Prog metal is a many splendoured thing and its progress continues unabated. It’s a truly international genre which means you don’t have to travel very far to find examples of virtuoso musicianship. Given its exacting requirements, it’s a brave band that decides to embark on this particular musical journey, and they had better be able to deliver; just think of the kind of company they will be keeping: Dream Theater, Symphony X, Italy’s Mirrormaze and Britain’s Threshold, all excellent musicians and songwriters, and all intent on raising the musical bar.
Israel’s Distorted Harmony has decided to add their name to such illustrious company with their “Utopia” album. Composed over the last 6 years and with a band line-up completed in 2011, the question is: can they cut it as a prog metal proposition? Absolutely, and what’s more, they come with their own particular take on the genre, moulding the prog metal template into a style that is very much Distorted Harmony.
As you would expect they are heavy and melodic, delivering tricky guitar and keyboard parts, using plenty of complex time signatures and tempo changes. They’re also not afraid to take a quieter, subtler approach when the song demands it. The album works well as a complete package, not just as a collection of songs; there’s very much a feeling of a band that has constructed an album carefully so that everything fits together well. There are heavy, complex passages featuring scales aplenty and sweep picked arpeggios, with virtuoso displays of musicianship to keep aficionados happy; but there are also orchestral passages that make the album sound at times like it is part of a musical or rock opera. Like I said, it works as a complete package.
The intro to the first song, ‘Kono Yume’ is almost Philip Glass-like and sets a tone which is more than simply metal. Admittedly when the rest of the band kicks in it is as heavy as Dream Theater, but there’s a grander scope to the music, the band clearly not about to simply trot out a bunch of genre clichés.
The second song, ‘Breathe’ features a very nice acoustic guitar intro and a big keyboard solo before the song’s big climax; and it between, it is undoubtedly a heavy song.
What is notable about Distorted Harmony is the variation of sounds they use: as well as the aforementioned piano and acoustic guitar, there are strings, sax, Hammond-style organ, and fretless bass; each musician clearly keen to add more to the mix than you might expect.
Each of the six songs is packed with ideas and variation, and while six doesn’t sound a lot, bear in mind they range from seven minutes to the twelve and a half minute title track.
If you know prog metal, you’ll be expecting a lot from this band, and you won’t be disappointed. They really do vary things enough that you can’t possibly get bored, while still delivering the virtuoso, heavy punch that we all know and love. There are the Petrucci and Rudess-like workouts, but there are also quieter, more contemplative moments. The lyrics are intelligent and engaging, the arrangements ever-changing and seamless. All in all this is a very good album, and Distorted Harmony is a band looking forward to a very rosy future.