Disperse - ForewordMusic, like any craft, is different for those who practice and create it and those who only consume it. The learned are better able to distinguish between what is crafty and what is easy, gaining a perspective that appreciates elegant complexity more than a casual listener would. I am not a musician, nor a professional critic, but I like to think (or delude myself) that I have gathered enough listening and analyzing experience to at least meet the pros halfway. Maybe that’s part of why I like Foreword so much: Disperse meets at the halfway point, as well.

I should give a warning beforehand: if your heart is black as coal and your music invariably must reflect the unfathomable darkness within, Disperse might not be for you. Rather, from the first notes, the album recalls the bright-eyed optimism of Addicted! era Devin Townsend, along with some of its pop-rock sensibilities. This is major key music, alternating between gleefully triumphant when it goes big and childlike wonder when it goes small. Some of the quiet tracks can barely be called metal at all. Small radio-friendly touches dot most of the songs: opener “Stay” employs some brief children’s choir moments in the background, several tracks like “Bubbles” and “Sleeping Ivy” contain little, electronicized vocalizations and “Tether” employs familiar mono-vocal effects here and there. Happy Metal Guy would be dancing for joy over the joie de vivre on display here [If it wasn’t for the unfortunate…incident.Steel Druhm].

If it was only another instance of straightforward neon pop-metal this might have been fun but unremarkable, shallow as pop-rock tends to be. But this is where Foreword bursts out of the clouds, as it infuses playful, bouncy jazz songwriting into its 11 tracks. Cynic reveals itself as big influence here, but it’s lighter and less dense than that. There’s always something going on that’s not straightforward, and oftentimes it’s the drums, bouncing irreverently on the tips of its toes, often jumping off the beat and occasionally foregoing everyday patterns entirely. Even when the music quiets down and a gentle peace is attained, you can feel a rebelliousness lurking just beneath the surface, peeking up now and then to make sure you’re paying attention.

Meanwhile the guitar switches between booming wails and rapid, fluid tapping that caught more than a whiff of Steve Vai. It ricochets off the ceiling, pounds overwhelmingly and morphs to a quiet echoing tone alike with great agility. The bass is not ignored either and though less flashy it keeps up with the technical wizardry of the other players, providing a mischievous bottom end. The vocals are less outright impressive, but they serve the important function of anchoring the rest of the music and providing some emotional backbone. Rafał Biernacki uses a slightly breathy style that feels close and personal, which pulls the music together and prevents it from flying off the rails. He never goes into an all-out belt but can punch up the more powerful sections without discernible effort.

Disperse 2017

Now, I’ll admit it’s not a truly perfect album. “Sleeping Ivy” drifts a little too lazily in its first half, although the payoff is good, and some of the electronic flourishes feel unnecessary. “Does it Matter How Far” is overlong and its placement after “Sleeping Ivy” saps the second half of energy, making Foreword feel a bit front-loaded. I don’t consider these major complaints, unlike the only true demerit: while the production is clear overall and the mix vibrant, the heavier sections do suffer from Devinitis. In an effort to make an overwhelming wall of sound, the dynamics drop considerably, and though the amount of variety in the songs means there’s no danger of fatigue to be found, the sound quality suffers, especially on “Bubbles.”

But even the misguided production choices pale before the quality of the songwriting dispersed here. My main issue with technical prowess is often its overuse. Oftentimes, the more skilled the individual performers are, the more clinical and distant the music becomes. If I have incredibly complex music but it doesn’t make me feel a thing, what’s the point? Disperse manage to be wizards on their instruments but stay tethered by structurally sound songwriting. By keeping some familiarity in the skeleton of the tracks, they guide you along while filling the meat with playful jabs and effects and continually surprising interplay. On the path from shallow to impenetrable, they meet me at the halfway point.

Foreword makes me instantly happy when I hear it. It doesn’t carefully tread the line between poppy jazz and prog metal: it throws open the shades and dances across it in the sunlight, letting its feet land wherever they want to without a care who’s watching. Is it metal? A better question is: does it matter? Foreword doesn’t think so, and neither should you.

Rating: 4.0/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Season of Mist
Websites: disperseband.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/disperseofficial
Releases Worldwide: February 24th, 2017

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  • Eli Valcik

    Good album but the artwork is a solid 0/5.

