The debut of Polish progressive metal band Disperse, “Journey Through Hidden Gardens”, borrowed heavily from many of their compatriots, most notably Riverside. Thick, atmospheric synths drenched the vast majority of the progressive output which was on the lighter side of the metal spectrum but which nevertheless maintained sufficient crunch. It was an album that gained the band many admiring glances and hinted at a bright future.
It is something of a surprise to note that with their sophomore recording, “Living Mirrors”, Disperse have gone all djent on us. Depending on your personal tastes, that’s either good news or a disaster. Normally, I’m relatively ambivalent about djent. I can take it or leave it depending on the quality of the song writing and the execution. On a first spin, I must admit I was a tad nonplussed and more than a little surprised by the shift in direction. That being said, it’s not all change however. An emphasis on keyboards and synthesizers remains in place as do the dream-like vocals of Rafal Biernacki, which rise above the music in a relatively gentle and soothing manner, albeit occasionally getting lost when proceedings get overly aggressive.
“Living Mirrors” begins with an instrumental, ‘Dancing With Endless Love” that builds from a quiet opening to a piece bursting with life and vitality. With the combination of poignant guitars and lashings of keyboard atmospherics, it reminds me very much of recent Omnium Gatherum material. Track two, ‘Enigma Of Abode’ is where the djent influences take to the fore with down-tuned chugging and stop-start riffing at almost every turn initially. The mid-section however reintroduces the familiar formula of the debut as the composition slows and allows the keys and synths a moment of quieter reflection.
‘Profane The Ground’ is a much more modern-sounding beast. Again those heavy djent riffs duet with the softer atmospherics and by now, it is clear from where the Poles have taken most of their inspiration for this album. Names like Textures, Monuments and TesseracT come unbidden into my mind, as does the name Cynic when things get more than a little jazzy in the form of the rather pleasant ‘Butoh’.
The album features a couple of ambient instrumental interludes mid-way through proceedings and these serve to bracket what I believe to be the strongest part of the record, the six-minute-plus ‘Message From Atlantis’. This dynamic track crams everything in, from modern djent, to ambient via a touch of electronica and more traditional progressive rock. The shifts between light and dark work really well and I love the way in which it gently builds to one hell of an anthemic crescendo where soft ethereal female vocals float in and out of the melodic tumult which is capped off with a beautiful closing lead guitar solo. Sadly, this level of song writing is not maintained across all thirteen tracks and so there are inevitably a few fillers to be found.
“Living Mirrors” represents a dramatic musical shift from their debut. At their best when the music takes a turn for the melodic and atmospheric as opposed to the heavy and aggressive, it delights, frustrates and confuses in equal measure. As such, it remains to be seen whether fans can be persuaded to join Disperse on the latest leg of their journey.