Tuesday, October 07, 2014

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Review: Distorted Harmony - Chain Reaction (2014)


Information:
Artist: Distorted Harmony
Album: Chain Reaction
Release date: July 9, 2014
Label: Self released

Tracklist:

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 - 6'08
7. As You Go - 3'13
8. Natural Selection - 5'16
9. Methylene Blue - 7'53
Running time: 51:12

Production details: Produced by Yoav Efron. Mastered by Jens Borgen at Fascination Street Studios.

Packaging details: CD, Jewelcase. 12 pages booklet
Artwork by Ben Broyde. Cover design by Yoav Efron and Hila Raam.
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Review by Jason Spencer     Rating: 

Thoughts: In 2012, a young band blew me away with a debut that still lingers in my ears. Heck, my wife uses one of their songs as her ringtone. That band was Distorted Harmony, an Israeli progressive metal band with a fresh, eclectic sound. Their debut, Utopia (2012), was my album of the year for 2012. So, when they announced their sophomore album, I instantly had to make a connection with them so that I could get the chance to review it.
Could my expectations be any higher? I almost feel bad for the band because there are so many people out there that have huge expectations for this new album, almost unfair expectations. And, yet, I think Distorted Harmony has met those expectations, and even exceeded them, just not in the way that anyone is expecting. Their new album is called Chain Reaction (2014), and it is very different from their debut album.

Distorted Harmony has changed. They come across as more mature, more skilled, and more aware of what they want to play. Their first album leaned heavily on Dream Theater at times, but Chain Reaction (2014) has thrown off that mantle almost completely. Gone are the technical (even cheesy) piano lines that Yoav Efron played with such skill, and in comes a darker, more subtler synth, though there are some piano lines that still serve a warm purpose in slower, more dramatic portions. While there is still much finger work from guitarist Guy Landau, the guitars are heavier, more stuttering, and more riff oriented. Iggy Cohen on bass has changed into a composer of funky and appropriate bass lines that are foundational to the music. Lastly, Yogev Gabay on drums may have changed the least, and that's just fine. His delicate but kinetic style abounds with flourishes and skill that I really enjoy. As a whole, the band plays furiously and their virtuosity shows, but their technical prowess comes together in such a way that they all sound like one unit, creating impressive walls of sound and also delicate reflective moments.

Vocalist Misha Soukhinin is back, and he's better than ever. His voice was somewhat controversial the first time around, as some people claimed his voice is 'too pop'. And you know what? It definitely is not a metal voice, and that is a huge compliment. His range is fantastic, his unique personality is a strong as ever, and his maturity in skill is becoming more apparent. Misha is destined to be one of the best, and, besides, he's hilarious.

Speaking of pop, though, I must point out of the biggest shifts for Distorted Harmony here is the pop and alternative influences that show themselves in catchier sections, ultra-polished grooves, raw riffing and choruses, and an accessibility that is strange for a metal album. If I had to make a comparison, I would say that this album sounds more like a metallic Muse album, complete with the soaring vocals, vocals filters, and creative instrumentals. This shift in sound is extremely welcome for me, and I'm very proud that Distorted Harmony has gone out on a limb.

Chain Reaction (2014) is very well paced, diverse, concise, and very deep lyrically. I feel that they really selected the best compositions they wrote, and created some very different artwork. The album starts off with one of my favorite songs of the year called 'Every Time She Smiles', an explosive, catchy track with a wonderful feel. As the album progresses, we get a great taste of all sorts of tones and sounds, from the heaviness of 'Children of Red' to the genius but groovy instrumental 'Nothing (but the rain)' and from the ballad structure of 'As You Go' to the ethereal to climactic bombast of 'Methylene Blue'. That last track is a close second on the album, as it starts out soft and surreal and progresses to an amazing instrumental climax. I must comment on the track 'Misguided', too, as it was originally released as a demo last year. The song sounds different, especially the funky little bass exercise they added towards the end. Overall, it has definitely been elevated, although some of Misha's vocals are a little less emotional.

Distorted Harmony may or may not have topped their debut. The fact is that it's really tough to decide that when Utopia (2012) and Chain Reaction (2014) are so different in purpose and style. For what it's worth, I think 'Chain Reaction' will be my favorite of the two, and it harks back to some of the alternative music I used to love and then combines it with some of the most technical yet purposeful progressive metal that I've heard. For what it's worth, 'Chain Reaction' is the best progressive metal album thus far in 2014.
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