Those well-versed in the metal arts may see a band named Disdain and expect a dose of brutal death metal or possibly some frostbitten and bitter black metal. In this case however, the name is quite misleading. Disdain’s debut album Leave This World reveals a Swedish troupe bringing a somewhat unique spin to the traditional power metal sound and sounding far more experienced and professional than you might expect. This may owe to the fact that these guys have been in existence since the late 90’s and at one time even included Nightwish’s Anette Olzon on vocals. I can already hear the chorus of power metal bashers out there (you know who you are) screaming about how much crappy power metal is already on the shelves these days and how there isn’t room for any more whether it’s good, bad or ugly. Well, doubters be damned! Disdain has managed a rare feat and rise above most of their peers with this release while managing to avoid the many pitfalls that doom lesser power metal bands.
One of the first things that jumps out at the listener as Leave This World takes off, is the unusually heavy guitar tone (for power metal) that Disdain have armed themselves with. What will also become readily apparent is how much singer Christian Borjesson is a dead ringer for Hammerfall’s Joacim Cans. So much so, that at times I was wondering if Mr. Cans was singing on this album under a pseudonym.
Where Disdain distances themselves from the pack is the way they brings an extra heavy edge and lay it over the traditional power metal template. At some points they remind you of mid-period Nocturnal Rites, then at others times the sound is more reminiscent of Kalmah or vintage Dark Tranquility. They even toss in some quality death metal croaks on several tracks to very good effect (“Narrow Minded,” “Nine Lives Spent”).
Besides upping the heavy factor considerably, Disdain succeed in the actual art of songwriting. They manage to write punchy, tight and memorable songs with big choruses that remain in your head after one or two listens. The title track is a great example. It has a great combination of heavy guitar and spacey keyboards that really commands attention. Likewise, “Scarred” roars along like a tank with heavy guitar work and Christian’s excellent vocals over the top, creating a power metal song you can actually head bang to (shocking concept eh?). Across the ten songs on Leave This World, you get a variety of musical heaviness but no real drop in song quality. Another big point in their favor is the complete absence of typical Dungeons & Dragons power metal lyrical cliches. I love elves, dragons, horses and all that stuff as much as the next guy but it can get silly pretty quick.
Ultimately, I think Disdain may have stumbled onto something here. Even a power metal dork like me will concede the existence of far too many sappy, happy and crappy power metal bands gumming up the works these days. Taking a darker, heavier approach like this may be exactly what the genre needs to remain viable and fresh. The lyrics to one track on Leaving This World include the classic observation, “though fashion changes, you know style remains.” Well, Disdain has style to spare and this is a refreshing debut by a band I think you will be hearing bigger things from in the near future.