Welcome to Number 7 in my Album of the Year 2014 countdown. Thanks for sticking with me. One of the biggest joys I get from this blog is being able to write about music that might, otherwise, not get as much exposure as I think it should. Today’s pick is exactly one of those bands. They are utterly deserving of this lofty position in my top 20 and I hope more people give them a chance.
Before I reveal more, just a quick reminder that each of the preceding posts in this series can be accessed via the links at the bottom of this article, alongside the full lists from 2012 and 2013.
Enough of that though, let’s get down to business. My pick at Number 7 is…
Don’t you just love it when you’re blown away by a band and an album that you had either never heard of or had no real hopes or expectations about? This is that album for me during 2014, the sophomore record from Israeli prog metal band Distorted Harmony.
Their debut release, ‘Utopia’ was ok but, in a Dream Theater clone kinda way was distinctly average and lacked any real spark in my opinion. It was neither a great nor an overly unique body of work. So when certain respected sections of social media began to talk about being excited by Distorted Harmony’s upcoming new album, it was out of a sense of prog duty more than anything else that I explored further. I was not expecting to be knocked sideways by the resulting exploration but that’s exactly what happened. ‘Chain Reaction’ is sensational and is one of the very best that the genre has produced during 2014.
Compared with its predecessor and with 90% of the prog releases during 2014, ‘Chain Reaction’ is in a completely different league. Conceivably, based on the stylistic differences between ‘Chain Reaction’ and ‘Utopia’. this could be a completely different band and immense kudos has to go to this talented quintet for stepping up to the plate and delivering an album that simply cannot be ignored and one that, without any doubt, deservedly places Distorted Harmony at the prog metal top table as a result.
Mind you, the change of direction is not altogether surprising. In a post-release interview for this blog, founder Yoav Efron was very candid about his personal opinion of ‘traditional’ prog and the fact that he had grown tired and bored of it. ‘Chain Reaction’ is the direct result of this – it remains progressive, but in a different way.
Within seconds of pressing play for the first time, I knew I was in for a treat and would love ‘Chain Reaction’. It isn’t hard to see why. ‘Every Time She Smiles’ kicks off with the kind of euphoric melody that leaves a huge grin etched across my face. The track then develops into a genuinely heavy, complex and melodic behemoth of a prog metal track. There’s a touch of the djent about the guitar tones and jazz influences are there for all to hear, testing the listener’s ability to decipher everything that’s going on. To be honest, you’ll probably need a few spins to achieve that, but that’s the beauty of this type of music.
After repeated spins, you begin to notice that there’s even a classical feel to much of the material. And yet, at the same time, those instant hooks coupled with Misha Soukhinin’s vocals lend the music an almost pop-like immediacy that’s simply wonderful.
Up next is the initially more abrasive tumult of ‘Children Of Red’, a track reminiscent of Andromeda’s more recent caustic output. But then the melodies return and it is time to sing along again, whilst the goosebumps reappear.
‘Chain Reaction’ is comprised of nine tracks and lasts a little over 50 minutes. It is a 50 minutes that goes by in a flash. There is something about every single track that makes an impact upon me, be it the bass-heavy and jazzy ‘Misguided’, the subtle, ambient piano-and-programming-led ‘Nothing (But The Rain)’ right through to the darker, quirky but anthemic closer ‘Methylene Blue’.
In conclusion, there’s not a second of ‘Chain Reaction’ that I don’t like or that doesn’t offer great entertainment; it is superb; Considering how intricate and complicated this music is, that is saying a lot and just demonstrates that anything is possible if you understand how to write strong compositions. It is fair to say that Distorted Harmony with ‘Chain Reaction’ have been the surprise package of 2014 and have blown me away.
Check out the other posts in this series:
Album of the Year 2014 – Number 8
Album of the Year 2014 – Number 9
Album of the Year 2014 – Number 10
Album of the Year 2014 – Number 11
Album of the Year 2014 – Number 12
Album of the Year 2014 – Number 13
Album of the Year 2014 – Number 14
Album of the Year 2014 – Number 15
Album of the Year 2014 – Number 16
Album of the Year 2014 – Number 17
Album of the Year 2014 – Number 18
Album of the Year 2014 – Number 19
Album of the Year 2014 – Number 20
And if you’re interested, my similar countdowns from previous years can be accessed here: