keep my focus on this new band and chart their progress carefully. The next, exciting step was to interview drummer Ben Shanbrom at the behest of the aforementioned publicist, despite only hearing two tracks at that point. It turned into an epic interview that required two blog posts to publish it in its entirety. During the conversation, I became instantly aware of just how focused, driven and disciplined Earthside are, something that shines through in their music without a shadow of doubt.

I have since been privileged to have access to the entire debut album, entitled ‘A Dream In Static’ and it is everything that I had hoped for and more. Earthside, from New Haven, Connecticut, are comprised of drummer Ben Shanbrom, keyboardist Frank Sacramone, guitarist Jamie van Dyck and bassist Ryan Griffin. And each member needs to take a bow because together, they have brought the metal world something truly brilliant.

Credit: Ian Christmann Photography ( http://catalystphotography.com/ )
Credit: Ian Christmann Photography ( http://catalystphotography.com/ )

The album kicks off with the track that I alluded to above, ‘The Closest I’ve Come’. In keeping with a good proportion of the album, it is an instrumental track. Now, I’m not always the biggest fan of instrumental-only music but this is an entirely different beast. The composition weaves its way through a plethora of clever and engaging ideas at once both instantly melodic and complicated. It begins quietly with a captivating melody and is soon joined by some striking drumming before it explodes with real intent via a modern djent-esque guitar tone and powerful rhythm section. I actually get a little emotional listening to it now as it has had such a profound impact upon me over the last few months.

However, the best is reserved for around the 1:30 mark when an epic-sounding melody to end all melodies kicks in with spine-tingling results. The song soon markedly shifts direction with the entire central segment exploring a more classically progressive instrumental blueprint full of wickedly precise and complex ideas, off-kilter timings and subtle keyboard embellishments. Despite its intricate nature, the music never strays into pointless overindulgence; every note has been thought out and keeps one eye on the melodies, texture and atmosphere which for several reasons calls to mind a sci-fi soundtrack. The song then closes via that opening melody which comes back bigger and bolder than ever, leaving an indelible mark on my brain. What a way to open your debut album.

Up next is the track entitled ‘Mob Mentality’ and is the ‘other’ track that Earthside have already unleashed on the metal community to almost entirely positive and effusive praise. It’s not hard to see why because it’s an absolute behemoth of a song. Front and centre of the composition sits Lajon Witherspoon, vocalist with Sevendust and who is the first of a small handful of guest vocalists to grace the record. The choice is typically brave and adventurous from Earthside, but Witherspoon puts in a huge performance, flitting masterfully and with consummate ease between soft and soothing and all-out aggression and power.

Not content to leave it there, Earthside have also enlisted the help of the Moscow Studio Symphony Orchestra to add yet another dimension to the near ten-minute bruising prog metal composition. If Earthside were after a song with the vibe of a movie score, it has been achieved here, with stylish aplomb. The changes in tempo, the movement shifts as well as the frequent alternation between light and shade and from subtle restraint to all-out aggression means that ‘Mob Mentality’ is imbued with a thoroughly believable and intense sense of drama and theatre throughout. All at once, the song sounds rich, ambitious, muscular, fragile and above all, completely and utterly compelling. In short, it is progressive metal genius.

Track three is the title track and features another guest vocalist in the shape of TesseracT’s Daniel Tompkins. It’s impossible to say that this is one of my favourite tracks on the album because as you might have guessed by now, they’re all nothing short of exquisite. That said, I love the more overt groove and unsurprising djent leanings on ‘A Dream In Static’ that are beautifully and seamlessly blended with some sumptuous melodies that are wonderfully accentuated by Tompkins’ stunning vocal performance. When he belts out the big notes, you can’t help but listen and get drawn into the music that little bit more, to the point that I find myself living the track rather than simply listening to it. The fact that I’m not generally-speaking the biggest djent fan in the world just serves to underline how sickeningly good the song writing must be to draw me in in the way that it does.

