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Playing normal/enjoyable riffs is for total dads - 59%

iamntbatman, December 4th, 2014

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.