Album Review: Devcord – Dysthymia

Devcord - Dysthymia

Dysthymia, the debut studio album from Spillern, Austria’s one-man band Devcord, is a roller coaster of aural delight, distress, and progressive imagery that is bound to be a career defining moment.

The nuanced atmospheres and melodic sensibilities that composer Peter Royburger brings to each of the nine songs on Dysthymia are nothing short of brilliant. As the lines blur between romantic-classical period music, progressive metal, and almost ‘70s style prog rock it becomes apparent that Dysthymia is one of the most progressively challenging albums to be released in 2018, so far.

Songs like the opening “The Mortician,” which has a dark, eerie intro and powerful guitar riffs that evolve into orchestral stabs of Royburger’s vocals, demonstrate the ease at which Devcord slips in and out of catchy hooks and technically sound orchestral song writing.

The discourse between the dueling guitars — acoustic and electric — places the listener into perfect attunement with the melodies and growl vocals. Dysthymia sounds like chaos tamed and controlled. This works to the project’s advantage on album highlights — the title track and especially “Reaper’s Helpers,” where Royburger is structurally coherent enough to be catchy yet throw enough curve balls to keep you invested for the full 10+ minutes. “Fade” and “Jerk Pitch Rape” that close the record are impressive on all fronts, but the instrumentation on these two pieces is splendid.

It is not only technically challenging and perfectly executed as a piece of musical literature, but it is also an album that demands the listener’s attention and ability to think on a multitude of spectrums they may not be used to. Overall, Dysthymia is an album that takes the listener on a cerebral journey through many mysterious and technically awe-inspiring landscapes that not so many groups are able to achieve.

Dysthymia is available from Bandcamp here

https://bandcamp.com/EmbeddedPlayer/album=2235363591/size=large/bgcol=ffffff/linkcol=0687f5/tracklist=false/transparent=true/

Review: Dystopia – Building Bridges

Dystopia

Hungarian quartet Dystopia are here to assault your senses with their unique mixture of heavy, modern and groove metal. With some obvious influences from Pantera, Lamb of God, and Gojira, Dystopia was formed in 2004. With two full-length albums under their belt, Dystopia is back once again and excited to launch their third full-length album, Building Bridges which was released on July 12, 2018.

It’s the snarling groove that first gains the attention on Dystopia’s beast. “Free-Fall” has some meaty riffs and a deceptive level of groove running through it. It’s an opener that makes a hell of a statement.

Dystopia - Building Bridges

Breathing fire and brimstone, Dystopia smash their way through track after track slipping effortlessly through ferocious modern metal, alternative and classic flourishes of traditional heavy metal. An album that surprises as much as it delights. 

For most of the album’s run it does a great job of keeping your attention. Anytime the mind does begin to wander, Dystopa stamp hard on feet to get all attention back on them. Those who are willing to allow their musical perceptions be challenged will be heavily rewarded, and will most certainly regard Building Bridges as a truly special album.

Hear it on Bandcamp. Connect with Dystopia on Facebook.

Interview with Graham Bacher of Protean Collective

Protean Collective

Prog metal act Protean Collective is one of those bands for me whose name I’ve been seeing around the web but never gave them a proper listen, until few weeks ago. I was contacted by the group’s publicist, who was very ambitious about the four-piece’s most recent, third studio album “Collapse,” and who insisted that I should check the Boston-based group out.

And so I listened… With four releases under their belt (one of them being an EP) since 2010, it’s quite easy to notice that these three guys and a girl know their craft. It can be said that each of the ten songs on “Collapse” is a gem per se; the album was released last year but the group is still promoting it, with the release of a playthrough video which was launched a few weeks ago.

I talked with guitarist and singer Graham Bacher about this new album — which, by the way, was mixed and mastered at Fascination Street Studios by André Alvinzi and Jens Bogren, respectively.

Let’s start from your early music beginnings. How did your musical career begin? When did you start playing? Which groups have been your favorites as a young man? Please tell us something more about your early life.

Well, I first started playing violin when I was about 6, and played acoustic and electric violin through my teens, but as time went on, I got much more into the sounds and textures of the guitar. It felt like an instrument that I was more free to experiment with and really be creative.

I’d say the first bands that really got me excited about playing music were the 90’s bands like Soundgarden, Alice in Chains, the Smashing Pumpkins — and then in high school I started discovering bands like Porcupine Tree, King Crimson, Rush, and Pain of Salvation who really turned music from a hobby to a kind of obsession. Those are all bands that have been huge influences on me as a musician. Of course, while we do have a lot of common musical interests, I think everyone in the band has a pretty wide array of influences.

