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Diskord belong to the group of acts (Tribulation, Obliteration, Morbus Chron, Horrendous, Necrovation, Drottnar, Flourishing, etc.) who are taking part in a “death metal diversification” campaign, one that would bring our favourite genre to an arguably better, more progressively-tolerant place. I believe this whole movement started as an antithesis to the inordinately large batch of hyper-fast, ultra-technical riffmongers whose desire to squeeze more than a hundred riffs within one minute has oversaturated the field with artificial, soulless, overdone sagas. This aforementioned group has generated a fair amount of resentment from the diehard death metal fanbase since it’s leading it out of the aggression and brutality with which this style has always been synonymous.
In this train of thought Diskord should perhaps be spared all the invective and diatribe since they have retained their more aggressive edge, at least for the time being, and can’t be labelled as anything but death metal although coming with genre-expanding additives like dissonance, atonality, strange time-signatures, insane tempo-shifts, the lots. Some of the band members started their musical journey in the 90’s as the industrial thrash/death metal formation Noplacetohide under which name they released a string of demos and two full-lengths. This stunt was put an end in 2005 so that the guys could fully concentrate on Diskord. This concentration “bore” immediate “fruit”, the “hdfh” EP which was followed by the debut “Doomscapes” (2007). No shades of doom metal whatsoever, it showed the band as a fully-accomplished death metal outfit with a penchant for the offbeat and the original recalling gems from their homeland like Darkthrone’s early venture into death metal “Soulside Journey” (1991), Molested’s extraordinary “Blod-draum” (1995) (later known as Borknagar; yes, those same ones…), and the later works of a criminally forgotten act, the thrash metal innovators Equinox. It also brought to mind auteurs like The Finns Demilich and Nomicon with its outlandish, experimental nature still deeply immersed in the death metal idea.
Five years later the guys are back with the album reviewed here, a possible reason for the delay being some of the musicians’ involvement with the very short-lived grindcore formation Grind Crusher, and they mean business more than ever: no intros, no playful gimmicks, no operatic/ambient pretensions; enters the opener “Entropic Death”, a most unusual technical shredder with surprises at every corner including several blast-beating distractions on top of the surreal fretwork which at some stage starts smelling Voivod, both the Canadians’ classic and modern period. “Overseer” “oversees” the proceedings with a cavalcade of brilliant staccato riffage ala Nomicon, but bizarre time-shifts and signatures invade the aura “fighting” with more quiet mechanical landscapes the latter growing into two wholesome short tracks (“Epochal” and “Tremble” excluding the frenetic ending of the second one) later. “Woebegoneness” begins like Coroner on dissonant steroids, but things get rough before long with wild death metal guitars only for the sound to subside into a sterile slower passage, the two sides taking turns throughout creating a lot of futuristic drama.
“Ambisinitral” is a 2-min dissonant, instrumental oddity, a tendency partially continued by the next “Psychotic Process” which throws atonal blasts to oblivion at the listener alongside undecipherable mazes of riffs which come in too quick a succession for the latter to be able to absorb them. A most eventful shredfest so far that becomes even weirder and more outside-the-box with the 2-min masterpiece “As the Circus Leaves the Galaxy”, a feast of intricate arrangements and ultra-stylish riff-formulas which still finds the time to pass through several tempo-changes. “Rambling Words Through a Sore Throat” is a conglomerate of perplexing, jarring rhythms (check the title for further reference) piled on top of each other to a dizzying effect, the bewilderment finished with a lengthy mechanical quiet passage; expect even bigger confusion to be instilled in the second half, though, with the speedy elaborate labyrinth served as an epitaph. “Metamorphosis” is another meditative sterile, all-instrumental interlude interrupted by the aggressive “skirmish” announcing the coming of “Godsends & Hellbents”, a bizarre headbanger with an overlapping, jumpy rhythmic section that never loses the high dynamics. “Primitive Doom”, the closer, finally fulfils all the earlier promises for doom with a short morose intro, but don’t expect this deviation to last for very long as the band have prepared one final dissonant riff “parade” which reaches a great, both technical and melodic, culmination in the middle the song and the whole album subsiding with another, this time longer, doomy stroke. “Doomscapes”, indeed…
This is the ultimate soundtrack to Dystopia, the land where we’re all heading, one way or another, and depending on whether you like it or not, you will find living there either paradise, or hell. This album would have been the flagship of the movement if there weren’t other similar efforts that came before it, like Beheaded Zombie’s “Happiness for All”, and Serdce’s “The Alchemy of Harmony”, both released in 2009. However, this work is more dynamic not forgetting about its roots, and in this aspect it rightfully comes on top of this group; death metal is very easy to be detected without using an aural “magnifier” for the purpose, and armed with these fascinating sounds and twists it seems as though this new path taken may be able to tear the genre away from the previously mentioned riff-by-the-numbers charade…
A word of caution is necessary, though, in experimental cases like this: one never knows where the band exactly want to reach with this revolutionary approach. Serdce, for example, are not interested in death metal anymore as evident from their latest opus “Timelessness” (2014), and other acts may as well join this now quite fashionable extreme progressive metal arena. Diskord carried on with “Oscillations” (also 2014), a nearly half an hour-long EP which still preserved the insanity from the preceding full-length, but also expanded upon this palette by calling in thrash and even hardcore for help, consequently diminishing death metal’s significance. It’s an intriguing work all the same, and the band fans should enjoy it without too many frowns along the way. However, the more pressing question here is: how far down the rabbit hole can a death metal artist reach in Dystopia?
