Friday, February 8, 2013

Digression Assassins - Heavy Waters (EP) (2013)

Lost in the shuffle of so many great and powerful metal bands, the Swedish music scene has so much more to offer than just death metal franchises and black metal mysteries. So when the mission statement for Stockholm five piece Digression Assassins flashed on my screen, I had to stop, look, and listen. Trying to take you "out of your comfort zone," the band have carved out a niche as a progressive metal band with an avant twist. Relying on sharper guitars, and the help of an impeccably timed series of percussion, there is certainly some forward thinking writing at play. And while "Heavy Waters" may not be the most conventional of the metal styles, it's merits are many, and its weaknesses are few. 

Don't be surprised if you are thrown off balance by the start to "Queen," a track that boasts a fairly intricate progressive metal element. The drumming alone in that early stage is enough to leave you dizzy and twisted. But it is the vocal that will decide the success or failure of the track as a whole. Coming through in a raspy pseudo-melody, singer Mads Konan seems a tad unstable in the verse, but quickly steadies himself for a pounding chorus. The instrumental is well constructed, fluctuating between Dream Theater-esque and thrash. As an appetizer, it serves as the perfect bite. The main course, "Grasp," is soon to follow. Taking the tempo down several notches proves to be a great decision, adding a sense of heavy handedness ton the overall mix that is well delivered and well received. It wouldn't be completely out of bounds to assert that there is a level of grunge dynamic involved here, with Konan sounding, at times, like a distant Swedish cousin to Chris Cornell. With an extended, and all together relaxing, sitar styled outro, the track coasts to a finish, rather than throwing the hammer down.

The short burst of a track known as "Trinity," sees the band go in a different direction. With two guitars and bass finding themselves tangled and twisted together, it becomes hard to separate each layer from the next. Standing out from that chaos, though, is the meticulous drumming of Andrés Breuer Torres. His combination of rattling snares and blast beats does wonders for a track that is as short as it is punchy. Perhaps the most eclectic track on the album, "Tunnel Vision" doesn't stay in one place very long. From a fragmented intro, to a more composed melodic middle section, the band run the gauntlet in a tightly packed five minutes. There is a great example of melodic sensibility on display, surrounding the two minute mark. layering two separate guitar pieces in such a way creates a more robust endgame; one that, over the course of the next minute or so, exceeds anything the band has displayed to this point. Double kicks included, this middle frame is the most impressive chunk on the album, lending itself well to repeat listens and hopes for the future.

While they haven't exactly created a way to bend space and time, Digression Assassins could fool you into thinking they had. Fifteen short minutes have gone by, and you might not have felt it. There is some avant and progressive thinking wound into these four tracks, something that will pay off in spades if the band can harness it fully for a full length effort. And while their main mission statement may have been to take you out of your comfort zone, they have done so in a way that isn't intimidating or pretentious. Taken at face value, it is a well designed foray into the progressive metal arena. But when you dig a little bit deeper, it could be seen as bright new offshoot in the Swedish metal culture. Where it goes from here is up to the five members of the band, but "Heavy Waters," to this end, is worth its weight in gold.


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