Here’s a free top tip for all you kids looking to break into the music business: name your band something easily googleable. Distance have been kicking around for almost ten years now – forming in 2005, releasing a demo in 2006 and several singles at the end of the last decade – but presumably escaped any significant interest because no-one could bloody find them. Someone at Mighty Music eventually stumbled upon the right combination of search terms, though, and now Distance are finally releasing their debut album, the mundanely titled I. Such imaginative naming did not inspire confidence, but you know, books and covers and all that.
Distance’s sound can be summarized simply as “modern metal,” sitting somewhere in between Soilwork, Textures, and Threat Signal. They employ many of these bands’ tricks: atmospheric keyboards, a combination of clean singing and screaming, and a healthy mixture of rhythmic intricacy and soaring melody. Opener “Fragments” exemplifies this approach: contrasting thrashy, nouveau-melodeath riffs against a catchy clean chorus, while keeping things interesting with some rhythmic diversity. This approach is repeated for most of the album, with little hints of God Forbid and even Slipknot (see “Process of Self Destruction”) occasionally creeping in alongside the aforementioned influences. It’s a decent formula and they write some good riffs, but there’s nothing that really distinguishes them from the many other purveyors of this style.
Things take a turn for the better on fifth track “Conception,” which is by far the most unique song on the record. Opening with groovy slapped bass and a dramatic synth line, it’s just like Faith No More at their most epic (and least humorous). The remainder of the track doesn’t quite live up to the excellent opening, but overall the composition is an improvement. “Seeker of Truth” also flirts with the Soilwork-meets-Faith No More style at times, and features some great textural clean guitar picking in the background. The writing on these two tracks is promising and a step above the rather generic remainder of the record.
I was unsurprised to learn that I was self-produced. The recording is fine – sharp guitars, powerful drums and mostly audible bass (naturally all over-compressed) – but the music would have benefited a great deal from a knowledgeable producer’s guidance. Firstly, every track (saving opener “Fragments”) runs over five minutes, with half of them over six. They just don’t have enough to say within each song to warrant this, and they come across as long for the sake of “proggyness” rather than because they need to be. Secondly, and much more damagingly, the clean vocals are often out of tune. I’m not a great fan of the vocal style itself, imported straight from 90s grunge (your mileage may vary), but the tuning is the main problem. This is most excruciatingly apparent during the many harmonized vocal sections. Particular low points are “Open Wound” and “Too Late,” which I’ve winced through during every listen. A serious producer would have insisted on trimming much of the fat from the songs, and certainly wouldn’t have allowed the vocal performance to pass quality control.
I is a frustrating album: for every one exciting musical moment, two are tedious, and for every bit of skillful playing, an off-key vocal line insults your ears. Distance certainly have potential, and if they can develop their individualism while tightening up the songwriting and fixing the singing, their next release could be rather tasty. Add 0.5 to the score if you can tolerate the vocals, but even then, this record misses the mark by quite some distance.