As a brief aside, there are certain points when the ‘djent’ tag is justified but make no mistake, ‘A Dream In Static’ is not a djent album. The influences are far too varied, the tones, the textures, the atmospheres, the styles and the overall execution call to mind a myriad of different genres and sub-genres, everything from soul and jazz through to classic prog and even melodic death metal. But crucially, Earthside take all these elements and blend it into something that is quite unique and very much their own.

Back to the tracks themselves and ‘Entering the Light’ returns Earthside to their instrumental surroundings whilst also being the shortest track on the record at a mere 5:27 in length. It is nevertheless another dramatic track that again has more than a passing resemblance to a piece of movie soundtrack music, albeit very different to what has gone before. I adore the central melody courtesy of a hammered dulcimer played by guest Max ZT as it offers a stunning counterpoint to the returning Moscow Studio Symphony Orchesta and the more traditional rock/metal instrumentation around it, both of which inject urgency and drama, wrapped up in a gorgeous piece of song-writing. It may be a Graeco-Roman instrument but to these ears, the dulcimer lends a slightly oriental feel to the delightful composition. The booming and shuddering bass that erupts somewhere in the centre of the track is great too, but to pick out any one performance does all the others a real disservice.

‘Skyline’ is, as far as it’s possible for Earthside, more of a straightforward instrumental metal track. That said, it’s still insanely complex, challenging and full of clever ideas with the bass guitar catching my ear most of all. However, it has more of an all-out jam feel to it, as if each member of the band is given the freedom to cut loose. That is until the half-way mark where everything falls away to be replaced by a tentative piano melody whilst the song rebuilds itself, like a phoenix rising from the ashes in a blaze of glory. The lead guitar line is spine tingling and around it is the sense that the composition is building towards something. That ‘something’ turns out to be a massive crescendo in the best post rock/metal tradition, full of elegant atmosphere and a deceptive, brooding heaviness.

Hot on the heels is ‘Crater’, which features one of my all-time favourite metal vocalists, Soilwork’s Bjorn ‘Speed’ Strid. The guy is a monster and he fully demonstrates that here. To begin with, he’s offered the opportunity to really explore his softer, more melodic side before he launches into the chorus of sorts with some of his best work to date in any band or project. It helps that the track behind him is satisfyingly powerful of course. It’s suitably urgent, with equal parts quiet restraint and all-out metal aggression and epic melody, the perfect foil to the many facets of Strid’s voice. Frankly, the result is beyond stunning. The composition is flawless and Strid is God-like; note perfect and his voice drips with emotion and bucket-loads of sincerity, particularly when he cuts loose and calls to the heavens with his rough and gravelly timbre.

Credit: Travis Smith - Seempieces ( http://www.seempieces.com/ )
Credit: Travis Smith – Seempieces ( http://www.seempieces.com/ )

‘The Undergrounding’ is the final instrumental piece on ‘A Dream In Static’. It features some inspired synth sounds that create the track’s U.S.P. and help offer something different to what has gone before. Those Meshuggah-inspired riffs return but all the while accented with plenty of other ideas meaning that all-too-soon, the relatively short track is at an end, albeit via a riff that’d be right at home on a classic doom metal record thanks to its pace and earth-shuddering heaviness.

And that leaves the final track, ‘Contemplation Of The Beautiful’ to close out the record. It begins with some sampled sounds that lend it a theatrical bent. The chosen vocalist for what is the longest track on the album is the less well-known Eric Zirlinger (Face The King, ex-Seer). What’s most ear catching about this piece of music is the pronounced light and shade. At times, the track is beautifully quiet and introspective with softly-sung passages. At others, out of nowhere, the music explodes with the power of an unstoppable force with Zirlinger screaming his lungs out in savage, uncontrolled fury. Around half-way, the track descends into more adventurous and quirky post-rock territory before beginning the gradual ascent towards another indescribably monumental peak of musical majesty; the agonised screams return alongside the most grandiose of melodic crescendos imaginable, leading to one of the most epic compositions I’ve heard in a very long time.

As the album draws to a close, I’m left stunned. How can this be a debut album? Where the hell have Earthside come from? Where can they possibly go from here? ‘A Dream In Static’ is not perfect but it is very close. It is one of the most intense, challenging and ambitious recordings I have heard in a very long time. It is also flawlessly executed and produced with the help of David Castillo in a way that allows every instrument and every subtle nuance to shine through.

