DYSRHYTHMIA’S PSYCHIC MAPS: SIX DEGREES OF AWESOME
Dysrhythmia are the Kevin Bacon of metal. The band’s connected to Behold…the Arctopus, Krallice, Spastic Ink and Gorguts within one degree of separation, Cannibal Corpse, Origin, Bloody Panda, The Red Chord, Orthrelm and Watchtower by another. Guitarist Kevin Hufnagel and bassist Colin Marston both have solo projects, and play together in the ambient guitar duo Byla. Try to draw a Dysrhythmia family tree, and you’d end up with a massive tangle of nodes and lines that resembles one of those three-dimensional diagrams of a complex molecule. Converted into notes, it would probably sound like the music on Dysrhythmia’s fifth album, Psychic Maps.
Not that Dysrhythmia were ever lacking for unorthodox modes and dense chords rife with dissonance, but they’ve reached a new plateau in inscrutability with Psychic Maps. They’ve all but shed the more jam-based approach of their early records, morphing into purveyors of tough, jagged, difficult music. Power chords are nowhere to be found – they’ve all been choked by Hufnagel’s dirty harmonies, then beaten to death by Marston’s clanking bass. Where riffs repeat in “Festival of Popular Delusions” and “Iron Cathedral,” they do so not to invite headbanging, but to ratchet up tension.
But you know what? More than a decade since bands like Meshuggah, Gorguts and the Dillinger Escape Plan destroyed the rhythmic and harmonic norms of metal, there’s really nothing special about atonal melodies played at warp speed in criss-crossing time signatures. Unique among many of their tech-metal peers, Dysrhythmia understand that instrumental prowess and a fucked-up sound only get you through track one if you can’t turn your music theory lessons and 15-hour shred marathons into expressive compositions.
On Psychic Maps, Dysrhythmia prove that they’ve got compositional chops to match the nimble fingers and supple ankles. “Triangular Stare” is a master class in dynamics and arrangement, unspooling chops through chunky riffs and super-tight unison lines; Hufnagel brings the impressionism of his solo guitar work to “Reactionary,” leavening its density with shades of acoustic counterpoint. And few final tracks of recent memory cap off their respective albums with such monumental tension and release as “Lifted By Skin.” Therein, Dysrhythmia bind together everything that they do so well in their other bands – Behold…the Arctopus’s prog wankery, Byla’s ominous ambience and Krallice’s sweep – into a transcendent whole. Kevin Bacon was never so impressive.
(four out of five horns)