Finally, a band that knows what it means to be progressive. It’s not about who can play their instrument the fastest, and it’s not about playing loud either (which can be said for any metal band). Israel’s Distorted Harmony goes back to the basics of true progressive music, just with a modern metal sound.
Since this album is yet to be released, there are few embeds for me to provide for samples to the album as of yet.
There are many things about progressive rock and metal that are different today then there was in the 70s; for instance, Supertramp and Jethro Tull were/are progressive rock bands, but not necessarily because of odd time signatures and complex instrument playing (even though they displayed such dramatics every now and then) but because they included instruments and influences that no one else really did at the time. Nowadays that’s known more as “art rock.” It is bands like King Crimson and Yes whose brand of progressive rock is what more closely defines today’s idea of progressive music, which is sort of unfortunate really, because I feel there will never be another Supertramp because of this due to most art rock bands falling in to obscurity.
While bands like Rush came along and wrote progressive music almost as if it were in their nature, a couple of decades later (Dream Theater is really the earliest I can pin this back to) is when bands started seemingly writing stuff as complex as possible, just to be able to show off the fact that they could write progressively too. While I enjoy a lot of these bands, I find a lot of the natural talent put in to progressive music has been lost and replaced with people wanting to upstage, or at least prove they’re as good, as the last. It should be noted that I believe progressive metal band Mastodon (who I’m not a big fan of) contradict this and actually make very credible progressive metal, though they’re the only modern major label band I can really think of.
Anyway, going back to Distorted Harmony and their soon to be released Chain Reaction album, we have the first great newer progressive rock/metal band that I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing. Right from the get-go, with opening track Every Time She Smiles, the writing talent and chemistry is immediately heard. Just like any good opening track to a progressive metal album, the song has a two+ minute instrumental intro before singer Misha Soukhinen comes in with his very listenable voice. Not a harsh, practically unlistenable screaming voice, but a voice that can actually sing notes, and sing them well. Keyboardist Yoav Efron isn’t afraid to add piano and keyboard sounds in for further effectiveness. In fact, this song, and many others on the album, wouldn’t be the same without it.
Earlier in the year I had the pleasure of reviewing Italian progressive rock band Il Rumore Bianco, who I thoroughly enjoyed except for the fact that in the 4 songs on their EP, the songs didn’t change much. The songs really were all the same pace. Distorted Harmony instantly prove to not have the same problem, with second track Children of Red turning up all the instruments a few more decibels. Then the eight minute track Misguided is where the band not only plays a little faster, but adds some of those complex time signatures that progressive music is so well known for, all thanks to drummer Yogev Gabay. In eight minutes, the song takes many turns, some melodic, some heavy, some soft, altogether though the bands chemistry shows and all of the multiple change ups throughout the song come out as naturally as a band who has been playing together for decades.
There are only two songs on Chain Reaction that are under five minutes, the first of which is an instrumental called Nothing (But The Rain) which really relies on studio effects; something I’m never a huge fan of, but it is well placed on the album and leads well into the next track. The second of these songs is the albums ballad As You Go, which isn’t a progressive song, despite the drum effects added toward the end. The song is all acoustic and adds great texture to the album.
The unique thing about As One is that I don’t hear so much progressive metal in it as I do hear alternative metal, with the exception of the songs breakdown, but even that isn’t as progressive as other moments on the album. I love the fact that they don’t have to make a whole album of progressive songs and aren’t above simplifying themselves ever so slightly, if just for one or two songs.
The progressive metal does continue with the apocalyptic Hollow and the melodic Natural Selection. The former of the two has what I believe to be the best guitar solo on the album. Guy Landau’s guitar playing has impressed me throughout the album, without having to show off in a John Petrucci/Michael Romeo sort of way. He can play fast to keep up with the complex rhythms of each song, but when it comes to his guitar solos, he relies on melodies more than how many notes he can hit.
The album ends with one more long multi-parted progressive number, Methylene Blue. The song starts off slow, slower than at any other point on the album, and continues to build itself up more and more until the last minute of the song it goes back to the soft piano driven sounds that started off the song. It’s an effective way to end Chain Reaction, giving listener’s one last reminder of the bands capabilities.
Distorted Harmony knows how to make good progressive music. It doesn’t sound like it comes naturally in the way that Rush can; it’s almost as if Rush sits down to write a song and when they record it, it just happens to come out progressively. Distorted Harmony fit the description of many bands that sound like their number one intention is to make progressive songs to show that they can. And there’s nothing wrong with that, it works for so many other bands. Distorted Harmony do have many things going for them beyond that though, for instance the songs like As One and As You Go which aren’t really progressive at all but just great songs, and the fact that they don’t seem to be following the footsteps of modern (90’s to now) progressive metal bands gives them a win in my book any way.
“Natural Selection” – Natural Selection not only shows the bands progressive capabilities, it also shows how heavy the band can get, how soft the band can get and how melodic the band can get all in one five minute song. But why is this different from the other songs of the album where they show the same things? Why not Misguided? Mostly because I just prefer the rhythm and melodies of this song more than any other on the album, especially the chorus.
8 (Out of 10)
1. Every Time She Smiles (6:49)
2. Children of Red (5:13)
3. Misguided (8:33)
4. Nothing (But the Rain) (2:14)
5. As One (5:52)
6. Hollow (6:09)
7. As You Go (3:13)
8. Natural Selection (5:16)
9. Methylene Blue (7:53)