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Discipline - Unfolded Like Staircase CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

4.25 | 454 ratings

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5 stars As I stated before in my Hybris review, there were two big gothic retro progressive rock bands, Änglagård and Discipline. I already talked about Änglagård, so I figured to have a little discussion about Discipline. Discipline actually came a little before Änglagård, coming into the scene in 1987 but didn't make a full length album until 1993 with the album Push and Profit. Like Änglagård, after their second studio release they disappeared until 2011 with To Shatter All Accord, 2013 with Chaos Out of Order, and 2017 with Captives of the Wine Dark Sea.

They have a less European sound and go for more of what jazz style and experimental Prog bands like Van Der Graaf Generator and King Crimson were doing back in the 70s. In fact their name was adopted from the King Crimson album, Discipline. They still have a symphonic sound to them though, making their sound very artsy but tightly knit together. These factors definitely make this band a very unique and fun one to delve in. I am pretty excited to review this album because it has become a favorite of mine since I first heard it.

The album is kicked off with my favorite track on this album, Canto IV (Limbo). It is that beginning melody that really shows off so much. It is a solid hook, having these echoed guitars and drums rhythmically playing in a minor key that soon evolves into a more streamlined harmony is so well done. That is not even the best of what this song has to offer, really the strongest aspect this song has are three factors; the vocals, the consistency, and the guitars. Let us start with the vocals. The lead singer Matthew Parmenter delivers an excellent array of emotional, almost Peter Hammillesque harmonies that really turn the music onto its head. Despite him being an American artist, his singing has this flair to it that makes it feel very different from a lot of other American Prog rock bands that sprouted out at the time, making his vocals very unique. Now the consistency. While the song mutates throughout, it still has a consistent feeling throughout. You can definitely recognize each little bit of the song is in some way connected to each other even when things change. I definitely really enjoy this since it shows experimentation on the band's front while also remaining in their signature style. Lastly is the guitars. I just love how they sound. They have this ethereal tone to them which makes them stand out a lot. The best thing about them is that they do not feel overused, they are definitely used a lot, but they do not feel way too overbooked. In fact this strikes a balance of creating homogeneous styles. They can be a little weird at times, but they are clearly focused to where even the most bizarre moments create an awesome experience. Really this song is the peak of the album, and it never actually dips down at all.

I think Crutches is a good indication. The song is a little different, being less loud and abrasive, but a bit more reserved. Obviously there are moments here that delve back into the thick of it, but the song does start very differently with an acoustic number. Really this is probably their most soft song on here, but even if it is different, it still has that Discipline sound that really drives home that weirder side of Prog that I really love. Their use of a softer and more melodic focus on this song really does shape them to be a great band. They are experimental, and when it is done in a subtle way like this where you can notice it but still recognize that it is coming from a more abrasive song like Canto IV (Limbo). What I said before about the vocals and how consistent this song is stays true, but I would like to point to something else and that is the drumming. The rhythmic qualities shape this song and the album as a whole, and without it I think it wouldn't be as good. It flows through different patterns and tempos that even though they are all very different, still feels like they can be a part of the same sheet of music. It really does excel in a ton of qualities that I adore.

I think every Prog band has at least one really solid epic, and Discipline is no exception with Into The Dream. This 22 minute epic is just a treat from start to the end. It continues their cryptic sound from the last two songs, but we get some very fun shifts and changes. The mood never really changes, but how each part of this piece shifts around, ever so slightly, makes this such an amazing track to sit through. The song really does have a good amount of build up and crescendos that always interlink with each other. You can feel it all go up but never going down until the very end. Even with the best moments here you can definitely feel that it is rising to something, and I think that is the best thing about Prog epics, that build up to something great. The last piece on this song, part g. Turtles All The Way Down, really does show off this by putting emphasis on something you might've not noticed from all the other songs until this point, and that is the keyboard. They are putting a focus on it because I think to show off more aspects of the band besides their prowess on the guitars and drums. I think each song lets a member of the band have the spotlight, which is very awesome. This is definitely a great epic through and through.

Into The Dream is not the only epic here, there is one more and that is Before The Storm, parts one and two respectively. I am gonna be honest, while I still think this album is a masterpiece, this is still the weakest track for me. Not saying it is bad, no far from it, it is a very great song that showcases the band at their most tightly knit state as they create a 15 minute long track that takes you down a symphonic spectrum, but I do think it being on the tail end after three glorious tracks and being split into two parts definitely gives it a tiny bit of weight, not on my enjoyment but on the album, but not enough for it to lower my ranking down. As I stated before, the song is very tightly knit. The harmonies flow right, the singing is still as good as ever, the drumming is fantastic, the keyboards are the icing on the cake, the guitars are awesome, and that bass being elusive, yet still giving a backbone to this track and album as a whole really allows this entire experience a status for a masterpiece.

The name of the game here is the word subtle. Changes in each song are noticeable yet subtle to where everything feels like they are in their right place. You can feel the band work paying off in folds here. Every little guitar line and keyboard press makes every bit of these songs feel like profound magic. This is a must listen for any Prog fans out there. Definitely listen to stuff like King Crimson or Van Der Graaf Generator first because this style is a little more out of the way to the more happy, and fun filled spirit most other retro Prog bands have which may take a bit of time getting used to, but I think it is all worth it. Give it a try, I am sure it will not disappoint.

Dapper~Blueberries | 5/5 |


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