I’m not a gifted musician, so I prefer to reflect on how albums make me feel; Earthside’s music elates me, excites me and delivers something new on each and every listen. On that basis alone, mark my words, Earthside are going to be huge. A band of this talent, dedication and focus that has produced something as jaw-dropping as ‘A Dream In Static’ as a mere introduction to the metal world cannot possibly be anything else. And you know what? They thoroughly and unequivocally deserve everything coming their way. Bravo gents, bravo.

‘A Dream In Static’ is out on 23rd October 2015.

The Score Of Much Metal: 9.8

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

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

Isurus – Logocharya – Album Review

Isurus cover

Artist: Isurus

Album Title: Logocharya

Label: Independent Release

Year Of Release: 2015

One of the biggest buzzes I get through writing this blog and writing about music in general is from the discovery of new music. I’m not one to sit still and rest on my laurels; I’m always on the look-out for the next band or artist to impress me and offer another fresh and exciting listening experience. The fact that I get bands coming to me on a daily basis asking for me to take a listen to this or that, is a bonus that I welcome. Some of it is not to my taste at all or is not of a great standard but occasionally, just occasionally, one artist will rise out of the flood of mediocrity and make a big impact upon me. One such band is Isurus.

Isurus are a London-based band that has been in existence since 2007 and are comprised of vocalist Braun Amore, guitarist David Bonney, drummer Thomas Drew and bassist Daniele Gravina. I believe I’m right in saying that the band began their existence as an all-out thrash metal band but, over time, have developed and morphed into an entirely different beast. Whilst I’m loathe to ever pigeon-hole bands into any one definitive genre, for the sake of brevity and to give an initial idea to readers, I’d refer to Isurus as progressive metal. However, other influences and ideas are at play within the band’s sound that make the music of Isurus as strong as it is.

Courtesy of Isurus
Courtesy of Isurus

‘Logocharya’ represents Isarus’ sophomore album release, which sees the light of day some four full years since their debut, ‘Telos’. At the time of writing, I remain unfamiliar with the content of the debut and so am unable to comment upon it. Suffice to say that based on the strength of its successor, I intend to rectify this in the very near future. For the time being though, it allows me to focus on this new material without being coloured or distracted by what went before, something which can be as helpful as being familiar with every note and nuance of a band’s career. I am free of any bias and unhindered by any emotional attachment to the artist.

The question then begs itself: what do I think about ‘Logocharya’ then? In short, I think it is rather great. But allow me to elaborate.

I’m not a fan of Tool. I have tried on many occasions to fall under the spell of this cult US band, whose compositional nous and playing skills are without question, superlative. They are just not for me somehow. The relevance of this becomes clear within the first minute or two of opening track ‘Logos’, which wastes little time in hitting the listener with a groovy, heavy and powerful riff courtesy of Bonney that delights with its power and the clever time signature that it employs, transcending from the ordinary to the special in my opinion. It is further enhanced thanks to some really brilliant drumming from Drew and Gravina’s clever bass lines that together are much more than just a metronomic backbone of the music. The track eventually opens up into a killer melodic crescendo and I’m reminded fairly quickly of tracks like ‘Schism’ by Tool, one of the few tracks by them that resonates with me.

Initially flummoxed by my enjoyment of Isurus in spite of the overt Tool references, I listened again and again until it dawned on me that the Isurus sound is much more multi-dimensional than that. They might be subtle or not immediately apparent, but there are other ingredients within the Isurus sound that offer demonstrable originality and prevent the dreaded ‘clone’ description. Elements of both classic-era and more modern progressive rock, Bay Area thrash (particularly within some of the heavier, more straight-up riffs), alt-rock and tech/math metal are fused into the overall sound making for a very ambitious final product. Crucially, it all comes together to enhance the compositions rather than detract from them; the songs remain at the forefront of the quartet’s collective minds and so, however technical things become and however many polyrhythms are experimented with, there’s something for the listener to latch on to, thereby creating a certain addictive quality to the music.

