DISKORD – Degenerations (2021)REVIEW

Computation, process and dispersal of all action-potential proves itself vestigial within the fourth complete regeneration of the head. As often as all watchers make spectacular work of the avant-flailing of limbs, the tools of abstraction, their muscle memory is adapted from an immortal, reversible biotic cycle and not an impermanent conductor. A late cycle, a seven year long process of reconfiguration now subverts senescence once more but, as an unintended side-effect of their search for resplendent color within the grey machine of civilization that surrounds — A death-metallic hydra by all accounts, by patience or blunt perfectionism regrown, abstract Norwegian death metal trio Diskord present their next ‘self’ and thickest skin-anew after an extended period of gestation. Forged in service to the next step beyond whilst retaining all vital generational knowledge, ‘Degenerations‘ is more than tech-rhythmic death chugging flay-and-flash but instead manifesting an ideological abrasion upon the unimposing death metal garde today by way of a timeless motoric wisdom. Neurons dissolve within the distended and cyclic unthinking generational spawn abounding elsewhere, I’d encourage listeners to instead resolve to steep within this pool of a wiser beast; Our path toward transcendence requires us to leave nothing behind which we cannot regenerate ourselves.

Approaching the taxonomy of a living, breathing kinetic drone-sculpted avant-garde multimedia installation requires checking the annals of extreme metal history for precedence and the illusory ‘progress’ presented within the faux sensation of generational expression within pop music promotional cycling. By sheer mental physics we will eventually get to the point. — It’d seem as if this Oslo-based troupe’s peers were living entire lifetimes while they were chipping away at their next level since 2014’s ‘Oscillations‘ EP, uninterrupted by the dissociative symptoms of the music industry and cohering with their fourth guitarist, a revolving station since they’d formed in 1999 (perhaps more officially in 2000) with Hans Jørgen Ersvik being the central figure to start (and the head of well-curated No Posers Please! label: Abominat, Nauseant, Morbo, Maim, etc.) alongside original vocalist/guitarist Chris Myhre (Lobotomized) and it is important to recognize exactly where Norway was in terms of death metal releases as the world watched Y2K hit, primarily gaining notice for Myrkskog, Zyklon and this briefly popular knack for ‘technical’ black/death alongside a few Immortal influenced groups (see also: Slagmark) before Blood Red Throne presented a sort of modern standard for a new brutal age. Good enough, but not the greatness on the horizon.

Our first slip backward in time should suggest that Diskord hadn’t arisen from a privileged state or a ‘scene’ but forged their own reality outside of time and space, first gaining notice for their impressive second demo, ‘Aural Abjection’ in 2003 which is hard to find today beyond reissues of their debut full-length (‘Doomscapes‘, 2007). Though it took some years to build initial momentum Diskord were regarded a impressive oddballs from the start for their skronking madness and edged-up brutality set upon a vague skeleton of classic progressive/technical death metal. By sheer virtue of their deep underground station and impossible to replicate spastic ‘old school’ technical death metal style Diskord were rightfully considered an original force within the new breed of 2000’s death metal out of Norway, at least by those who can remember what death metal was shaping up to be twenty years ago. We should also be compelled to consider their work as contemporary with Execration and Obliteration from the start, each band vaulting from a similar vantage point and expanding into their own at an impressive rate of mutation; It is easy to miss this unless you’d connected with records like ‘Odes to the Occult‘ and ‘Nekropsalms‘ in the late 2000’s or (like me) followed Hellthrasher Productions releases, because back in the day if you’d latched onto either album your next recommendation from just about anyone was ‘Doomscapes’ or, soon after, Diskord‘s psychotic revelation ‘Dystopics‘ (2012). Though I’d been on board with the first album they’d refined their characteristic technical mania and brutal presence within the Mark II configuration of the trio featuring Espen Hangård (Altaar) and the sophomore release was as much of a revelation as ‘Degenerations’ is today. In fact, it was that second album that’d convinced me to revive my interest in noise rock around that time, finding a lot of mathematic abstraction and bass performances translated between their primal, doubly deconstructed Atheist-isms and jazz fusion-affected freak rock. So, if we are to highlight the patient release schedule and perhaps reason why Diskord have been long held within a state of obscure underground revelry while their ‘Oslo We Rot‘ comp peers were off signing to big labels and winning Spellemannprisen honors, we can explain it partially as this revolving seat for the third member and their need to put in due time ensuring a primed and functioning machine amounts to releases of great skill and artistic value.

