Tardive Dyskinesia
Harmonic Confusion

Tardive Dyskinesia is an affliction that causes the lower half of the face to droop over time. The Greek djent band – now prog-djent-sludge – captures this with one of the best album covers of the year. Unfortunately, the cover captured my own frustrations with the album as well. Despite the swirls of color and the ambitious, genre-blending compositions, the experience left me feeling kinda, well, droopy.

Seven years ago, I reviewed their debut, The Sea of See-Through Skins, and called out the band’s obvious similarities to Meshuggah, while also praising the injection of melody throughout. Over the years, the band has clearly changed and grown. The songs on Harmonic Confusion are more adventurous overall, lurching and cruising from hard-edged, strutting djent passages to nimble, proggy interludes, and sometimes downshifting to simple but effective sludgy groove. Think Textures as well as Meshuggah. I hear a lot of Mastodon at times too, particularly their psychedelic-Appalachian opus Blood Mountain, in the raucous and squiggly intro to “The Electric Sun” and “Savior Complex.”

However, by and large these songs just don’t hold my interest. Most, like “Fire Red Glass Heart” or “Concentric Waves,” start strong and interesting, with plenty of energy and poly-rhythmic aggression, but then abruptly switch up into something slower and droning just when a good groove was starting to settle in. I’m a big fan of post-metal sludge bands like Iron Thrones, Burst, and Cult of Luna, who use dynamics to grab you by the throat, rattle you senseless, and then soothe you back into submission, but the impatient compositions here leave me feeling restless, and not in a good way. More in the itchy skip-finger way.

The vocals are also more effective when they play it safe – they’re a good, throaty bellow to match the djenty lurch. There’s also a clean vocal that has a more Southern drawl and twang, kinda like Baroness, to match the sludge components of the sound, but those are less successful. They’re fine in the verses, when they need to simmer and drone, but when used in the choruses, they just sound flat and mire the songs down just when they need to be big and cathartic.

Three songs do work really well for me on Harmonic Confusion, though. “Self-Destructive Haze” lurches along with stuttery djent and post-metal with a relatively straightforward structure and pace. It eventually switches up into vocoder-assisted drone, and it comes in at an appropriate place. I also like that the mellow, languid bridge is an echo of the harsher, earlier passages of the song. The other two tracks are “Insertion” and “Chronicity,” two instrumental and mostly post-metal tracks that climb up slowly and effectively as they naturally pull in some more strident sounds and rhythms. They are also the intro and outro though, so that’s not exactly an endorsement.

Still, there are lots of promising elements here, and an obvious drive to do something challenging and interesting. That frown could yet be turned upside-down.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Jordan Itkowitz
October 11th, 2016

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