Graham Bacher

How did you go about forming Protean Collective? Who was the most influential when the band started its musical journey?

Matt [Zappa, drums], Steph [Goyer, guitars], and I all became good friends in our first year of college but never really played together. Sometime late in our first year there, we all got in a room together to jam, and I think it was a kind of amazing moment, where we all realized that we had some really special musical chemistry together. I’m not really sure who was the most influential — I think it was just something we were all really excited about and we really worked together on it.

In the beginning, did you have some “fixed” tempo in composing songs or everything was a product of jamming, improvising?

We always have been this way, and probably always will be to some degree, but everything was very fluid in the beginning. Someone might come in with a riff or a beat or a melody and we’d just play off it until we were all excited about it. I think later on, on the last two albums, there are a few songs that we’ve gone into thinking that we were going to go for a particular feel or effect on the listener, but writing for us has always been a very collaborative process. In the beginning, I think the improvisational nature was very apparent, with more meandering song structures; over time, I think we’ve gotten more direct and concise with our writing, but the collaboration is always an integral part of what we do.

How would you describe Protean Collective’s music on your own?

First I would grimace because I’m absolutely terrible at answering that question. I don’t feel like I’m emotionally separated enough from the music to really have perspective on it, so I’d LOVE to hear how you’d describe it.

But ultimately, what we try to do is create powerful music that meshes the aggressive energy of metal with powerful melodies and a great deal of dynamic depth. When we use progressive elements in our music, it’s to create a certain effect on the listener. I hope that each song it’s it’s own journey.

Protean Collective - Collapse

Your most recent full-length album, “Collapse” (2017), is a follow-up to 2010’s debut full-length “Divided” and 2014’s “The Red and the Grey.” Have you felt any pressure while working on “Collapse” because of that in terms of coming up with something that’s sort of expected to be better than the first two efforts?

It absolutely was for me, because “The Red and the Grey” is an album I was very proud of. We put a lot of time, energy, and love into making that record be the best album we could put out, and I think it was the first musical project for me that, after the lengthy process of writing, tracking, mixing, and mastering, I was still excited to listen to. For me personally, it was written during a very challenging time mentally, so I think it felt especially meaningful.

At the same time, since we were self producing, that took some of the pressure off, just because we were free to make sure that we had something we were really proud of and happy with before releasing it into the world — and in the end, I have to say I absolutely couldn’t be happier with how “Collapse” turned out.

What has changed for Protean Collective when it comes to writing new music — “Collapse” in particular?

Well, as I alluded to earlier, the general process has really stayed the same, but I think with Collapse in particular, we were really leaning towards creating more focused, powerful songs than ever before. So I’m not sure the process itself has changed so much as I just think we’ve grown a lot as writers and maybe what we’re trying to accomplish with each song has changed. I think and hope that our writing will always continue to evolve as we continue to write.

What would you say is the most important segment for the structures of your songs?

To me, it’s got to be the choruses. There are a lot of structures and moving pieces that go through our songs, but the choruses are where I feel like it all comes together into a unified message that connects all the pieces together into a coherent construct.

How do you see the modern progressive metal scene?

I think this is an absolutely amazing time to be a musician. I think now, with the ability nearly anyone can have to record professional sounding music, there are an unprecedented number of people who are free to create music in a way that wouldn’t have been possible 15 years ago. There are so many amazing musicians out there creating so much amazing music that it’s absolutely inspiring to see. There’s so much variety of music out there that really, I’m not sure if there’s any one real sound I could even nail down as defining a modern progressive metal sound, but I think there’s a tremendous amount of people out there who are trying to do something new and make music that is their own, and I love it.

Do you guys consider yourselves a part of any specific cultural movement, however peripheral?

I don’t think so in particular. We’re about making music we feel strongly about, and that’s the focus.

Are you also involved in any other projects or bands beside Protean Collective?

I’m not, personally. Matt also plays in an amazing band called Walter Sickert & the Army of Broken Toys.

What comes next for Protean Collective?

More shows! We’re hoping to get out there and share what we have with as much of the world as possible. Right now we’re very much in the mode of getting “Collapse” out there to as many listeners as we can. This is an album that I’m really passionate about, and I really just want to get to share it with as many people as we possibly can.

Thank you for the time and for listening!

 

Visit Protean Collective on Bandcamp, and follow them on Facebook and Instagram.

Protean Collective is:

Graham Bacher – vocals, guitars
Dan Ehramjian – bass
Steph Goyer – guitars
Matt Zappa – drums, percussion

Review: DID – Dissociative Identity Disorder

DID 3

Dissociative Identity Disorder, a new album by obscure French band DID, is the best example I’ve heard recently of how diverse the genre of Progressive Rock is. It encompasses a wide range of musical styles, from frantic and heavy to light and symphonic. I guarantee that you won’t ever be bored listening to the album, as the music is varied enough to stay fresh throughout its entirety. I find myself enjoying the album more and more each time I listen to it – the band has a great blend of creativity and skill, and Dissociative Identity Disorder is both unique and impressive.

