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Distorted Harmony - Chain Reaction CD (album) cover

CHAIN REACTION

Distorted Harmony

 

Progressive Metal

3.92 | 140 ratings

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Gallifrey
4 stars I remember, even though I never formally reviewed it, referring to Distorted Harmony's debut album Utopia as "one of the most frustrating records I have ever listened to", primarily referring to their ability to vomit all over a well-written section or melody with unnecessary hyper-technical guitar lines that did absolutely nothing to add to the song. This ability is obviously something that very many progressive metal bands have their hands in, ever since Dream Theater popularised it with the half-amazing, half-crap Images and Words way back in 1992. Utopia had some absolutely stellar melodies and riffs in it, but the irritating need to fill up the rest of the songs with "look at me!" style guitar/keyboard interplay quite simply drove me up the wall. But looking past that, Utopia was still a very impressive debut record, and while it did call for some improvement, it landed Distorted Harmony right at the top of the new crop of progressive metal bands, and gained them some great praise. Two years and a successful funding campaign later, my copy of Chain Reaction arrived all the way from Israel, and I can say with great pleasure that many of my complaints about the first album have been reduced, but unfortunately not without some new complaints arising.

Whereas Utopia could be described as Dream Theater playing around with some more alternative influences (in a good way not a bad way), Chain Reaction reminds me far more of the other big DT in prog metal, Devin Townsend. His characteristic epic and oddly-progressing compositional style is written all over this album in terms of the ways that Distorted Harmony write their melodic hooks and structure their songs. The soaring choruses atop "Every Time She Smiles" and "Hollow" are straight out of Devin's almost-operatic style, although Distorted Harmony manage to pull away from his influence enough to avoid being called clones. Some of the instrumentals here even remind me a bit of bands like Periphery, albeit with a less disgusting guitar tone and a bit more control. The alternative metal influence that many claimed was their unique style on Utopia is still here, but in less doses. Some of the moments on "Children of Red" or the aforementioned "Hollow" sound like a straight-up alt-metal track, complete with some chunky grooves and semi-harsh vocals.

I have to admit though, this album sure does open with a bang, and it does make the rest of the album pale a bit in comparison. Aside from a couple of little missteps in structure, "Every Time She Smiles" is one of the best songs of the year, and probably my favourite song of the year in progressive metal. Both the subtle verse melody and the bombastic chorus melody are absolutely stellar, and the addition of piano and some crowd vocals only lifts it up further. On the other side, "Children of Red" is a heavy, gritty metal track, with an insanely tight and headbanging groove that compliments the opener in every way, by being its complete polar opposite. Although I've never really been a fan of a) yelling about "the powers that be" or b) semi- harsh yelled vocals, the "FUCK YOU AND YOUR SICK IDEOLOGY" section in this track never fails to get me grinning my face of, especially when it transitions into the groove-ridden instrumental section, complete with some cliched and corny spoken word samples. "Misguided", the third and longest track on the album, does attempt somewhat to keep this string of great songs going, with an absolutely phenomenal opening riff and a pretty great chorus, but its length does drag it down, and as the song pushes on, the power of the first couple of minutes is slowly lost, especially when one of the weakest synth solos I have ever heard comes floating in.

Unfortunately, the rest of the album never quite matches the intensity of the first fifteen or so minutes, but it isn't bad, by a long shot. "Hollow" attempts to do "Children of Red" again, but doesn't quite hit the same intensity the second time around, and "As One" and "Natural Selection" both hit decent choruses and grooves, but lack the full-on start-to-finish goodness of the opening track. Some of the electronics from Utopia's title track (something I really wanted them to develop) appear in the instrumental interlude "Nothing (But the Rain)" and a little bit on "As You Go", but they're not used nearly as well as they were on the debut. Even the closing track, "Methylene Blue", is a bit of a disappointment, containing some great ideas that don't quite translate fully into a great song. It has a very linear structure, but the guitar solo that follows the nice soft build-up sounds really out of place, and Misha Soukhinin's vocals do start to lose their power in his lower range. I don't really think there's a bad song on this album, I just think that many in the second half fail to reach all that they could be.

Chain Reaction, on the whole, is really only a tiny bit better than Utopia, but it is an infinitely more rewarding listen. The top-heavy nature of the record does mean that most of the tricks have been played out very early on in the album, but the remainder of the tracks manage to just hold on to my attention enough for me to call this a consistent album. They have managed to avoid the sophomore slump by producing a record that simultaneously reaffirms their style whilst also adding new elements to the mix that keep the quality up. I do still feel however that they have yet to reach their full potential, and if they can combine the best parts of this and Utopia, while leaving behind the unnecessary technicality and borrowed composition, I can really see something special coming from these guys soon.

7.7

Originally written for my Facebook page/blog: www.facebook.com/neoprogisbestprog

Gallifrey | 4/5 |

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