The precedence for the species we observe herein is established by way of the decade previous to Diskord‘s formation, specifically looking beyond the obviate influence of Demilich‘s own abstraction of death metal, the higher “beyond metal” consciousness achieved by ‘Unquestionable Presence’ and instead begin considering closer-matched phonemes found first within Disharmonic Orchestra‘s ‘Not To Be Undimensional Conscious‘ in ’92 and then taking diligent steps towards Carbonized‘s ‘Disharmonization‘ and some of the well-hidden legacy of Chirurgia‘s ‘The Last Door‘ with consideration for their later updated fidelity (‘Deep Silence’), sprinkling in everything from eastern European tech-grind to Canadian prog-death while we’re at it. We could likewise include some mid-to-late 90’s works such as Dark Heresy‘s underrated one-off as we find the rarified and apropos niche to glean our greater understanding of Diskord from, the actual avant-garde rather than the also-ran, but none of these are guaranteed inspiration for the band instead we can at least suss a few similar alternate realities from the prior decade. I’d specifically draw attention to the virtuosic bass performances and technical Carcass-esque (by way of Mekong Delta) riffing of that second Disharmonic Orchestra album as the best place to find a virtual long-lost ancestor to what we hear today on ‘Degenerations’. We peer deepest into the past solely to emphasize the previously foreshadowed point that Diskord have this deep knowledge of progressive death metal in mind and understand the high-standard and rhythmic appeal of classic death metal movement beyond the fundamentals, they not only embody the old standards but are conscious of the last two decades of action as well, perhaps selective enough that their sound remains tonally rich with an ‘old school’ timbre but also emboldened by different eras of frantic brutality, technicality, and higher personal standards for technical performances and their potential for emotional and physical reaction; This ensures the rush of listening to ‘Degenerations’ is not limited to nostalgia or ‘fresh’ sounds but an individual sound that wears its ancient wisdom and morbid futurism as if it were a neon jacket.

The Mark IV version of Diskord vitally includes Siberian guitarist/co-vocalist Dmitry Sukhinin whom included bassist Eyvind Axelsen amongst the star-studded reformation of his own technical/progressive death metal band Defect Designer upon relocation and reformation in Norway some years ago. Without knowing the nature of the collaboration, composition and songwriting duties I can at least suggest that Sukhinin is a talented performer who has been up for the daunting task of matching the expressive precision freak-out of past recordings while still landing upon a few key plateaus of memorable riff, quick-snaking groove and mathed out art metal lead patternation. ‘Degenerations’ isn’t pure skronk-death, though, in fact it may be the most atmospherically floated Diskord release to date despite the wall-to-wall action it presents. So, we enter the new era of the entity via the hands and head-holes of new faces, new angular adaptations for each artist which present their own tech-atmospheric values but, what is the next stage of mutation for the trio?

