Thursday, March 7, 2013

Schysma - Imperfect Dichotomy (EP) (2012)

Sometimes it feels as though the music industry has gone back in time, back to the days when the 45 was king, and a single was the true test of popularity. Gone are the days where bands and artists are judged by full albums of material. Short attention spans and the iTunes movement have led us to forget the album, and all its worth. But for Schysma, there is a renewed focus on the whole, rather than the parts. Following the inner and outer journey of a man faced with a corrupt and failing world, their new album could more easily be compared to a book, with each song as one chapter. And much like the printed media, it seems silly to only read one fifth of the entire story. So it goes on "Imperfect Dichotomy," a five part story of doubt, realization, anger, and acceptance set to the tune of swirling symphonic melodies and emotionally charged vocal backflips.

While spoken word passages have become commonplace in modern metal, the sermon used to launch "Lost In The Maze" does something to further the track and the album at large; by asking the big question, "What's wrong with the world," it sets in motion a journey of introspection that you are now a part of. The pulsing thud of kick drums drives the track forward, accompanied by crystal clear production work. The nature of the mix and the way it is layered together makes each piece as important as the last, even the more lightly played keyboards that lie hauntingly in the backdrop. Vocalist Riccardo Minicucci plays his imperfect role perfectly, his voice coming through with a vulnerability that makes him a perfect vessel for the story. It is on "Noise Of Silence," however, that this five piece gives their most complete performance. The progressive nature of the track itself makes it immediately catchy, but it is made even moreso by the delicate and wholly precise arrangements. Guitarist Vladimiro Sala orchestrates a larger than life melody. The silky smooth nature of his playing is not only a tribute to his talents, but also to the cohesiveness of the band as a whole. The way his guitars sync up with the bass and percussion, held together by the glue of the keyboards, played by Martina Bellini, becomes their signature.

The ethnically tinged "Migdal" is a triumph of melodic design. This time led by bassist Giorgio Di Paola and his flowing lines, the swaying choruses invoke a completely new set of emotions. The vulnerability that Minicucci displayed earlier has been replaced with strength and conviction, his voice now commanding the room rather than being intimidated by it. In his inner struggle, there is a resignation to what will be. This is furthered in "Supreme Solution," where passages of thunderous gallops ignite and cool off, seemingly at will. It becomes the true test for drummer Lucas Solina, who manages to remain as precise and powerful throughout. It is here that the lyrics are perhaps the most profound. Our protagonist comes to the realization that while he fights against this world and it's flaws, he will become part of that problem soon enough. With some of the most heavy handed instrumental work on the album, "Sinners" is the only fitting place for the album to end. The keyboards give a ghostly realism to the mix, pounded into place with a series of kicks and crashing cymbals. There is even an injection of more harsh vocals, lingering just below the surface of the melody. Despite the world ending, as "everything now fades to dark," there is something rewarding about the journey taken to get here.

While the end result is an album that could become a regular in any symphonic metal rotation, "Imperfect Dichotomy" is also an important lesson in the concept of an album as a whole, rather than the sum of its parts. Each song, taken on its own, might not leave you breathless. But it is the way they roll together, the way they tell a story from beginning to end that makes this more than just five random songs. There is a true progression in the thought process of the subject, something that can be felt not only in the printed lyrics, but in the music itself. As the mood changes inside the mind of one man, the overall sound of the instrumental changes with it. It becomes a testament to the storytelling and songwriting ability of this band and its members. A while they may make it hard to listen to only one track at a time, Schysma give you five reasons to sit back, press play, and enjoy the fall of man.


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