DID’s musical style can be split into two distinct categories: dense and melodic. Each is present in every song, and each song switches fairly frequently between the two. It’s not uncommon for any song to dive suddenly from a light piano melody into a heavy guitar riff. Unfortunately, while the wide range of genres is one of the album’s best qualities. 

Dissociative Identity Disorder

Each of the album’s styles is executed well in its own right. The musicians are all very capable of adapting to different genres. Most notable among the instruments are the keyboards, played by Christophe Houssin, and guitars — courtesy of Patrick Jobard. There’s a notable keyboard presence throughout the album that is nothing short of excellent. The guitar, as well, is excellent – the guitar parts are incredibly varied, and, as I said before, will never leave you bored. I feel bad for not having much to say about Regis Bravi, the drummer. The drum part is very, very good, but I’m not much of a drum person and can’t really tell you anything further than that. Didier Thery, the bassist, is also very skilled. Unfortunately, the bass doesn’t come through as often as I’d like. This is, I’m sure, an incredibly nitpicky complaint – as a bassist myself, I felt that the bass was a little too low in the mix. Thery is, however, fantastic when he comes through, and there are a few melodic bass riffs throughout the album that I enjoyed immensely.

When it comes to vocals, being a concept album — Dissociative Identity Disorder features guest vocal contributions from some of the genre’s finest vocalists, including Saga’s Michael Sadler, Sylvan’s Marco Glühmann, Everon’s Oliver Philipps, Opium Baby’s Alan Szukics, and Maggy Lyuten who worked with Ayreon. All of them share certain roles in telling the album’s story, which is “the story of a man.” Find more about it on the band’s official website.

I’ve said pretty much all there is to say – Dissociative Identity Disorder is fantastic, and I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys Progressive Rock. I’m looking forward to seeing their future work, and hoping for the best. The album is available from Bandcamp.

Watch: The Mercy Stone Release Video for Jazzy, Funky “Wail Song

The Mercy Stone

A 12-piece experimental rock ensemble, The Mercy Stone has launched a new studio performance video for the song “Wail Song” taken from their album Ghettoblaster. Watch it below.

Founder of the project, guitarist and composer Scott Grady stated, “‘Ghettoblaster’ uses many different genres/styles of popular music with elements of classical composition. With ‘Wail Song,’  I was looking to take The Mercy Stone into a jazzy/funky musical space. A lot of the musical ideas come from the fact that I play a little bit of many different instruments. Once I had a good idea of how the piece would unfold, experimenting and improvising on strings, winds, and percussion helped generate many of its melodic and rhythmic elements. This is one of the most challenging and most fun pieces that we play. Much of the piece fluctuates between meters frequently, so it keeps us all on our toes. Getting everyone in the band to really groove through all of the rhythmic challenges definitely took some time.

The Mercy Stone recently started work on their sophomore full-length release.

While Ghettoblaster was entirely instrumental, this new album will have several tunes with vocals. It will be exciting to share a very different side of The Mercy Stone when all is finished,Grady commented.

Review: Remark – Keep Running

Keep Running

REMARK’s second offering Keep Running is an affirmative new chapter in a book already filled with trials and tribulations. You only need to look at the striking album cover to gain a sense of what you’re in for – grunge that bounces from heavy to soft, to everything in between. You’re in for a ride.

Whilst you may typecast the realm of grunge to bands such as Soundgarden and Alice In Chains, from the outset, REMARK put a modern twist onto an already formidable genre to dip into. ‘Comeback’ opens with your stereotypically sexy distorted guitars, before plunging into elements of alternative rock that bring it bang up to date. The same can be said for its partner ‘Purple Haze’. Its emotionally thirsty in lyrical content, which is backed up by self-assured punk-like guitar tones.

Although the 1990s nostalgia is laid so bare it could slap you in the face, the EP’s lead lines and riffs are contemporary additions that create a positive genre bending journey.

REMARK have truly come up trumps with this record, with two closing songs — both covers by Tears for Fears and Alex Clare — supporting that statement. Keep Running is infinitely catchy and brings back a genre that the original greats still hold the crown to, but rethinking it in a way that makes it accessible to the masses.

Honest, compelling and obsessively alluring, Keep Running is a masterpiece in post-grunge. Head over to Bandcamp to stream / download the EP. REMARK are also on FacebookYouTube, and Instagram.