Dysrhythmia – Coffin of Conviction Review

Metal identity often rests in the tongue curling, the glottal fluttering, and the breath-rendering prowess that mic-holders abuse to fuse music with a unique enough mouth power. We even segregate genres based on the level of distortion and ill-advised technique that these brave souls apply—the shout-bark to the core kiddies, the shrieky wail to the frosty tones of LARPing black metal enthusiasts, the septic gurgle to death metal. Then, do we call it brave when a band like Dysrhythmia thinks to conjure the same riff-led drive and drama without verbal assistance? I’m not sure that that’s the right word, but Dysrhythmia on their ninth album in a little over two decades calls it “for fans of Dysrhythmia.” Though you could also think of this three-piece as a troupe of metalheads whose favorite song off Cynic’s Focus is “Textures.” This New York-based trio of guitarist Kevin Hufnagel (Gorguts, Vaura), instrument and synth player Colin Marston (Gorguts, Krallice), and drummer Jeff Eber call this eclectic brand of instrumental metal their entire mission statement.

To these polyrhythm-seasoned performers’ credit, no Dysrhythmia outing to date has ever felt like it’s missing a vocal element to complete the sonic puzzles at play. In the pre-Marston early days, a touch of that New York psych-y math rock took center stage against Eber’s space-filling (or space-making), Zappa-feel kitwork. And as this act has progressed, both increased guitar layers and experiments with synth patches have brought Dysrhythmia to a more relaxed and expressive space. I wouldn’t call Coffin of Conviction an accessible record though—the market for enjoyers of this kind of dense and nuanced material will never accidentally drift into chase and drill of “Headspace Extraction” or Metheny-twinkle of “No Breath After Beauty” while searching for songs to row in the pit to. But the harmonic resolution for which these writhing, warping pieces reach allows an earned peace that makes them all the more worthwhile.

Despite the dizzying paths that Coffin of Conviction presents, each of its nimble units follows a central refrain as it passes through stages of swell and release. No stranger to a King Crimson influence, Dysrhythmia wears both the glassy Fripp-frolicking atmospheric textures (“No Breath After Beauty,” “Light from the Zenith”) and Belew-bottomed lead squeals (“All Faults”) to channel that legendary acts most cutting and consonance-exploring works.1 These immersive elements build resonating and swirling worlds around which trash-inspired bright and harmonic riff work doubles in slightly askew assault or diverges in contrapuntal whimsy, very much the kind of fret-spiraling that might steer an old Cynic or Martyr piece. On tracks like the opening title piece and “Subliminal Order,” the widening and focusing of Dysrhythmia’s sonic aperture guided by these buzzing runs blazes by before you realize Marston has, again, laid down his bass to let six thinner strings do the talking. Sometimes a riff just needs another riff to shine.

At the surface bands who seem similar thrive in the test of virtuosity, Dysrhythmia maintains interest this late in their career by dedicating themselves to exploration in their iterative process. Part of that studiousness is reflected in the organic rhythmic chases and calms that strike with the most force when Marston supplies his trademark plonk and rumble (“Headspace Extraction,” “The Luxury of Disbelief”). His interplay with the splash and tumble that Eber scatters about grows more important knowing an element of the swaying atmosphere that Dysrhythmia creates comes not from keeping on click, but in understanding the tonal direction for which each composition calls. And once the trio lays the base of each journey, finding the space for the haunting overdubs (“Coffin of Conviction”) or synth pedal play (“Light from the Zenith”) feels not only natural but necessary.

Dysrhythmia provides more than just a journey of traced sound with Coffin of Conviction. Once bronze and now time-worn with a battered, splotchy character, the thirty minutes that span this latest achievement serve nooks, crannies, notches, and scores for an audience who doesn’t just wish to hear this all once, but over and over and over again. There’s no cry that rings louder than that which demands its repetition rather than promotes it. And Coffin of Conviction in a deafening roar calls to all who wish to obsess over its every second—time distilled by tactile sound.

Rating: 4.0/5.0
DR: 10 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Nightfloat Recordings
Websites: dysrhythmia.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/dysrhythmia
Releases Worldwide: June 7th, 2024

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  1. Dear prog nerds, this is a reminder that Discipline is King Crimson’s best work and that their 80s and 90s work is better than their earlier work overall.
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