(Andy Synn guides you through the twists and turns of the new album from Ottawa’s Dissentient)
Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about the corruptive influence of the profit motive… how difficult it makes it to believe that anything that’s written can ever be impartial (and I know there’s a whole other argument to be had over objectivity, or the lack thereof, in reviewing music) once you realise that every feature, every review, every cover photo, comes with a potential price tag attached.
It’s one reason (among many) that I consider myself lucky to write here. None of the three of us who still form the core team – Islander, DGR, and myself – make any money from the site, nor do we have any advertisers to please or specific print deadlines to meet, and so we’re free to write about what we want, when we want.
Now, to be clear, I’m not trying to tear down print media wholesale – as someone who used to write for a physical magazine I’m fully aware of the complexities which need to be balanced in order to both serve your readers not just what they want, but also what you think they need, while still remaining solvent (or not) – I’m simply laying out a case for why you can (and should) trust us.
Hell, we don’t even write to please the bands themselves (there’ve been a few times when people have gotten pissy with us because we didn’t blindly praise them enough) and have, in fact, alienated a few labels and PR firms in the past with our refusal to just dole out perfect scores to anything and everything that comes our way.
Long story short… believe me when I say that you won’t regret checking out Dissentient‘s new album.
As was the case with their previous album (which you can read more about here) one of the biggest strengths of Labyrinth is that it takes a number of (relatively) familiar sounds and influences – the weighty, low-end groove of Meshuggah, the thrashy energy of Darkane, the proggy technicality of Allegaeon – and (re)arranges them in a way that manages to sound fresh and exciting while still eliciting a powerful, Pavlovian response in the listener.
What separates this album from its predecessor, however, is its greater sense of ambition and scope,both in the technical sense – the group dropping most, if not all, of the more overt Fear Factory-isms of their previous work to make space for some more contorted, Soreption-esque riffing (most notably during “Gloomsphere” and “Silver Sky”) – but also in the band’s more extravagant and colourful compositional style, whose blending of sci-fi synths and bombastic guitars occasionally recalls the darker side of Devin Townsend circa-Deconstruction .
It’s far less weird and wacky than the latter’s almost obnoxiously OTT opus… and obviously far, far more Death Metal… but, even so, it feels like a similar attempt to create something far more massive and multi-faceted, not to mention far more ambitious, than anything they’ve done before.
And while its sheer ambition and excess means it sometimes loses its way – between the synth-heavy ambience and churning grooves of scene-setting opener “Saprophyte” and the moody, atmosphere-heavy outro of killer closer “Throes of Creation” there are definitely a few passages which feel (aptly enough) like they don’t really lead anywhere – and occasionally doesn’t quite reach its full potential (the instrumental title-track, for example, is practically crying out for the band to fully embrace the proggy cleans with which they’ve experimented elsewhere on the album), you can’t help but laud the group’s enthusiasm and creative appetite.
Sure, the heavy use of keys, synths and ambient embellishments might put some people off, but to my ears they’re arguably the most important element of the band’s formula, and it’s when they hit just right – offering a captivating dynamic counterpoint to all the gargantuan guitar work and percussive, piston-driven rhythms which form the dense metallic backbone of Dissentient‘s music – that you can really feel the album becoming more than just the sum of its parts.