death metal underground
The Ultimate Death Metal Resource
Death Metal Search Engine
Disharmonic Orchestra - Ahead
Review: Having bashed out a cornucopia of excellent riffs in the middle-of-the-road grindcore of their first album, "Expositions Prophylaxe," Austria's Disharmonic Orchestra went on a search for a different form of art, and instead found a different sound.
Their followup, "Not to be Undimensional Conscious," was exceptional for what it attempted but often seemed to be unaware of the difference between style - guitar sound, use of effects, vocals, tempos (as opposed to rhythms, which are ratios and can be transposed to any tempo), and borrowed sounds - and composition. As a result it both went farther than other albums of the time, and fell shorter than them; had Disharmonic Orchestra continued in the style of their first album and simply written more of their famous melodies into the mix, they would have gone farther than messing around with style of dubious contribution. Similar things dragged dead horse in Texas down to the level where it was repeating itself in "new" ways that in retrospect, weren't all that unique or unexpected; it's as if the search for surprising and novel form in art ultimately leads back to emptiness, as with all that attention put into form the content doesn't change, and thus the basic artistic experience remains the same, even if dressed up like a Mardi Gras reveler in "unique" and "new" stylings. After going grunge with "Pleasuredome," on "Ahead," Disharmonic Orchestra have again iterated this concept, by both diverging into heavy metal and mixing in a good deal of avantgarde rock stylings that are actually not dissimilar to ex-dead horse frontman Mike Haaga's solo project, "The Plus and Minus Show" (for bonus points, Haaga resembles the bassist/vocalist of Disharmonic Orchestra). There's a lot of chanting in cadence with heavy metal lyrics in a style that resembles that of New Yorkers Biohazard, and an excess of quirky twists in songs and increasing use of found sounds and digital samples. What comes out of it is progressive heavy metal in the style of The Netherlands' Kong or France's Supuration, meaning the unpredictable predictable, but to Disharmonic Orchestra's credit, their composition has truly improved. The legendarily adept layered drumming that resembles a cross between Karl Bartos and John Bonham is still there, as are the interweaving of parallel melodies through changing chord forms, and an adept use of different rhythms to transfer between riff forms hangs tenaciously in the style.
The quality of melodies - their lack of absolute symmetry, the precision of their expression, the gentleness of the curve in notes transitioning between points - has improved, as has the sense of pacing that allowed them to make an album like their previous opus believable. The problem here is that this art work is too clever for its own good; it has so consciously defined itself as being different that it often avoids grasping the simple truth, which is that style is not superior to content, and if one wants to express something outside the norm, one first must know what that is and then find melody, harmony, rhythm and texture to express it.
Too much cleverness clutters the listening experience with irrelevancies that feel like proof of concept, but leave the listener with her finger on the fast-forward button. Elements of older pop vocal styles, absurdly unsuitable tempo changes, and variation in instrumentation including a pointed lessening of guitar shore up this release, but, like Europe trying to accept the Christian doctrine of external judgment from another world, this band spends too long exploring the undiscovered country of novelty and not enough looking within. The slow maturation of this band has brought progress, but one wishes they would ditch the whole "Progress" direction and focus on making quality music as they clearly are able, in whatever style is handy at that moment.