Two minutes, that’s all it can take. Just two minutes. I think about how many ‘two minutes’ of my life have passed by me without a single thing of significance happening. I’m sure there were a number of ‘two minutes’ in my life that were spent contemplating my navel for chrissakes. But that’s all it took, just two minutes, and a bit of faith. So many bands come across my desk here, and throughout my internet browsing, that the task to check them all out seems impossible, and in all honesty, it is. But in just those two brief minutes I spent trying to find a proper position on my couch to watch the next episode of Dr. Who, I could have found another amazing progressive metal band to add to what is becoming an endless list, and many of those fall under this two minute category, a band that I just happened to take that one step further to see what they were all about. A few weeks ago, I added one more to the list, and this incredibly talented group from Sweden will be the focus of today’s review. Now let’s meet Structural Disorder.
Structural Disorder was formed in Stockholm, Sweden in late 2011 by bassist Erik Arko, vocalist/electric accordionist (yes folks, an accordion) Johanes West, and guitarist/lead vocalist Markus Talth. With the addition of drummer Karl Bjork and guitarist Hjalmar Nirgersson, the band was complete, and they immediately went to work on their debut EP, A Prelude to Insanity. Wasting very little time, they went back into the studio in early 2013 to begin work on their full length debut. A week ago they were able to participate in a Q&A session with the Lady, which can be read here, but for now, let’s dig into The Edge of Insanity….
The album opens with I1_18, as in the bible passage, which reads “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.” Now, this, like many bible passages, can be interpreted in a multitude of manners, but to a prog metal fan breaking into a new album, it only screams one thing, concept album. And this is a dark one folks, with the fiery second track that opens the album, Rebirth. They jump right in with a heavy hand on the rhythm section and vocal work that really transcribes the pain of the subject matter, especially with lines as dark as “Free me, from this sickened mind, and from these wicked sights,, help me turn the tide, at least, help me die.”
Now, the album isn’t all gloom and doom, but it is a look into the darker sides of insanity, a really thoughtful treatment of the thoughts that bring us to that edge. The second song, Piece of Mind, is a perfect example of this. Musically it is a pure joy to be honest, a rich folk feel with the soft opening of just the accordion and vocals. Now, before running folks, the accordion is used with a tremendous amount of class here, and it fits the vibe of the song perfectly. The song has a beautiful escalating effect that really pairs perfectly with the theme of the song, the empty spaces in the soul of a life lost. It’s simply beautiful in its simplicity. In fact, though all the songs take a different musical and thematic approach to it, the basic sense is the same, that which we lose through insanity.
Musically, these guys got some serious skills to play with. The overall style is an aggressive progressive metal with a slightly loose edge. Instead of an organized boxing match, the band lives up to their name as a form of structured disorder. There is really no cohesive pattern to follow, they will take that base prog metal and bend and twist it to whatever they wish. In The Longing and the Chokehold, it comes in a relentless pounding bass chord that drives the insanity home, especially when laced with Markus’s howling vocals. He has just enough of a dirty edge to his voice to give it a punkish anger that really slides in well with the themes.
In Corpse Candles, the second longest track, the opening tone is a controlled rage, both musically and vocally. The tension they build is a fragile one, and when it breaks, it does so explosively. The growl vocals come in with a serious fury, seeming to be the insane part trying to break through the thin veil of sanity. This balancing act is played out for a bit before an eerie calm takes over, which slides into a downright scary instrumental passage that highlights all the talents of the band wonderfully. They have a brilliant sense of cohesion for a band so new, though some passages seem awkward, it still fits the overall feel of the music.
The next track, The Child in the Ocean, opens with a sense of fury. Though it doesn’t explode speed wise, the combined instruments and vocals really rage out angrily. There is a serene middle section before the rage finishes it out. Two short instrumental transition tracks and two medium length solid songs take us into the finale.
With a slight twist to the album title, The Edge of Sanity is the epic of the album, clocking in at over eleven minutes, and has all the feel of an epic. Huge sounds, epic vocals, furious transitions, it really is a soaring track. The opening minutes deliver a solid instrumental section that really gets the blood pumping, with all the members taking the lead at once to give a cohesive punch. A more somber and beautiful side takes it from there, with the mood being held together by the vocals, still struggling with that ache that’s been present throughout the album, so effective for the theme. Thematically speaking, there isn’t really a full healing, more of a change of perception. I think what the band is pushing forward is that line between sanity and insanity is brutally transparent, and can shift depending on the individual’s current place in life. I’m sure I could read a ton more into the wonderfully complex lyrical elements of the album, but I do want to leave some of the thrill for the listener.
It’s an open ended album thematically, and the individual listener will have a lot to say about meanings. The same can’t be said musically though, it’s a straight up monster, delivering on so many aspects of what I love about progressive music. And in the mix, they manage to throw in some unique elements, with the electronic accordion for a keyboard (really want to see that live) and the folk touch that really adds color to the overall picture. This is one new band I will be keeping a serious eye on for sure.