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Discus - ... tot licht CD (album) cover





4.11 | 53 ratings

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From time to time voices go up telling you that nothing new ever happens in prog, and that recent bands just regurgitate styles from the past. Well, folks, if that's what YOU believe, make way for Discus - they'll simply take your breath away. You can't imagine how I've longed to find a band like this. They are far more exciting than Anekdoten or Porcupine Tree, and far more sophisticated than the Flower Kings or the Tangent. Please don't be alarmed by the label "RIO/Avant-prog", because Discus are incredibly listenable; they're not trying to annoy you, but oh boy will they excite you!

It's true their music is dense and intricate, in the same way as the best efforts of Gentle Giant, Zappa and National Health are. To a mixture of jazz-rock, folk-rock, heavy metal and symphonic prog, they add (very lively) traditional Indonesian styles. It's an incredibly potent mix - even more so because the band includes a female vocalist who will send shivers down your spine. You thought ecstatic prog which tries to take you to a new level of being (pardon the cliche, but how shall I put this?) was OUT? Think again. Discus reach heights which even Jon A. and Peter G. in their heyday rarely reached. (Yes, we're actually talking about THAT level of excitement.) They even include a fascinating piece of contemporary classical chamber music, featuring some fabulous 21-string harpguitar. It all makes me wonder where they will go next. TOT LICHT was recorded more than five years ago - can we have a new album, please?

A few bits of criticism. The heavy-metal growling on "System Manipulation" and "Breathe" may put some listeners off (especially since the English lyrics are silly) but they're just a single strand in an astonishingly intricate musical pattern. In their liner notes, the band as a whole thank God Almighty and a long list of people, after which every single member of the band goes on to do the same. This takes up a lot of space, which might have been more usefully spent explaining what the extraordinarily beautiful "Verso Kartini" (more than twelve minutes long) is about. "Verso Kartini" is sung in Indonesian, which sounds magical, but I honestly hope its lyrics make more sense than the album's pièce de resistance, the nineteen-minute (English-language) "Anne". Come on, Discus, if you're really going to sing in English, PLEASE have a little chat with a native speaker first... "Anne" sounds a little too exuberant at times, and is obviously a celebration of Anne Frank's spirit - a spirit which remained courageous, even when Anne had to to go into hiding. So far, so good, but I'm puzzled by the song's subdivisions. After 'War Dance' and 'Death in Agony', the final section is entitled 'Revelation: the spirit speaks!' Now, Anne Frank certainly died a horrifying death in Bergen-Belsen; if her spirit could speak, surely it wouldn't sound triumphant? Wouldn't it say something like: 'Weep for me, and for the millions of innocents who were murdered just like me"?

I hope I don't sound too negative; if I offered some criticism, it's because I'm convinced that Discus deserve to be taken very seriously. I'm a prog lover of the old guard; I'm writing these words on my 47th birthday, and I grew up with the classic 1970s bands. Since I started rediscovering prog (around the year 2000) I haven't found a single band as satisfying as Discus, apart from Kenso, one of my favourite prog-fusion bands. What impresses me even more, is that Discus have named this album after the book DOOR DUISTERNIS TOT LICHT ("Through darkness to light"), originally written in Dutch by R.A. Kartini, who seems to be a national heroine in Indonesia. Neither Focus, nor Ayreon, nor any other major Dutch bands have given any of their albums a proper Dutch title. If you consider how the Dutch once exploited Indonesia, Discus' choice is a superb example of what Salman Rushdie called "The Empire writes back", and as a native speaker of Dutch (though not a Dutch national) I feel grateful. So, once more: congratulations to Discus, and do keep progging!

fuxi | 5/5 |


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