By all accounts Diskord have achieved something different-yet-characteristic at face value within the intimidating bass guitar driven plunge, bounce n’ hammering death machine that is ‘Degenerations’; As we press play the experience is massive in its first impression, an act primarily tailored to the tune of early Atheist if we seek only the gist of guiding notes, grooves and quick-changes. The claw fingered low-end resonance atop spastic blast heavy finesse of the kicks pair as a force of erratically strewn thundering-about as opener “Loitering in the Portal” sets the tone of the full listens with scores of thrilling yet meaningful detail, already speaking to the larger piece through the phrasal guidance all three actors present in motion, a sensation of explosive violence and anxietous breakthrough carries us beyond each maddening shift without losing “sense” as a written piece. It is a cliché which I am not too proud to use but, even just those first three minutes that introduce the album show the work put into ‘Degenerations’ over the course of the last five years. The promising burst of the opener is upheld for the next ~40 minutes beyond, particularly leaning into Axelsen‘s virtuosic work to start as “Bionic Tomb Eternal” and “Abnegations” serve to drag us through the mud-heavy brutality of the instrument while making a case for its prominence tenfold. All Diskord albums more or less have this emphasis but this is the major step-up moment beyond ‘Oscillations’ thanks to Colin Marston‘s ability to enhance dynamic fidelity within a mix/master while allowing the full voice of the bass to do more than interject; Axelsen had toyed with upright bass and theremin on the prior EP and here he continues to go beyond gilding the experience and now commands much of it by expanding the use of those touches alongside additional synth and cello arrangements. It all reads as the sort of otherworldly, spaced-out yet brutal tech-metal accoutrement any Diskord fan would want and expect but the sense that all of this additional detail is meaningful and adds to the experience is one of many ‘bigger picture’ accomplishments within the full listen.

Motoric abstraction, mental gymnastics, elaboration to the point of mystification, all paths lead to the stymied mind under the weight of most modern progressive/technical death metal releases perhaps solely because the bar for originality is set higher than the skill ceiling for ambitious young guitarists who’d hope sounding like the pros will lead to some sort of lasting personal valuation. It is rarity enough that we cannot, or would not want to, generalize such a brutally organic display of skill as Diskord presents; To unravel it all in mind moment by moment proves a bit hopeless as we begin counting ‘Degenerations’ thousand glorious facets, but I can suggest that they present all motion with enthusiastic reason, or, artistic purpose. There is more “beneath the hood” than frantic brutality and jazzed-up grooves once we’ve examined the lyrics and meditated upon this trio as an outlier rather than the conformist faux avant-garde. For my own taste the appeal of this album can be partially distilled down to the effect generation by the ear-catching apex riffs of “Gnashing“, the last of the deep cut pieces on Side B which present an equally lively and active sense of dissolving and reappearing motions as those of Side A yet likewise give in to some experimental grooves and one or two pieces that will feel less evolved beyond the scope of ‘Dystopics’ as others, such as the pairing of “Clawing at the Fabric of Space” and “Atoms Decay”. The riffs that strike out of the aethyr at ~1:26 minutes into “Gnashing” suggest a song with enough of a bold hook that it could easily have kicked off the second side of the record this speaks indirectly to the quality of the album overall, to think that each piece sustains that level of bold, inventive engagement with the ear to the point that this particular high could be confidently saved for later is worth consideration. I’d fixated on this song for quite some time wondering why it’d stood out so squarely to me from the get-go and beyond the big surprise riff indicated, it’d been the catalyst to shake out of the numb, dumbfounded state of shock that Diskord‘s attention to detail affords. So, the larger suggestion here is to give ‘Degenerations’ time to breathe in appreciation rather than diving into pattern analysis because hey, they’ll force every moment on you otherwise by sheer intensity and the sensation of movement is a big part of the lasting value of the full listen.

Of course there is a lot of bias on my end which I’ve afforded Diskord as an already existing fan who owns their entire discography, as well as being a fanatic of all abstract and technical death metal in general. That which lines up neatly with the best aspects of classic 90’s progressive death metal if it were properly translated across the last three decades is my jam. With this in mind, the only expectation I’d gone in with is that it live up to their existing works without being too similar or regressive. So, my recommendation comes down to a personal opinion rather than any consideration for how anyone else might receive this album outside of the progressive/technical death metal niche. ‘Degenerations’ is exactly the record I’d wanted and anticipated since 2014 from Diskord and it is already proving a vore upon my mindshare as I begin to count a growing list of favorite weirdos this year. A very high recommendation.

Very high recommendation. (90/100)

Rating: 9 out of 10.
LABEL(S):Transcending Obscurity Records
RELEASE DATE:August 13th, 2021
BUY & LISTEN:Bandcamp
GENRE(S):Technical Death Metal,
Death Metal

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