‘Orbis’ has a big thrash feel initially but then moves back and forth into more modern metal territory that nods its head in the direction of Slipknot and others of their ilk, albeit toned down and not as brutal. There’s plenty more by way of instrumental dexterity but equally, there’s enough mid-tempo groove to get the head nodding. ‘Gaea’ offers more in the way of the modern alt-prog movement, bands like Karnivool for example. The bass rumbles under a subtle clean guitar line and the vocals of Braun Amore echo the aforementioned’s Ian Kenny when delivering a more restrained lead vocal. ‘Hospes’ introduces some lovely double-pedal drumming within a more extreme metal framework that also features some big synth embellishments and plenty of dramatic light and shade. ‘Arca’ takes the foot off the pedal and introduces a strong, simple melody that sticks in the mind nicely but which then morphs cleverly into a chugging thrash-influenced track. And then there’s the instrumental track, ‘Yama (part 1)’, which is quite beautiful.

Courtesy of Isurus
Courtesy of Isurus

The most pleasing thing is that ‘Logocharya’ is a very consistent beast and so I could reference something positive within most of the tracks for one reason or another if I’m honest. That said, there’s a nagging feeling that, just occasionally within this 11-track album, it would be nice if Isurus opened up and let rip as witnessed in the final minute or two of the opening track. However, that’s arguably just me being very picky indeed.

In a previous paragraph, I made reference, amongst other things, to the vocals; this is definitely one of the big strengths of Isurus. Too often I find that technically gifted musicians are let down by their choice of lead singer; it irks me more frequently than it should. That’s not the case with Isurus because in Braun Amore, they are blessed with a vocalist who not only has a great range but has a kind of effortless power which actually conveys quite a bit of emotion. And whilst I wish that he’d mix things up a little more than he does and deviate more from the higher-pitched full-power approach that sounds somehow Australian (I can’t quite put my finger on why this is), you can’t really fault the end product.

If all this wasn’t enough, the album has been self-produced but mixed by the heavyweight Daniel Bergstrand (Meshuggah, In Flames) at Dugout Productions, meaning that ‘Logocharya’ is blessed with a really punchy sound that does the music real justice.

If you’re looking for an album that’s big on technicality and complexity but that doesn’t forget the importance of real songs that groove and properly rock out, you could do an awful lot worse than check out Isusus’ ‘Logocharya’. This is most definitely one of the finds of 2015 so far for me, that’s for sure.

The Score Of Much Metal: 8.0

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

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

Distorted Harmony – Interview – “I hope that people will care more about the music than where we’re from”

Copyright: Ofir Abe
Copyright: Ofir Abe

I was so blown away by ‘Chain Reaction’, the sophomore release by Israel’s Distorted Harmony that I felt compelled to undertake an interview with the band to supplement the album review that was recently featured in Powerplay Magazine. The conversation that I undertook with keyboardist and founding member, Yoav Efron was a real pleasure and, thanks to some blunt honesty, rather illuminating.

“It first began when I was playing around with a few tunes back in 2006”, Yoav begins when I kick things off gently by asking for a bit of the history behind Distorted Harmony. “I thought about maybe making it into a project, but not a band at that point. After going through a bunch of musicians and friends, I met Yogev (Gabay – drums). We started working together and we even did a few demos in 2008-2009. That’s probably the main difference between “Utopia” and “Chain Reaction”. Most of the material was written in 2006-07 so when the band officially formed in 2010, most of the songs were already complete. So there was no input and no new material to be created to make it more album-ready. When we started working together as a band, it was for the recording of that music for ‘Utopia’.

Utopia
Utopia

“Since then”, Yoav continues, “the main focus has been the live show and improving our performances for live shows. When the time came to record new material, we held a band meeting and we began working on ‘Chain Reaction’. The whole thing was written in, I think, six months. Everyone had matured and our repertoire of music had grown in time, that’s why I think ‘Chain Reaction’ is very different and why I think it represents us a lot more right now. When I wrote the sketches for the songs, I left a lot of room for interpretation and for the band to give their input on the music.”

