I had to be reminded that I’d seen Distorted Harmony when they played at ProgPower Europe in 2016. That’s not the most auspicious start but the fact that they were there is good in itself. This nicely packaged album is in fact the third from the Israeli band.
By way of a change, I decided to listen first to the two singles on the album, “We are Free” and “Time and Time Again”. As soon as I heard “We are Free”, I realised why I didn’t remember the band so well. “We Are Free” is the essence of ProgPower Europe. And let me tell you that “We Are Free” is utterly brilliant. Prog of course, djenty and pleasantly heavy, it is dynamic. The lead singer takes us to soaring heights and as you might hope, liberates us through this anthemic song. “Time and Time Again” has a delightfully funky, electronically-driven opening. Our attention captured, Distorted Harmony play with our senses with a mix of Haken-like sensitivity and high adrenaline prog metal.
So, what of the album as a unity? Fired up by the two singles, I had high expectations. It is clear from the outset that this band’s forte is delightful rhythms, like raindrops falling, mixed in with expansive prog metal. This blend works really well, as the music ebbs and flows between emotion-sapping reflections and huge, djenty and powerful soundscapes. Where “Downfall” has emotional magic and like “Time and Time Again”, very personal, the intense “Room 11” is disturbing and sinister. I found it creepy but I guess that means it made an impression on me. As if nothing had happened, the gentler “Awaken” is upon us, but when listened to more closely, it too has sinister tones as we “awaken to an endless nightmare”. There’s something very dark and vivid going on in the mind of the composer Yoav Efron, as the commonly invoked childhood is overcome by this terrible state of fear and regret. Looking back to the past is a common prog technique, but here it seems infinitely darker. Musically the band hit the spot and both delight us technically and hit the spot. Yet there’s a sinister taste in the mouth as tracks like “Room 11” are more direct than similarly-themed songs by other bands like Green Carnation.
“Severed and afraid, a lonesome child is crying …. another lonely child is dying”. This is “Severed”, another dynamic journey into dark recesses. To quote Mr Efron: “loneliness and anger, fear, despair and even hope play a major role in our lives as individuals and as a society”. I’m not getting much hope here but musically it has colour and power to match the single-minded and undoubted intensity of these lyrics. “For Ester”, a darkly symphonic interlude, takes us into the second half, which begins with the highly charged “Anima”. This is followed by the sensitive and melancholic title track. Then come those two singles, which along with the opener “Downfall”, were my highlights. Sinister morbidity now gives way to hope, and the progressive musical patterns reflect this. It all ends with the sad and despairing “Someday”, as “she lets you see her fading path”. Who is this “she”, I wonder? “She gives you hope a brand new meaning, for someday you will make her laugh”. Once again I appreciate the musical balance, but listening to this one I don’t think anyone’s going to be laughing any time soon.
I can understand why I overlooked this band at ProgPower Europe as there’s more than a template prog metal style about them, and when you’ve got fifteen bands to get through, you can miss the special qualities of a band. And I can see this one has plenty. Although on some songs, the sense of regret, anger and even abuse comes across more strongly and even unhealthily than the music that supports it, this is a highly accomplished album. And I do get Mr Efron’s statement that this is a personal album. That’s what a good prog album should be. That’s the depths. When Distorted Harmony are prepared to go the heights, I’m there with them.
(8/10 Andrew Doherty)