This self-titled album by Dissona is their second album, following up to their debut album released in 2009. Hailing from the South suburbs of Chicago, they aim to write songs that capture different emotions and are of various styles. Dissona consists of David Dubenic (lead vocals), Matt Motto (lead guitar), Logan Wright (keyboard and rhythm guitar), Craig Hamburger (bass), and Drew Goddard (drums and percussion). This most certainly is an album of many styles, hence the track-by-track format for this review.
Starting with an interesting fade-in rather than an abrupt opening, the band immediately displays its progressive nature. A rather clean guitar melody with light string sounds floating above eventually leads into the vocal section starting at 1:30. The Haken-ish melodic and high vocals alternate with a gruff, raspy vocal style that allows for interesting variety. Eventually, there are some actual growls, but they are brief and add to the atmosphere of the track (similar to James LaBrie’s last two solo albums, Static Impulse and Impermanent Resonance). The guitars never stray from their progressive styling, but they certainly don’t shy away from sounding metal, either. The almost-instrumental section beginning at 4:00 contains a unique jazzy section and some excellent drums that deserve to be pointed out. A very death metal instrumental passage closes out the song and…
…begins this track. The growls are immediate and not quite as brief in this track, making for a much less accessible piece of music to those that are not appreciative of growling. The progressive elements still shine, as exemplified by the section beginning 40 seconds into the track. The clean vocals make their appearance for the first time on this song at 1:40. The harmonious vocals add a sense of scale and epic-ness to the section. Brief instrumental sections bridge the gap between the vocal passages, and give the song a prog structure. The guitars are noticeably darker and more distorted than on the first song. A mixture of growls and clean, soaring vocals closes out the track.
Beginning with the relaxing sound of a fire crackling and light harmonies, this track starts off with a completely different vibe than the previous two. However, an abrupt change at 47 seconds brings the mood back to what would be expected. Blast beats, growls, and a cacophonous keyboard track decorate the section beginning at 1:25. It mellows out into a section reminiscent of the beginning, before getting heavy and crazy once again. It is almost a pity that the whole track doesn’t keep the mellow vibe, as it is beautiful and different. Outside of the vocals during the softer sections, I am not a particular fan of the vocal melodies on this track, but they do fit the style of the song.
The first Interlude of the album consists of rain and church bells, in what amounts to be a haunting piece of music that will certainly pique the interest of the listener.
This song again carries a different vibe, but it does not stray from the metal aspects. Instead, it concentrates on having slow, doomy riffs, with vocal sections accented by an interesting keyboard track using very Oriental sounds. It makes for a unique vibe that I can honestly say I have never heard in a progressive metal track before. As has come to be common thus far on the album, the intermittent growls pepper the track with variety. It does sometimes seem like the song is sometimes without proper structure, but being progressive, it can easily get away with that. This is one of my favorites on the album.
The opening to this track contains shades of Opeth. The deep growling is immediate. While I do appreciate this vocal style, I did have to look up lyrics to even make out what was being sung. However, it perfectly contrasts with the beautiful, clean section starting at 1:55. The piano hauntingly accents the vocals until the raspy vocals take over. A unique section with “shaman-esque” vocals (reminiscent of the opening of Dream Theater’s Bridges in the Sky) followed by some long, drawn-out vocals add unique flavor to the song. I particularly love the pseudo-instrumental section (since it does have operatic harmonies lightly over top) that finishes this musical piece, as it has quite an epic vibe.
This is a bizarre track, having more of a folk/death metal vibe to it, but with clean vocals. There are lots of silly circus sounding noises, and a very deep vocal track that sounds liked whispered growls. The vocals in general sound more like they came from a musical. I keep focusing on the vocals, but it must be said that it they are performed so excellently. This is perhaps one of the most “different” songs that I have ever heard, and it will certainly dissuade a lot of listeners from ever listening to the band again, but I believe it is one of those songs that requires some time for digestion before it can be truly grasped. I love this track, and highly recommend a listen to anyone that enjoys death, progressive, or folk metal.
Similarly to Interlude I, this begins with the sound of rain pouring down. It is quickly layered with melancholy strings, echoing drum hits, and subdued vocals. This song gently picks up a slightly quicker tempo, and the beautiful vocals make the music as emotionally gripping as it is. The band has obviously shown their knack for creating many different styles of songs, but this is perhaps the most interesting on the album. At 3:24, the song explodes into the more familiar metal style, with growls making another return, as should be expected. The song still maintains a somber tone, but adds aggression and anger. Some of the growls sound more like regular screams, adding so much emotion to it.
Starting with more epic choral vocals and an interesting acoustic-to-electric guitar transition, this song is perhaps one of the more progressive tracks on the album. Interestingly, breaking a typical prog trope, the song is one of the shortest on the album, clocking in at 3 minutes and 16 seconds. The keyboards truly stand out, with some synthesizer sounds adding a nostalgic and slightly sci-fi flavor. The growls are practically nonexistent, making this another track I would recommend to those wanting to see what the band is all about without the growling.
Unlike the more atmospheric Interlude I, this is a very electronic track. Electronic drums and artificial sounds make up this track, and it is quite good. It is almost unfortunate how short it is, as I would be very interested to hear an expanded version.
Lapse Into Hysteria
Starting with a very technical instrumental section, the song contains, and I definitely am repeating myself with this statement, excellent vocals. They are spot on with what the track is going for, style-wise. The chorus is particularly interesting, with the instruments nearly doubling the vocals, but with added flourish. The growling section at 3:00 is terrific, with some of the electronic vibe of Interlude II returning. In fact, this is the best usage of growling on the album.
Another soft opening that at multiple times fakes the listener into thinking it will blow up, such as the abrupt explosion of heavy metal in Fawn. The keyboard regains a bit of the Oriental flavor from previous tracks, and the dissonant guitars truly test the listener’s musical ear. Occasionally, there is an effect applied to the vocals that makes it slightly electronic. I find it interesting that this electronic vibe only really started appearing on the latter half of the album. While not making for a completely uniform album, which is not necessarily a bad thing, it does certainly provide for a visible progression. The best part of the track is certainly the dark, gritty section starting at 4:12 and the flawlessly played guitar solo following it.
Garden of Rust
This is one of the few times in recent musical history that I have been extremely saddened by reaching the end of an album. This is certainly a culmination of everything that the album has to offer. High, soaring vocals coupled with growls, excellent instrumental playing, epic choir vocals, etc. The only thing that was slightly drowned out, which I didn’t notice on any other track, was the keyboard track. There were certain times when it was inaudible. The album certainly ends on a figurative high note, with some very metal growls and guitar that fade away into a simple, operatic vocal line that leaves you hungry for more.
While perhaps an oversimplification, “wow,” would be the best word to describe this album. This is an extremely hard album to digest, and took me quite a few listens before I could properly form an opinion and put the words to paper. This album contains perhaps the largest number of different styles for a band of this genre. The death and progressive elements are certainly there, but the band was able to effortlessly integrate folk metal, electronic elements, and a touch of Broadway into the music. This may alienate some people looking for a prog/metal album that mostly plays it straight, but I quite like the fact that the band was willing to bend the rules and truly put their unique stamp on a genre that can be stale sometimes. I quite agree with the tags on their Bandcamp page: “metal, electronic, experimental, progressive.”
I highly recommend this album. If growls are not for you, then I suggest, at the very least, picking up the tracks that do not heavily feature or rely on them.
Check out the band and album at their Bandcamp page. http://dissona.bandcamp.com/