The result is a magnificent album that draws inspiration from a number of different sources but blends everything into an ambitious, yet cohesive and immensely enjoyable whole. You have to hear it to believe it, but trust me, hear it you must. Interestingly, despite the relatively short writing time, the process was very painstaking, as Yoav explains.

Chain Reaction
Chain Reaction

“I didn’t let the music flow because it was a very meticulous, specific, process. I wrote most of the material and I didn’t plan on any kind of concept because I don’t like concept albums. I just wrote about my notions of how I see the world, how I see humankind, how I see our history and what I wish we could change. It was hard but also quite easy to think of the topics that I wanted to write about. By the time I was done, I wanted to write more but I didn’t have enough songs!”

But, whilst the lyrics are important for Distorted Harmony, Yoav is adamant that the music will always remain top-dog.

“For me, the music always comes first; the musical arrangements always come first. The lyrics should have a point and a focus to them and should give you some kind of message. That’s why I like music so much because it is the greatest tool to spread ideologies and try to make changes. But no, the music itself is always the top priority.”
It seems only natural for us metal heads to try to pigeon-hole every band we hear into a neat, conformist box. Distorted Harmony is therefore best described loosely as progressive metal, thanks to intelligent compositions, clever time signatures and technical dexterity. When I put this to Yoav though, his response is interesting and ever-so slightly surprising.

“I don’t think that we’re that progressive anymore”, Yoav considers. “It has been a while since I have listened to prog metal I have to admit. I mostly listen to heavy metal, a little djent and we’ve all driven apart from progressive metal actually. You know, the Dream Theater and Symphony X style bands.”

“For instance some of the biggest influences for this album are Tool and Devin Townsend. But then again”, he qualifies, back-tracking slightly, “these are also kinds of progressive metal and this is the beauty of this genre because prog metal can be anything. The problem is that when most people hear the term ‘progressive metal’, they immediately think about Dream Theater and bands like that. So we’ve kind of grown apart from this definition of prog metal.”

“To be honest”, Yoav replies without hesitation when I ask why he has grown apart from traditional prog metal, “I can’t stand it anymore. I am bored by the general construction of that kind of music and after ten years, it was time to move on I think.”

One of the bigger influences to be heard on ‘Chain Reaction’ is that of the djent movement. I ask Yoav to enlighten me about this, something he is keen to do.

“We love periphery and TesseracT but, like just about every other metal fan, Yegev and I adore Meshuggah. We adore the playing, the sound of the riffs and we had to put it in to our music a little. But in general, I’m not sure we followed the general djent path, more the mathematical strutures of Meshuggah.”

As good as progressive and technical music can be, I must declare my love for a good old-fashioned melody as well. This is one area where Distorted Harmony seem to excel, lacing their challenging compositions with both memorable and delicate melodies, be they in the instrumentation or via Misha Soukhinin’s vocals.

“I don’t know if they are a direct influence”, Yoav initially struggles to respond clearly thinking hard, “but my favourite band is Muse. Therefore no doubt I am influenced by them – and Radiohead of course. But yes, for us, melody is important. But the other thing is that we have Misha as a vocalist. He is a great singer but he is not a growler. Sometimes I wish we had a growler because I love this. But growling is not very Distorted Harmony to be honest. That’s another difference between ‘Utopia’ and ‘Chain Reaction’ – because most of the music was written before the band was formed, the vocal range was harder for Misha. Now that I know Misha and his vocal range, it was much easier to write specifically for him; that’s why he sounds so much better on this new album.”

As previously mentioned, the musicianship is of a massively high standard. The band, rounded out by guitarist Guy Landau and bassist Iggy Cohen have an impressive relationship with their chosen instruments and it really shines through in the compositions on ‘Chain Reaction’. Naturally, as he explains, Yoav couldn’t be happier with the collective he has assembled.