Unlike their neighbors to the immediate east, who've had healthy death and black metal scenes for a long time, Norway has always struggled with having any sort of death metal scene of particular note. Sure, most people can rattle off a couple of B-level old school bands, but Norway never had a Stockholm of its own. In spite of this lack of tradition, the country has seen a recent outpouring of interesting death metal bands that don't fit into any particular mold other than all of them being vaguely old school while also sounding undeniably like products of the 21st century, and that they don't really fit any particular mold. I've been particularly impressed with the Autopsy-on-psychedelics of Obliteration, though Execration have also been ramping up the quality with each subsequent release.
So here we have Diskord. Unlike many other recent death metal bands who've shown an affinity for proggy, weird psychedelia after first establishing that they're capable of delivering more straightforward death metal goods, Diskord have kind of always been a pretty weird band. You often see comparisons made to stuff like Disharmonic Orchestra or even Demilich or Gorguts (I'd add Flourishing to that list, too) when people talk about this band's off-kilter style, but the important difference between Diskord and things like Carbonized or Timeghoul or any other weirdo death metal band you can really care to name is that Diskord are decidedly more simple and less tech than really any of that stuff. There's a definite punk ethos at play, most obviously in the demented polka beat drumming but also in the gruff shouted vocals.
But no, this band doesn't need a ton of flashy instrumental chops. It's not utterly ham-fisted caveman stuff - there's some faster tremolo bits and the like scattered around that show that these guys are no slouches when it comes to instrumental proficiency (not to mention some blazing lead guitar here and there) - but generally it takes a different approach to its goals. Jarring tempo shifts and, as you could probably guess, discordant note choices are the weapons of choice for these guys. The band does sometimes play something that sounds pretty straightforward: see the low tremolo starting about halfway through "Woebegoneness" as an example. Such moments rarely last long, though. Right as you find the beat long enough to start banging your head, you're grabbed by the shoulders and tossed into something you could have never seen coming.
These songs aren't chromatic in the same way that a band like, say, Immolation is. "Wrong" note choices aren't intended to sound unholy or blasphemous or even purposefully unpleasant, but rather seem purpose built to always sound different from how you might expect them to sound. It gives the very linearly structured songs a very unpredictable progression that will appeal to a lot of people who are constantly on the lookout for the next new, weird thing that does whatever it can to avoid being a retread of ideas that have come before.
I am not such a person. Maybe I'm just simple-minded, but I find that predictability adds a huge amount of value to music. Rhythm and note choices that you can anticipate often have a ton of power when you hear what you expect to hear. I think it's fair to criticize something that's so predictable that it just kind of goes in one ear and out the other, but my very favorite pieces of music are those which, when the final chord or note in the progression lands, everything falls into place sonically and emotionally. It's not some novel concept, either; musicians and composers have been capitalizing on the notion of resolving riffs and progressions in anticipated and pleasing ways for centuries. Bands that apparently willfully try to avoid doing this as often as possible, as Diskord demonstrate repeatedly through Dystopic's 40 minutes, I can't help but be irritated. Sometimes grating, uncomfortable music can be something I enjoy, but it usually needs either some really compelling atmosphere or flashy instrumentals to distract from the purposeful lack of earworm riffs and melodies. So, I can listen to stuff like Ulcerate or the previously mentioned Flourishing from time to time despite their discordant tendencies, but the more midpaced, punky, riffy Diskord just don't really do a whole lot for me and sometimes even actively annoy with their refusal to just play cool riffs when so many of their riffs are very nearly cool, you know? I realize that's the whole point, but I suppose I just don't get it.
If you're big into the weird directions favored by a lot of recent old school death metal bands, I think odds are pretty good that you'll get a pretty big kick out of this. For us more simple folk, this tries just a bit too hard to be different and suffers immensely as a result. Only the few bits of regular ol' riffing (like the primitive doom bits of "Primitive Doom") prevent this from being worse than neutral.