The Great Discord – Duende (Metal Blade)

Sunday, 24th May 2015
Rating: 9/10

Dichotomy or duality appears to be a prominent force that motivates the creative pulse and output for Sweden’s The Great Discord. A necessary entity for any progressive metal act like this quintet to truly sustain interest – because too much technical prowess or full on intricacy will dissuade non-schooled mavens and limit the average listener to push forward long-term. Because of this premise, Duende as a debut album plunges into those shades of dark and light, heaviness and quietness, along with copious attention to modern production and tone aspects to create quite the intriguing release.

The band moves from a lush, tranquil song where the guitars almost weep for “Woes” into wild, steamroller chug-a-thons that rival Meshuggah meets King Crimson in terms of the eclectic walls of sound present for “A Discordant Call”. Death vocals, echoing delays, and bright piano are occasional dynamic nuances The Great Discord employ – never overstaying their welcome from their stylistic visions. The word pictures often mirror the challenging hooks and time signature/riff changes present – alert, emotional, and providing food for thought to ponder.

Spirals occur around André Axell and Gustav Almerg’s layered clean to distortion axe work – where the rhythm section of bassist Rasmus Carlson and drummer Aksel Holmgren create enticing build ups of energetic musical combustion. Check out “Deus Ex Homine” and the stunning “Angra Mainyu” for their soft to hard, turn on a dime transitions and relative seamlessness through it all. Meanwhile, vocalist Fia Kempe exudes bright confidence as her melodic siren delivery rivals the best in the progressive metal genre. I’m finding it difficult to make a direct comparison, as she has the charm of Anneke van Giersbergen but channeled through a wider scope a la Steve Walsh of Kansas or John Arch of Fates Warning during magnificent tracks like the aggressive “Eigengrau” or the shape shifting, intimate 7:21 “Ephemeral” closer.

Driving in every sense of the word, Duende could be another standard for progressive metal compatriots striving to attain new heights in the genre. Another one for the adventurous crowd, another Scandinavian treasure to behold.

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