Sounding modern is a double edged sword at times. Fans often clamor for rawer production, even in genres where such an expectation makes no sense. In addition, and perhaps even more so, the danger of sounding the same as a thousand different bands out there is very real. It takes a certain security in your own sound to come out of the process sounding unique. Distorted Harmony, an Israeli progressive metal band that’s been making a name for themselves in international arenas, exhibit such a security in their new release, Chain Reaction. It’s an album with a direction and a purpose and thus ends up sounding interesting and cohesive.
Their previous release, Utopia, was a good album but suffered from a lack of focus. It’s quite clear the band have buckled down at the composition phase and asked themselves a tough question: “What can go? What can we leave out?”. In the wake of whatever answer they gave, we are left with a darker creation, much more mature. Yes, the influences from Dream Theater are still undeniable but a lot of other, murkier influences have been added: the interplay between bass and guitars reminds one of Muse, especially with the unique vocals replete throughout the album.
Vocals have always been this band’s strong point and they are utilized to perfection. Misha Soukhinin is an adept singer and his range on this album is impressive. Moving from the crisp style of the verse to screams and more aggressive passages at the middle of the album, he is largely responsible for the darkening, the maturing, of their basic sound. The lyrics should also be mentioned here, a main strength in the album. They are not only well written but diverse, handling both war and psychological crisis with equal skill.
However, the true shining light in this album is its ending. Up until the fifth track, As One, this is an admittedly skilled hybrid between Six Degress of Inner Turbulance and Absolution. The sixth track is where the album really kicks in. Hollow is a pure progressive creation, utilizing keyboards and intricate riffing to elevate the sound so far into new dimensions. But the band aren’t done yet. The next song, which should have been a continuation of Hollow, looking towards the end of the album, is nothing else than a paradigm shift, towards none other than Yes.
As You Go bears the run on sentences mark of Yes and the lilting guitars heard on albums like Fragile or The Yes Album. Skipping over the disturbing Natural Selection, we find ourselves with Methylene Blue, a dark and somber closer of a song. It’s also an interesting choice for a closer, since it’s mostly low key and quiet, channeling a darker Porcupine Tree, especially with its explosive mid-section. But those qualities exactly make it effective: the lingering taste of the album is mature and somber, almost poignant.
And thus, looking back on our arrival here, we can see the path and focus we talked about earlier. Chain Reaction is carefully planned and achieves that plan: it takes you through a faster, anthem-y, beginning all the way to a quieter, more introspective end. Perhaps that is why it is effective as a progressive creation: instead of climbing higher and higher into peaks of instrumentation and technicality, it knows when to take a breath and slow things down. This adds a deeper shade to the album that is both intriguing and emotional.
Distorted Harmony’s Chain Reaction gets…