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Disperse - Foreword

by Anna Chase at 12 June 2017, 10:25 AM

DISPERSE are Neo-Prog giants from Poland, and made an impact within the tightly-knit Prog community with their 2013 release “Living Mirrors”, in which they were compared to DREAM THEATER and CYNIC. The group formed in 2007, and since then have had impressively few lineup changes. Marcin Kicyk, Jakub Zytecki, and Rafael Biernacki have been there from the very beginning. They’ve replaced their drummer twice before finally landing on Przemek Nycz for the band’s reveal of their new album “Foreword” in February of 2017. They’ve been labeled anywhere from “Ambient Prog” to “Alternative Pop”. DISPERSE seems to confuse and enthrall their fans enough to blur the lines between Pop and Metal. However, what caught my eye is the fact that in one review, their sound was compared to that of Devin Townsend. Recently, he’s been getting more Proggy with THE DEVIN TOWNSEND PROJECT, but I’m a huge fan of STRAPPING YOUNG LAD and so pretty much anything Townsend does impresses me. That’s beside the point, though. DISPERSE has an impressive repertoire of albums and a constantly shifting sound which I was excited to investigate.

“Stay”, the first track, has a glimmering, ethereal tone which is emphasized by a strong drum track and ghostly, multi-toned vocals. The syncopation of the guitar, bass, and keyboard gives the song a Proggy feel. However, I wouldn’t really classify it as “Metal”. Tt’s more Pop, even calling it Rock is a stretch. There are so many elements within this track that it’s difficult to even know where to direct my attention when listening. “Surrender” opens with a funky, slightly disjointed riff before diving into an artfully discordant melody and muted drums. While Biernacki’s voice doesn’t exactly scream Metal at me, the group’s tamer ambient Prog started to grow on me. There are so many elements that have to be complexly interwoven in order to create a successful Prog song, and DISPERSE does it well. However, with the melting pot of notes and rhythms of Prog, sometimes the tracks tend to blend into one another, and this happened with this song and its follow up, “Bubbles”.

“Bubbles” was almost a lullaby, at least at first. It opened with a simple, tinkling keyboard melody before swooping into a burst of distorted electric guitar and blurry synth rhythms. Given the intensity and passion in the instrumental tracks, I sometimes wished that the vocals would match that level. Biernacki’s jaded Alt-Pop voice often blended into the background, especially in this song. In “Tomorrow”, the guitar was used almost percussively to form a chugging riff, which lined up with the drums in order to emphasize the rhythm. The song took a lighter turn, which mirrored the soft, melodic vocals. One thing DISPERSE does well is making their tracks interesting. The rhythms and notes changed so much that I was afraid I’d get whiplash.

“Tether” is decidedly vocal-centered and took on a Pop tone. Don’t ask me how I know this, but Biernacki’s voice sounded a lot like the vocals in some of Pop brat Justin Bieber’s new material. I wasn’t a huge fan of this song. The riffs and vocals for the most part were far too cotton-candy Pop for me. The musicians are talented, however, the ambient Pop clutter didn’t give them a chance to show what they could do. “Sleeping Ivy” drew some inspiration from softer 90’s Prog Rock. While this song was pretty tame and slow, the bubbling insanity from Zytecki’s guitar was impressive. Even a newbie could recognize that that riff was not easy to play. The drums took on an almost electronic sound here, which I didn’t quite know how to feel about. It was very Pop, however, it added a much-appreciated bass kick to the track.

“Does It Matter How Far?” has a thudding drum rhythm which offsets a lighter plucked riff which floats over the bass. The track has an extended instrumental intro, which in retrospect I wasn’t a fan of. The background track sounded like an overplayed club beat, and without the vocals it blended together into a repetitive nine-minute Electronica melody which honestly bored me (sorry, there’s no easy way to say that). The album’s title track, “Foreword”, began with an airy ambient whoosh, simple kick-drum beat and what sounds like a steel guitar riff. This track was actually pretty good, the Pop element was toned down and it sounded closer to actual instruments playing. Unfortunately, it was only a minute and a half; go figure.

“Neon” brought back Biernacki’s teeny-bopper vocals and the weird synth-y wailing in the background. Despite these slightly unfavorable elements, I actually enjoyed the backing tracks in this song. The guitar took on a unique tone, and the chorus sounded like Rock, real Rock, not ambient Pop. The drums lined up, and the variations in rhythm kept the song interesting. “Gabriel” showcased a guitar and bass riff which didn’t sound overly processed or electronic. The opening riff had a good groove to it, and allowed the vocals to overlay the melody without overpowering them. The vocals took on a slightly different tone here. They were more powerful and alternative, rather than breathy and Pop-influenced. I liked this song a lot. It was probably one of my favorites on the album and I found myself wishing the same techniques had been repeated in other songs.

The last song, “Kites”, again allowed Zytecki’s guitar talent to shine in the introductory riff. His notes just shimmer, and definitely stole the show away from the vocals and drums here, which I thought were oversimplified and slightly monotonous. The bass, where it appeared, helped to add depth to a song which seemed to have gaping holes in the verses. In general, I hate giving harsh criticism of bands who have poured a ton of time into their albums. However, I just didn’t think that this album showed enough creativity, variability, or musicianship to be considered a “stunning” (as the band describes it) Prog album, or even a Prog album at all. It seemed slightly forced and over processed, that it ended up sounding like generic Synth-Pop. That’s not to say that the band members aren’t talented. I could hear that they had extensive experience and skill. Next time, though, I think they need to take their sound in another direction to be considered as serious contenders in the world of Rock and Metal.

Songwriting: 7
Originality: 2
Memorability: 2
Production: 7

1 Star Rating

1. Stay
2. Surrender
3. Bubbles
4. Tomorrow
5. Tether
6. Sleeping Ivy
7. Does It Matter How Far?
8. Foreword
9. Neon
10. Gabriel
11. Kites
Marcin Kicyk- Bass
Jakub Zytecki- Guitar
Rafael Biernacki- Vocals, Keyboard
Przemek Nycz- Drums
Record Label: Season of Mist


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