I have been a fan of Distorted Harmony since their debut album Utopia, and consider their second album, Chain Reaction, a true classic. I was excited to hear what they have in store for their next. Unfortunately, that excitement soon faded.
ALL DJENT OUT OF SHAPE
It all started when the band announced the forthcoming release of A Way Out with the track “Time and Time Again”. From this, it was clear that the band had fully embraced a more djenty sound, which I did not appreciate. ‘Oh well‘, I thought, ‘maybe the album will still have the epic choruses and feel good moments that Distorted Harmony are known for.‘ Not so much.
The opening moments of “Downfall” introduce the ‘happy’ EDM-influenced synths that I know and love from this band, but then came the djent, with as much subtlety as a steel fist to the face. They try and mix it up with some more classic prog metal moments, but it sounds fairly disjointed, and not in the right way. The dirty vocal snippets of this track really don’t help either. Unfortunately, the whole album is splattered with these kinds of songs. “Room 11” and “Severed” follow suit, sounding even more like every other band out there doing this thing. It’s clear that Distorted Harmony have got hold of some eight-string guitars and are going full-on djent, whether we like it or not.
PANNING FOR GOLD
Luckily there is some real gold in-between these djent-a-thons, showing the true unique talent of this band. First we have “Awaken”, which starts with a stripped-down synth and vocal intro that sounds really intimate. The band then head into heavier territory, mixing the more modern eight-string sound with singable choruses and epic synth layers. This is more like it!
“Puppet On Strings” shows the band’s lighter side, again managing better to mix in these new influences with their signature sound of atmospheric synths and the fantastic voice of Michael Rose. The instrumental “For Ester” is epic at every turn, with great keys, string arrangements, and riffs playing on all the right emotional heartstrings. Stirring stuff, and it sounds like something that only Distorted Harmony can deliver.
A couple of other nice moments include “Anima”, which starts off sounding fairly standard, but leter develops into a great mix of super technicality and shining choruses, and the title track that goes all ‘EDM drum loops underneath another great pop-influenced vocal performance’.
This review might sound like I’m over djent, and maybe I am, but that’s not the whole story. I’m all for bands experimenting with new sounds, but before this album, Distorted Harmony were pretty unique. Sure, their original blend of feel good choruses, high clean vocal style, and EDM-style synths might not have been fashionable, but it was damn fine, providing a great listening experience. Rather than adding something new to their sound, the modern influences have detracted from what made the band great. It’s just too heavy-handed in most places. “Puppet On Strings”, “Awaken”, and “A Way Out Of Here” all show that the band are capable of adding these new influences without losing the core sound that makes them Distorted Harmony. More of this subtler blend would have been most welcome.
A Way Out is a solid, if flawed, album from one of the more unique-sounding bands from the world of progressive metal. The standout moments are overshadowed by generic riffing and disjointed arrangements that pepper the album. This new-found heavy-handed approach to including more ‘modern’ sounds just detracts from what made Distorted Harmony so good in the first place.
Notable Tracks: “Puppet On Strings”; “Awaken”; “A Way Out Of Here”
FFO: Karnivool, Shattered Skies, TesseracT