• Great Discord, The - Duende

    Great Discord, The - Duende
    Released by: Metal Blade Records
    Released on: June 2nd, 2015.
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    If you dig metal with a European flair and are a music junkie consistently on the search for ‘something different’ then you might want to give this album a shot. The Great Discord hail from Sweden. No one comes from Sweden, no, they hail from Sweden. Made up of Fia Kempe on vocals, Aksel Holmgren on drums, André Axell and Gustav Almberg on guitars and Rasmus Carlson on bass this Scandinavian five piece play artsy power metal with a seriously cinematic bent to it.

    The first of the ten tracks that make up the album is The Aging Man, which starts off with a quiet, piano-centric introduction. A kick drum pulses like a heartbeat, the bass line starts up while guitars quietly take their place – it’s all quite soothing, calm even. But at the 1:15 mark the track starts to build. The vocals swoon in, the pace picks up and things get heavier. A quick drum roll throws Kempe’s beautiful voice into the front of the mix and from there the band seems to go in a few different directions at once, eventually all landing in the same place and somehow making this completely erratic track succeed.

    Deus Ex Homine lets Kempe’s vocals shine with almost operatic fashion. This one also starts off calmly, but as seems to be part of the band’s style, at a minute and a half in the band smashes that calm and delivers some pretty blistering power metal playing, only to then go back to the quiet. This one is far from predictable and should keep you guessing. According to the press release that came with the album, Eigengrau is a track about drug addiction which might explain why it has a far more aggressive and angry, frustrated sound to it than anything else on the record. There’s still some beauty to get out of this one, thanks again to Kempe’s fantastic voice, and the band once again brings things to a more polished finish. L’homme Mauvais has a quick pulse to its start, it almost feels like it could break into a sort of Euro dance number before things get loud and intense. This is another one that’s all over the place in terms of sound and tone – it’s weird, but by the time it finishes it’s impressive. Selfaeta marks the end of the first half of the record and like the four tracks prior it’s a strange mix of power metal and art rock with classical elements and a bit of a horror movie soundtrack thing running underneath.

    A Discordant Call has a weird sort of demon/robot voice that starts it off and then it segues into a proggy instrumental bit over which Kempe croons rather seductively – there’s very much a ‘siren song’ thing going on here, even when the tempo picks up, slows down and zig zags all over the place. Woes is, as you might guess, a sorrowful track. It’s calm, quiet and honestly quite moving. This woman’s voice has a power behind it that never fails to impress and she’s surrounded by a remarkably talented batch of musicians – so when they branch into a song like this, one that on the surface isn’t ‘metal’ at all, you don’t mind at all because it’s so easy to appreciate what they’re doing. Angra Mainyu brings a sense of theatricality back to the album but it rests comfortably in mid-tempo world, never really gripping you the way that some of the more memorable songs on the album do. It gets lost in the shuffle a bit. Illuminate has a very pretty piano bit that starts it off but that doesn’t last long before the band kicks in with what is definitely the most uplifting, positive sounding track on the record (which makes sense given its title). It’s positively cheery compared to Woes, but again we hear them throwing in unexpected bits to keep your ears attentive. At 3:47 it’s the shortest track on the record. Ephemeral closes the album out and at 7:32 it’s the longest song here, so again we have this odd contrast running throughout the recording not just in sound but in track placement as well. Again there’s a ‘calm before the storm’ going on here, there’s even sound thundering sound effects in the background, but once that groundwork is laid this proves to be the heaviest track here in many ways. As you’d probably expect at this point it’s a mix of really technical playing with Kempe’s voice soaring throughout, hitting highs and lows in ways you don’t necessarily expect but which really show off her range.

    The first time I gave this album a spin was in my car while battling rush hour traffic in New York City. It didn’t work in that environment. I turned it off and put something else on. I gave it another shot a few days later in the sanctity of my apartment, alone and without interruption and it clicked. That’s how you should experience this record (well, not specifically in my apartment – at least have the decency to call first) but in a more controlled environment where you can really listen to it and appreciate the multiple layers of not only the instrumentation and musicianship but also the vocals and the lyrics. It’s a soulful, sometimes somber slice of effectively bizarre metal and if it isn’t guaranteed to grab you at first listen. Duende is really unorthodox and it might take some time to grow on you, but the more time and concentration you dedicate to this record the more you’ll get out of it.