Instrumental power trio Dysrhythmia is back. Their new album, The Veil of Control, is a typically twisting, proggish throwdown that reinforces what makes them great: a pummeling rhythm section that pulls no punches, resulting in a rare combo where all members contribute equally to the sound. If anything, Kevin Hufnagel’s guitar work is the least striking feature, something not generally associated with heavy rock, especially of the all-instrumental variety.
The band has recorded two records with Luc Lemay since he reimagined Gorguts as a new entity; specifically, himself backed by two-thirds of Dysrhythmia (Dysrythmia drummer Jeff Eber being the one not taking part). This change was fairly ballsy on Lemay’s part, as the band became a solo project in everything but name. Despite having frequent lineup changes in their first incarnation, continuity meant that they could at least maintain the fiction that they were a band. Indie rock superhero/grandpa Robert Pollard pulled a similar stunt with Guided By Voices, essentially swapping out GbV’s classic lineup for and entirely different band, Cobra Verde. While the group produced some decent material, the new group never matched the spark of the original lineup, something made painfully clear when the original lineup came back on board and immediately produced some of the band’s best work in years.
Whether the resulting Gorguts albums, Colored Sands and Pleiades’ Dust, are better is open to debate, but they do have a slightly more experimental flavor not as prevalent on the older albums, such as the influential tech death bruiser Obscura. However, the new and old Gorguts are similar enough to make it obvious why Lemay recruited the Dysrhythmia players, as Lemay, Dysrhythmia guitarist Hufnagel and bassist Colin Marston share a fondness for taut dissonance. Marston has a bounce in his playing that really adds to the tightly wound spring aspect of the group’s distinctive sound. Veil of Control is Dysrhythmia’s first release since their recorded debut with Lemay and the collaboration with Gorguts, though their studio work with Lemay doesn’t seem to have altered the sound presented on 2012’s Test Of Submission. Dysrhythmia’s early work contained a bit more ebb and flow, start/stop dynamic, while Veil presents, well, a veil-like continuity, that provides listeners hints of a hidden, sinister element.
The album has the same mid-range dominance that is present on the two recent Gorguts collaborations as well, easily this reviewer’s least favorite aspect of either of these bands’ recent outputs. For whatever reason, this sound is even more pronounced here. As all musicians in both projects are seasoned recording vets, we can only assume this is on purpose. The greyed out, muted (perhaps veiled, if we dare repeat ourselves) results do not play to the band’s strengths and provide the most significant drawback to the album.
However, the album maintains a level of intensity throughout. “When Whens End” features tight ensemble playing as well as syncopated moments from Eber. Riffy number “The Veil Of Control” opens with echoing harmonics and counterpoint bass. The mix works well here, as the drums are soft enough that even with blast beats, the guitar tones ring through crystal clear. The song moves into a huge, heavy riff that weaves into melodic arpeggios from guitarist Hufnagel. “Severed And Whole” finds Martston in the driver’s seat, as his climbing bass licks recall busy, “lead” bass players such as Rush’s Geddy Lee. The band also moves into a springboard, machine gun riff, which contrasts nicely with more textured guitar lines later in the song. “Selective Dissonance” finds the bass and guitar beaming in from different universes, as the arpeggios are contrasted by the more dissonant bass notes referenced in the title.
The lack of vocals may limit the audience for this, though instrumental rock and metal is much more popular than anyone would have expected some time ago. How popular the band is with, for instance, older fans of bands like Rush or Tool is unknown, though it seems unlikely, simply due to their underground status. Which is a shame, as the playing here is surely of the same caliber and would likely appeal to the more adventurous fans of the above bands.
There is a dissonance to the music of Dysrhythmia not employed by the above bands, and, obviously, Neil Peart has never employed blast beats, though Rush is perhaps a great analogy for what Dysrythmia aspires to, as both bands feel collaborative and feature equal contributions to the larger sound. But these extreme metal flourishes are only one element of the music and weave seamlessly with the larger tapestry, rather than being the dominant color, resulting in an album influenced by extreme metal, as opposed to an extreme metal album.
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The Veil of Control is out September 23, 2016 through Profound Lore Records. You can purchase it here.