20 April 2017

Review: Disharmony – The Abyss Noir

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When you think of the Greek metal scene, Firewind are likely the first name to spring to mind, along with the more extreme stalwarts such as Rotting Christ, Suicidal Angels or Septicflesh. Underneath the surface however, there is quite a nice little traditional/power metal scene bubbling up, of which Disharmony can claim to be a part of. With a sound rooted in the riff orientated heavy/power mould of US giants such as Iced Earth or Nevermore, the barrage of speedy, thrashing surges, tight, rhythmic chugs and mighty vocal prowess of Chris Kounelis is sure to endear to fans of the aforementioned. The Abyss Noir sees the quintet try to break through with the often difficult second album.

In a sub genre like this, you generally want the opening song to come out swinging, and although the title track isn’t bad, it’s not the rip roarer you’d hope it would be. It does have some nifty, stuttering style prog riffing and a suitable sense of heavy metal grandeur, but it feels like it’s building to something that never comes. “Vain Messiah” is a more thrashing monster, and although the galloping verse is on the generic side, the accomplished lead work, grand vocal hook in the interlude and sick groove in the chorus make it one of the better tracks here. The gentle, brisk opening of “Delirium” leads to a riff never really settles, but there’s some good use of melody and guitar interplay throughout. The supple thrash of “This Caravan” sees the haunting atmosphere pierced by stabbing guitars, with some subtle harmonies and a superb solo standing out in an otherwise forgettable song.

The track most likely to pique interest among curious listeners is the rendition of Metallica’s epic thrash classic “Disposable Heroes”. Covering such a huge song was always going to be a tough ask, and it is a fair effort, despite some glaring flaws. They absolutely nail the verses, largely because they’re based around the sort of riff that they use to build their own songs. The solo, one of Kirk Hammett’s finest, is also well done. However, the dynamics of the song are all wrong. The chorus sorely lacks the youthful vigour of the original, whilst the post refrain ‘back to the front!’ section sounds rather hurried, making the whole thing sound a bit awkward. If anything, the performance is a bit too tight and robotic, robbing the song of its intensity and edge. I can’t say it’s awful, but it comes across as the sort of competent but unremarkable cover you’d find on a tribute album.

Picking up the pieces and closing out the album is “A Song for a Friend”, comfortably the best track here. It’s an entirely different proposition than the five preceding tracks, with a sound that is more akin to gothic influenced doom metal of My Dying Bride and their ilk. A procession of mournful strings and a beautiful dual guitar/bass melody washes over gentle acoustic strums, as Kounelis’ low vocals make you wonder if Aaron Stainthorpe didn’t wander in off the street for a guest spot. The song cranks it up a notch halfway through; the strings and guitars working wonderfully in unison as the pace briefly picks up before the song bows out superbly with somber acoustic plucks. It’s somewhat at odds with what came before, but it shows there’s more Disharmony than meets the eye. It’s certainly the sort of sound they could do well should they ever choose to veer in a doomier direction.

Overall, The Abyss Noir is a decent record. The band are all accomplished musicians who put in largely faultless shifts, but the songwriting is a bit of a mixed bag. There are moments of brilliance, with the final track showing they’d perhaps be better off pursuing a more melancholic, doomy approach. As is, they’ll do alright, but I can’t imagine they’ll be producing the sort of albums that commands repeated plays any time soon.

Rating: 6/10

Highlights: “Vain Messiah”, “A Song for a Friend”

Links: Facebook, Bandcamp

The Abyss Noir is available now worldwide through GrimmDistribution.