I seldom willingly write Progressive Metal reviews, as that genre has never really been my cup of tea, but concerning this EP, I make an exception. STRUCTURAL DISORDER is a rather young Swedish Progressive Metal band that really lives up to that genre brand. When I listen to “A Prelude To Insanity”, I hear a sound that at least I have not experienced before and, in my opinion, that should be the aim of bands tagged as “progressive”.
So how does it sound? It is hard to nail down a fundamental sound of this band, as the songs differ quite a bit from each other, but I will still give it a try. Still, since there are only four songs, this review will be more song-by-song than usually, as some aspects of them are hard to describe grouped together. There is an OPETH influence in here, as well as one from more traditional Progressive Metal (the DREAM THEATER style). There is also an ounce of the playful rhythms and heavy sound of MESHUGGAH in here, but despite the fact that I hear some similarities to these three established bands, the largest part of STRUCTURAL DISORDER’s style is entirely their own. Two aspects of their sound are fairly unique: the extensive and original use of accordion and the production.
Of course, this is not the first time I have heard an accordion used in Metal. TURISAS is an example of a folk-tinged band in whose sound an accordion is fairly important. In STRUCTURAL DISORDER however, this instrument is used in a completely different way. In the opener “Rebirth”, it both weaves background carpets that back up the main riffing with atmosphere and serves as an important lead melody instrument (often very swift-paced and high-pitched). The rest of the song builds a lot on a very heavy yet unpredictable rhythmic section and a mix of emotional clean singing and Death growls. The clean singing on the record as a whole is sometimes straight-forward and sometimes laden with several effects, for example to make it sound clouded or more distant. The first times you hear this track, it might be a little hard to follow, but it works fairly well when you get used to it. Already on this first track, the other unique aspect of STURCTURAL DISORDER is apparent. That is the production. It might be described as a slick modern production, but it goes beyond that and must be a conscious choice rather than a mere embracing of a production trend. The sound is very sleek and smooth, yet still deep and heavy, like a polished stone. At first it took me by surprise, especially since I often prefer a rough old-school sound, but after getting used to it, I feel that it is serves a very important part in giving this release its own identity.
The second song, “Peace Of Mind” is very different from the first. I wouldn’t call it a ballad, as the song structure is very different from that, but it is a much slower song, dependent on calm singing to carry it forward. The accordion and drums (and some accordion-made organ) enhance the complexity of this otherwise rather simple song. What’s best about it is the foreboding mood that is built up by the deceptively harmonious lyrics during much of the song. Still, for me, this is the weakest song as the slow tempo would have called for more variations in melody to keep the listeners’ interest.
After this, we are hurled back into Metal with “Sleep On Aripiprazol”, which is a six minute instrumental song. Normally, I am not a fan of this kind of song, but this works really well and is my favourite song on the EP. This track features atmospheric accordion parts, reminding me of AMORPHIS, combined with a few nice guitar melodies and a very heavy and brooding feeling based on an effective rhythm section. A pulsating structure (in which the bass-work plays an important role) and several changes in sound convey a vision of confused dreams and a looming threat.
Last but not least we have “The Fallen”. It still contains all the aspects mentioned before. Growling and clean vocals take turns and the rhythms are still rather unorthodox, so it stays in the same vein, but this song feels more guided by an ominous, almost Doom Metal-inspired mood. Just as “Rebirth”, it takes a few listens to get used to, but is a good song.
As a final impression, I must say again that this is a truly Progressive album, whose quality craftsmanship I can appreciate even though this lies fairly far outside my usual taste. A dark and threatening mood created by a combination of heavy riffing and atmospheric accordion parts is the best thing about the record, while the greatest weakness might be that a coherent sound is somewhat lacking. The production is unique and will probably divide the listeners’ opinions. If you are not into experimental music, this is probably not for you, but all Progressive and Avant-Garde Metal fans should check this out. Open-minded fans of Doom, Melodic Death and what they call “Modern Metal” might also like this. If the guys find some more coherence in their sound, we might look forward to a very interesting and original full-length album.
(Online April 18, 2012)