(DGR reviews the debut album by French metal band Dysmorphic, out now on the Unique Leader label. Click that stunning album cover by Stan-W Decker to see a bigger version.)
Unique Leader has become the quintessential modern tech-death label at the moment. It’s likely an easy thing to do when you’re composed of members of Deeds Of Flesh, but the label has really been good for picking out the technically heavy, crushing style that seems to have really gained popularity over the past few years. While they’ve stuck to the States with a lot of their recent signings, they have reached across the whole country and the Atlantic Ocean as well in order to pluck out a young band by the name of Dysmorphic, a group that had existed under the name Necrocism for about a year before taking on the mantle of Dysmorphic in 2009.
Prior to their recent September release of A Notion Of Causality, the group had only released one song and a self-titled EP. Claiming to have heavy influences in the Suffocation and Decrepit Birth range must have made a hell of an impression because here the band now stand, Unique Leader signees and with the aforementioned A Notion Of Causality unleashed for the world to hear.
The disc contains some older material from the group’s EP but otherwise comprises new stuff. It’s made up of worming riffs, otherworldly melodies, unrelenting brutality, and angular time signatures, all buttressed by a heavy dosage of blasts and high roars; their lyrics and themes also have a strong philosophical bent. They’re part of the current tech-death wave that is sweeping the metal scene, but does A Notion Of Causality do a good job making the band stick out from everyone else?
Dysmorphic come off as a hydra of different influences and styles on this album. They so effectively combine so many different works and influences into their own sound that although you can pick each song apart with a fine-toothed comb and lay out every ingredient before you, it still stubbornly remains its own thing. Nobody really complains when the combination of ingredients creates something good, and that is what Dysmorphic have done. You may be tempted to have a stern reaction to hearing a production style that is deathly similar to Gorod’s, but you likely won’t because the band’s technical chops and songwriting skill rise above all of that. They’ve met the standards required of tech-death bands in the modern scene, and throughout A Notion of Causality they show that they can stand tall with their own peers.
One of the reasons Dysmorphic really stick out is their ability to counter a trend in modern tech-death where the music seems to be merging heavily with the deathcore and brutal death scenes to create one giant blob of bass-heavy, downtuned death metal in which bands have become increasingly difficult to differentiate from their peers. You really have to be good at picking out certain parts, or songs tend to become giant teeming masses of blasts and sweeps without you noticing the time passing by.
Dysmorphic counter this in a couple of ways, one of which is to increase the guitar pyrotechnics almost ten-fold. There’s at least one song on A Notion Of Causality where the whole riff is just constantly up and down the fretboard. Were it not for a slamming section in the center – which most of the songs on this disc tend to have – it would have qualified as nearing five-minute guitar solo territory. Second, the band stay at a really high level in terms of notation, tuning, screams, and so forth. They do have a hefty low end, provided by bassist Johann Sadok – who really gets his chance to shine in the middle sections of this disc, from “Underlying Reality” to “Through The Eyes Of Madness” where the band tone it down just enough to let him really come through – and drummer Quentin Regnault, who sounds absolutely monstrous behind the kit (and he’s also responsible for the few samples that are part of the band’s current formula).
However, Dysmorphic have avoided becoming a muddled, earthy production mess by taking a few pages from their countrymen in Gorod (A Perfect Absolution in particular); they sound knife-sharp and come across very clearly. It’s a production style that includes a thundering low section, but the guitars and screaming float on top of it almost effortlessly. It’s a tad bit too studio at times, but that seems like an easy trade to make so that listeners can actually understand and appreciate what is happening instead of drowning all your hard work and skill in the kind of mud that would have the effect of removing both guitarists from the band.
Speaking of knife-sharp, one of the things I found very interesting about Dysmorphic is that they come off a few times sounding like a French Archspire. One of the things Archspire used a ton on their disc All Shall Align was a style reliant on starting and stopping — stuttering guitar riffs with the lyrics punctuated by three-word barks popped up throughout much of that disc. There is a very cool moment in Dysmorphic’s song “Underlying Reality” that plays heavily into that style before ending each measure with a deathcore chug just to really hammer home the end of each line. It’s one of the few times where blending so many differing styles results in the group sounding like another group entirely. But if you had to pick a band to accidentally sound like for a grand total of two minutes – you could do far worse than Archspire. “Underlying Reality” is a personal favorite because the song is so heavily percussive and delivers such a heavy punch that you’d go flying through a wall were it to physically clock you with a solid haymaker.
The vocals provided by Baptiste Boudoux stay in a mid- to high-range, although he can at times get to the barking growl lows that people familiar with Job For A Cowboy might recognize. He is fairly intelligible throughout A Notion Of Causality, though, and when he is backed up by guitarist and second vocalist Jules “Julio” Martinez, Dysmorphic take on an interesting schizophrenic quality, as if the songs are actually fighting with themselves. They work in tandem most of the time, but when they each seem to take off on their own path it makes for some cool moments, rare though they may be.
The rest of the guitar work is put forth by Eric Haure-Touzet (Eric H-T), who truly does reveal the Suffocation and Beyond Creation influences within the band by creating the slamming heavy guitar parts — that is, when he and Jules aren’t busy working their way up and down their guitars with riffs that resemble swarms more than actual music.
Dysmorphic may have some difficulty breaking out of the crowd with A Notion Of Causality, but the album is a very promising start. It is beyond competent, and about half the songs will trigger instantaneous headbanging, with the other half feeling more like progressive explorations of differing death metal styles. The group are a fresh breath, at the very least for having successfully incorporated so many musical elements behind the initial wall of sound that are distinguishable on a first listen through the album, and the knife-edge technicality and production provides a sense of tension to certain sections where you just have to wonder how long they can keep a riff going as the group rumble along.
A Notion Of Causality is a great listen, a monstrous, shrieking monster of a good first run for a band looking to get their name out there, with hints at some very exciting things for the future.