    • GardensTale

      You don’t like the escalator to heaven?

      • Eli Valcik

        Just looks like a subway to me

    • Kronos

      Total Riverside ripoff. (songs +adhd)

      • Eli Valcik

        Huh, so it is.

  • Thatguy

    Hipster beard – pizza delivery guy – I forgot to suck my gut in – so I tried too hard.

    Thatguy’s Bandphotometer says I’m a miserable bastard and my heart is black as coal.

    • Dr. A.N. Grier

      You have a good heart.

      • Nope, he hates cellos.

        • Thatguy

          Who wouldn’t?

        • [not a Dr]

          I think the Doctor was looking for spare parts.

      • Thatguy

        Maybe, but I don’t like this music.

    • Oscar Albretsen

      Wow, I thought most of the posters here were actually mature…

      • Thatguy

        Not me.

    • [not a Dr]

      Don’t all Thatguy Bandphotometer results boil down to that same conclusion?

      • Thatguy

        Pretty much!

    • The Unicorn
      • Thatguy

        Oscar A will not be impressed. But this is scary funny.

  • Planex

    I’m obligated to listen to anything that gets compared to Devin Townsend AND Cynic, both in my top bands of all time.

    • sir_c

      but sometimes the comparatives happen to be on the other side of the canal: unreachable.

  • naoto

    The embedded song is completely useless, imho: pseudo-catchy choruses, drum sound covering all the rest, guitar tapping exercises in the end. Maybe the album as a whole is kinda different, I suppose.

    • GardensTale

      It’s pretty representative. Guess it may not be your jam, it is a pretty specific sound so may not be for everyone.

    • Thatguy

      You didn’t need to listen. Just look at the band photo.

      • gus rodrigues

        looked at the band photo: negative thoughts started to crop up! tried to supress all the prejudice and clicked on the embeded track… should have known better.

        • Thatguy

          The Thatguy Bandphotometer never lets me down.

  • Hideous destructor

    Sounds a bit too 30 seconds to Mars to me.

  • Westpaceagle

    I imagine this being played during the closing credits of a sappy teen movie…

  • AlphaBetaFoxface

    “Is it metal? A better question is: does it matter? Foreword doesn’t think so, and neither should you.”
    I mean, this site is called “Angry Metal Guy”, GastroPub. I’d really appreciate it if you’d not rustle my jimmies, poser. “4.0” my ass, there isn’t even a pigsqueal.

    • GardensTale

      Shush it, AngryBrutalFleetwoodmac. We’ve reviewed less metal things than this, like that John Garcia album recently, or the Bill + Phil thing. If you’re so insecure about your metal cred, that’s your biz not mine.

      • sir_c

        But still. It may not be brickwalled like a Heavy Devy, but this embedded video deserves to be run over by a Chevy.

        • GardensTale

          I had not expected everyone to enjoy this, but honestly I hadn’t anticipated this much dislike for it either. Then again, positive metal is traditionally unwelcome on this site…

          • sir_c

            No it’s not that. I like Devin and I like Riverside and such bands. I just think this records is going too much places without really going anywhere.

          • GardensTale

            That was my first impression too, but it grew on me. There’s a pretty solid skeleton beneath all the jumping around but it can be hard to focus on the first two spins. It feels much more playful than random and aimless once that sinks in. To me anyway.

    • Kronos

      I checked this out when I saw it in the promo bin but after hearing the single I knew it was just NOT BRUTAL ENOUGH.

  • contenderizer

    Not sure what to think. The schmaltz is really real. I want to write Foreword off as a gruesome travesty flecked with kitten stickers, but the musicianship & arrangements keep things interesting throughout. It’s similar in certain respects to the last 1975 album, but the songwriting here seems more organic, less dependent on pastiche & gimmick. And for once I’m actually happy to hear a “heavy band” ditch most of their former muscle in favor of pure (prog) pop.

