I originally intended to review Diableries by Albuquerque, NM’s Distances in our Review Rundown feature. Actually hearing it and the AOTY vibes that came with it changed my mind. Distances’s brand of experimental, noisy, math-y, sludgy post-metal alternates between flashes of terrifying extreme noise and moments of blissful melodic beauty. Far from being a patchwork, it all fits together seamlessly.
This is the third album, and fourth overall release of a band that has been around since 2009. Distances show a level of mastery that can only be explained by the long gaps between their albums.
The main mode on Diableries consists of highly-distorted super-fast guitar riffs over cymbal-heavy drumming with some very hoarse death grunting to add something resembling a human element. But on every song, this pace gets stopped by slow, pensive instrumental passages dominated by keyboards and a violin of all things! Comparisons to Ne Obliviscaris will be obvious at this point, though not 100% warranted. Far from providing a gimmicky special effect, the fiddler (known — as other members of the band are — only by her first name, Kristen) plays such a leading role in Distances as to form its melodic soul. This proves to be the case especially in songs like “Market Price,” in which the pensiveness predominates rather than the heaviness.
Diableries seems to have been structured to use the band’s mood mode strengths, terror and beauty, in an almost narrative way. The beginning songs are predominately in Distances’s frantic heavy terror mode. The middle third of the album’s ten songs let the violin take the lead. Then “Perfect Is The Enemy” ends on its dulcet fiddling notes only to give way to “Hollow Ground,” a song that sounds like Amenra getting kicked in the musical gonads by all four members of Converge after everybody overdosed on angry pills (Though it bears mentioning that even if Jacob Bannon got bashed over the head in this metaphorical fracas, the violin was not broken in so doing. Kristen still gets a solo in this one).
“Throat of Mankind” is the closest Distances come to having a straightforward metal song on Diableries. It has a cruel, catchy, lurching rhythm while the violin plays a counterpoint over the riffs. Yes, it has the band’s trademark clean melodic passage, but even that one has some aggressive drumming underneath it, perhaps to remind us that everything is not going to be all right. Given that the song lasts more than 11 minutes, one ought not expect them this band to go into full stomping mode on the “Throat of Mankind.”
A short word must be made about the way this album was sent to It Djents. Distances packaged Diableries with a bonus album of cover tunes called Rip Offs. These are not ordinary cover songs, but pop songs from the 90s by the likes of Ace of Base, Portishead, and Garbage. This might have been more fun for Distances to have written and recorded. Applying their signature style to “Only Happy When It Rains” likely presented them with an interesting challenge and one can appreciate the effort they put into doing so. Yet it seems like such wasted effort compared to the savage grandeur that is Diableries. As for Ace of Base, certain unseemly aspects of that band’s pre-history and even the lyrics to some of the songs covered on Rip Offs make any inclusion of them an exercise in questionable judgment.
Fortunately, none of that seems to be available on Distances’s Bandcamp page. One can only find Diableries there. While the whole post-metal sub-sub-genre seems to be a thorny and overtrodden path, Distances have a sound that bears that most fleeting and rare of qualities known as ‘originality.’ That, added to excellent writing and execution, make Diableries essential listening for 2018.
Score: 8.5/10 (Diableries only); 4.5/10 (Rip Offs only)
Notable Tracks: “Glass House”; “Market Price”; “Hollow Ground” “Throat of Mankind”
FFO: Amia Venera Landscape, Ne Obliviscaris, Converge, Eryn Non Dae