“I am really grateful. It is not easy to find four guys to join a metal band. In Israel, metal is almost non-existent and progressive metal is the sideways of the sideways of mainstream music. So finding four amazing musicians to make Distorted Harmony our band, not my band, is wonderful. We are all dedicated and the other guys are amazing musicians with their instruments. I write the music but we all arrange it together and that was an amazing experience. It can be very frustrating sometimes and very hard to execute the polyrhythmic parts but at the end of the day, when we finished working on the arrangement of the songs, at least I felt that everybody filled the places that I left for them when I first wrote the sketches of the songs.”

dh band 2

Having referred to that elephant in the room, I feel it’s about time to confront it head-on. I therefore ask Yoav whether it is difficult being a metal band from Israel.

“It is nearly impossible”, he replied instantaneously. “But not entirely because when we did the ‘Chain Reaction’ album release concert, 250 fans came to see us. For Israeli standards, that’s a lot, particularly for a local progressive metal band.”

The Blog Of Much Metal is not a political blog in any shape or form, but given the way in which Israel is never far from the headlines, I have to ask Yoav whether the situation in the Middle East has an effect on the band.

“I’m very much afraid that this might be the case”, Yoav responds in an understandably subdued tone. “I am afraid that it might hurt us along the way. As a side note, if you listen to the lyrics, you can get a pretty good idea of my political or ideological notions.”

As it turns out though, the ideological notions of Yoav are not as simple as ‘we want peace’, although this forms the underlying bedrock to them.

“Yes, of course I want peace”, Yoav begins vehemently. “But I’m not that keen on both sides. It’s not like ‘I love you and I love you, so let’s get together and make peace’. It’s more like ‘you suck and you suck; stop this bullshit nonsense, this half-ideology, half religion. Stop it and just fucking live’. That’s a stupid Israeli way of saying this in English”, he laughs to lift the heavy mood. “Seriously, it’s actually much more complex than this and I have a lot more to say on this. But it’s my view, not the band’s necessarily, although a lot of the guys may agree with me.”

“My personal view is that there is no end to this conflict, it will never end and I can’t stand staying here where every year there are more parades of rockets on both sides. But I realised that pro-Israeli worldwide media portray it as a constant bombardment of rockets, that we’re living under stress and duress. No. In Tel Aviv there were a few sirens, which was annoying, but that’s it.”

“As a band”, Yoav continues as if a pressure release valve has been released, “we never really talked about it, but I think we’ve decided that we’re not going to get involved directly. We’re not going to give any statements or address any situation. At the release of the album, we had some responses, people asking for support or whatever. We replied ‘no thank you’. We’re not getting involved. We have our music; you can listen to the lyrics. You can hear very well that we don’t like violence.”

“That’s another topic”, Yoav chuckles when I ask him whether the band would every consider moving away from Israel. “It’s very hard because each member of the band has their own life, their own jobs. But just as an example Yegev has recently moved to the US, to study at Berkley. So, in the meantime, we will get a replacement here and Yegev will join us when we travel abroad. Given the chance, I would gladly move away and I think many of the band would too. Compared to many European countries, you make a less and it costs a lot more to live. It’s very hard to make a living and to exist here in Israel. Not to mention the fact that I hate Israeli weather. It’s always hot and I like the cold”, he laughs.

So, what of the future? Will Distorted Harmony continue? The response is very encouraging from Yoav and will no doubt please many, myself included.

“We have a plan for the future and we know what we are going to do. But the most important thing for Distorted Harmony is to get out of the country and perform outside of our comfort zone. We want to increase our fan base, create more content and to do more press. We’re doijg some of this already by recording all of our shows in Israel to be able to give people more content. Plus, in November, we’re off to the Netherlands to play three shows. We want to book a mini-tour to include Belgium and Germany as well, but this isn’t sorted yet. We’re talking with a few record labels in the US and Europe and we’re negotiating with a few companies regarding PR, booking and management. We hope to sign a contract on that very soon.”

And the final word of an entertaining chat, I leave to Yoav.

“People really like ‘Chain Reaction’ and so I’m toying with the idea of an off or mid-season EP and with it, actually book a tour, maybe around May 2015. I like to stay optimistic and so we shall see what happens. I try to stay positive and hope that people will care more about the music than where we’re from.”
Well said, Yoav.

‘Chain Reaction’ is out now: http://www.distortedharmony.com

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