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Soothing - 72%

bryankerndrummer, November 21st, 2020

When I started listening to Meshuggah in high school, I would generally think of them as an industrial band. I knew they played progressive metal, not industrial, but that's the category I put them in in my head due to how mechanical the music felt. In both production and content, everything about them seemed to feel like it was a band of robots, the guitars and drums becoming less of people playing instruments and more of sequential machines synchronically playing along in their shared synthesis. I am experiencing a bit of deja vu with this feeling upon hearing this new DIsfiguring the Goddess EP.

Granted, Disfiguring the Goddess's music has always been heavily electronic. Not only are the drums programmed, but Cam is usually certain to let you know he's an EDM producer during any given breakdown. Hell, Sleeper flirted with outwardly just blending EDM with metal at some points. That album, and most of the DtG catalog, however, have managed to retain a sense of rawness and humanity amidst the digitized mayhem; that is to say, the guitars still sounded like guitars. I know that's a weird observation to make about a metal album - no shit it sounds like guitars - but it's a notable observation to address regarding DtG's previous material, because that is simply not the case here.

On Sooth, Cam has managed to straddle the line between DtG's paradoxical electronic rawness and the cold, industrial rhythms of a band like Meshuggah. You see, while the guitar playing here is still not too unlike previous efforts, they are mixed in such an overly compressed and blown-out way that, paired with Cam's "djenty," skipping chug rhythms, the guitars begin to function a lot less like guitars and more like a distorted sub bass from some kind of twisted incarnation of dubstep. Emmure have accomplished this previously on Look At Yourself, but that album sounded much more in line with the vibes of the aforementioned Meshuggah effect. Cam's guitar playing is still very unquantized and raw in performance, so while it still feels like a human being playing an instrument, the instrument in question sounds like some kind of bassy noise oscillator.

You may have noticed I've talked a lot about the sound of the guitars, but not the riffs they're playing. There aren't any riffs. CHUG CHUG CHUG CHUG CHUG like a damn frat party. Whether or not that's a good or a bad thing is up to you.

This newfound role of guitar in DtG's music is highlighted, too, in the particular way that the synths (the ACTUAL synths, like the synths that are actually synthetic and not a guitar) are arranged. They generally consist of dark, dissonant, ambient soundscapes, often also including additional industrial-tinged sounds and percussion to add to the atmosphere. This makes Sooth rather unique in the DtG catalog, as it likewise stands out as far more eerie and ambient than pretty much anything else this project has released up until this point. Sure, Deprive and Black Earth Child both flirted heavily with a more ambient approach to synthesizers, but those utilized a heavier sense of harmony. Like, there was clearly scales and shit going on. Here, they teeter more on becoming full-on droning, dissonant soundscapes than anything that would usually appear in DtG material.

This EP can be listened to pretty quickly as it's only 15 minutes. The material is all easily digestible, as a good chunk of these songs are really short and function better as compliments of each other; this release is without a doubt best listened to front to back. I can't help but wonder, however, where this project might go from here. I sort of understand why Cam decided to go in this stylistic direction for this EP, because Katapillar seemed like an attempt to pull another Black Earth Child by being another very metal-centric, riff salad kind of album. But Katapillar was a very shaky album that was rough around the edges - certainly this project's biggest misstep since Circle of Nine - and, likewise, was received critically by a number of fans. I suppose Cam's remedy for this was to do the exact opposite, and make the most synthetic DtG EP he possibly could and see where that goes. I love hearing artists I enjoy step out of their comfort zone and explore different avenues of what they can do; I think such paid off relatively well here. But while I generally enjoy this release, it does make me wonder if the several years' break following this project's slew of albums in the first half of the 2010s caused Cam to forget how to make metal music. I hope that, from here, he either proves me wrong by making exceptional metal music or proves me right by somehow indulging DtG even further in this direction.