    It’s good? Just not sure it’s for me…

  • Frost15

    This band reminds me of Periphery, which are among my tolerable borderline prog metal bands. Good musicianship, yet not my cup of tea… Listenable and enjoyable for the open-minded in any case

  • Just listening the remnants of a djenty stuff, but who cares, nobody’s a genre police, unless…

  • Panagiotis Krokidas

    Come on guys, my faith is shaken here. It’s not the quality of the music, but the attitude. And this shouldn’t get the royal AMG stamp on it. Not even the one forged with “let’s review this”.

    Oh, my day is ruined…

  • Wilhelm

    What the hell is this crap? We need a White Lion review from 30 years ago.

  • Not sure what to think of this. I’ve listened to most of the album, but there’s nothing really memorable. I do like that it’s a little different to the norm. The songwriting is only average though and seems to rely more on gimmicks than great songwriting. I’d almost say it’s progressive pop without the hooks.

    Maybe it’ll grow on me.

  • LExpoZiod

    I really enjoyed their last album but this one has left me completely cold so far. Ah well, back to the brutalz.

  • Heldarc

    I love me some Polish prog, so I was quite interested in this album and I am not completely dissapointed, but vocals kill this for me. Like seriously, sometimes I imagined that guy in white shirt in the rain, biting his lower lip.
    Which is shame, cause otherwise, he does not have bad voice, but that whining is just unbearable.

  • herrschobel

    are you kidding me ? Today i am very angry with my ‘happy screamo pussy guy’… this is complete shit

    • GardensTale


      • herrschobel

        don´t be sad…First Diabolus was shitting on Marx in his Review …then this…just too much for one Day

        • GardensTale

          I was mostly sad because this was my first 4.0 (Aeternam was written later) and I had high hopes for it with the readers as something different from the grimdark norm. But I agree that the Marx stuff was downright cruel.

          • herrschobel

            if it´s a 4 to you it´s a 4 ! i just don’t like it…i listen to a wide variety of music, from Jazz to Metal, contemporary classic to baroque chamber music, Americana to Klezmer…it´s not like they dont seem to know what they are doing…but this just didn´t do anything for me…plus it has been a long winter and my dopamine Levels are very low

  • Grawmps

    Great album. ‘Tether’ in particular is a brilliant example of pop meets djent. Who cares if it’s schmaltzy? You guys take yourselves way too seriously.

  • El_Cuervo

    These commenters need to stop taking themselves so seriously. This is good stuff.

  • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

    Garden, your “Is it Metal?” question reminded me of Betteridge’s law of headlines.

    • GardensTale

      You should apply that law to the follow-up question as well.

      • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

        There’s no need to, you answered the question!

        • GardensTale

          Well that was the important one!

  • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

    The guy to the far right on the picture answers the never asked question: “What would Joe Dirt look like if he was Polish?”

  • OzanCan

    Another progressive gem…

  • I really like this album, don’t care what y’all haters have to say.

    But yeah, Disperse is also probably the weirdest band on Season of Mist’s roster.

    • GardensTale

      Glad someone can appreciate something outside of the grimdark bubble around here!

      • It’s just weird. Like, this is far more metal than that Anderson/Stolt album from last year, non-metal prog get reviewed here often enough to not be that anomalous. And yet, this rustles people’s jimmies? Can’t predict the internet.

      • Levly

        Don’t worry, you’re not alone in appreciating all kinds of Metal :). I personally quite like this record, although I’m not sure it has enough legs to hold my interest on the long run.
        That has nothing to do with how “happy” or “poppy” the music is though, Metal can and should sometimes be happy as well (see also the brilliant Astronoid record last year). Hurray for Devin for keeping that particular flame alive.

        • GardensTale

          It’s one aspect I also really enjoyed in Xoth late last year. It was harsh, messy, and so damn gleeful. Astronoid didn’t initially connect with me, but I just might give it another shot based on this comment.

          • Levly

            Yes that Xoth record was a lot of fun. You should definitely give Astronoid another go, I never saw a record that could combine heavy almost Black Metal-ish riffing and an uplifting spirit like that. Sure, the songs are a little samy but there is nothing quite like it so I’m okay with that.

  • flaming_nate

    This is a good album, but in a “not metal” and “just kidding it’s horrible” kind of way.

  • CongregationofFoxes

    For some reason this music sounds a lot like something Plini would put out or at least similar.

  • Josh

    Sounds like something I’d put on in the background before sleeping.