Disharmonic Orchestra

Goofy, avant-emotional grindcore band with excellent instrumentals.
flag of Austria Disharmonic Orchestra - Not to be undimensional conscious (1992)
Disharmonic Orchestra - Ahead (2002)
Production: Basementish dark and febrile production.

Review: Back when underground metal was new, many people involved felt underconfident because, like in early hardcore, the instrumental requirements seemed basic from a distance and thus those who chose underground metal were susceptible to endless mockery from their friends and neighbors who considered them incompetent. While this was partially true, and often was completely wrong and borne of the lack of understanding rock-trained musicians have for classical and ambient and metal, some metal musicians set out to prove it wrong in various ways. One popular way was to get whacky. Disharmonic Orchestra fell into this trap but for the most part, retained the inherent musicality that had carried them through the ashen wasteland of grindcore with artistic integrity intact on their first album, "Expositions Prophylaxe."

The followup tries groaningly hard to be different, and to be unique, and novel, and all of that, and for the most part achieves it, but ten years on those who listen to this album do so because of the excellent melodic songwriting counterpointed by adroit drumming that varies sequential minimal textures for powerful effect, and the rubber-fingered basslines which serpentine wend through relatively complex rhythm tracks. Influences from jazz, prog and post-punk are evident, but are well assimilated, because these individuals seem to enjoy making heavy music. The end result makes for good listening except that the constant attempts to introduce unexpected results creates the opposite of suspension of disbelief, and thus the audience is constantly (and successfully) second-guessing these artists, as they drop in something "different" each time there's an opportunity and in high speed death/grind, those opportunities are plainly evident.


1. Perishing Passion
2. A Mental Sequence
3. Addicted seas with missing Pleasure
4. The return of the living beat
5. Groove
6. Idiosyncrasy
7. Like madness from above
8. Time Frame
9. Mind Seduction
Length: 36:01

Disharmonic Orchestra - Not to be Undimensional Conscious 1992 Nuclear Blast
Copyright © 1992 Nuclear Blast

The decision to vary up grindcore with additions of uniqueness causes the bulk of the music to remain in grindcore, and thus limits it to shorter phrases, where clearly this band enjoy and are familiar with lengthier melodic composition. Finally, ill-conceived attempts such as the rap parody (already goofy in 1992, now positively embarrassing) interrupt the chances the listener has to take this music seriously not for its whacky, trendy, obvious form but for its actual writing and what it expresses -- thus the power of these artists is lost in their personal quest to be seen as different, unique, whatever.

Could all have this come from instrumental insecurity? Certainly, as in emo, the attempts by unschooled musicians to seem "deep" and "artistic" often only showcase the limits of their thinking and abilities; few of them compose symphonies from power chords, because most try to embellish their existing music in some novel form that "hides" its sparseness (except to the experienced listener!). Most metal musicians are thinkers first, and take up instruments to express those thoughts, and thus are not as slick as those who take up instruments first and then try to cram enough ideas in their heads to come up with contrived "deep" lyrics (yes, Ani DiFranco and Dave Matthews, that is also transparent). Perhaps all the insecurity did nothing but distract from some of the excellent melodic songwriting on this long-forgotten disc.

Disharmonic Orchestra - Ahead
1. Plus One
2. R.U.S.M.T.S.I.M.
3. Supervision
4. Nine9Nine
5. Grit Your Teeth
6. Keep Falling Down
7. Dual Peepholes
8. If This Is It, It Isn't It, Is It?
9. Idiosyncrated
10. The Love I Hate
11. Pain Of Existence
12. Mindshaver
13. I.M.S.M.T.S.U.R.
Length: 47:48
Ahead (Nuclear Blast, 2002)
Having bashed out a cornucopia of excellent riffs in the middle-of-the-road grindcore of their first album, "Expositions Prophylaxe," Austria's Disharmonic Orchestra went on a search for a different form of art, and instead found a different sound. Their followup, "Not to be Undimensional Conscious," was exceptional for what it attempted but often seemed to be unaware of the difference between style - guitar sound, use of effects, vocals, tempos (as opposed to rhythms, which are ratios and can be transposed to any tempo), and borrowed sounds - and composition. As a result it both went farther than other albums of the time, and fell shorter than them; had Disharmonic Orchestra continued in the style of their first album and simply written more of their famous melodies into the mix, they would have gone farther than messing around with style of dubious contribution. Similar things dragged dead horse in Texas down to the level where it was repeating itself in "new" ways that in retrospect, weren't all that unique or unexpected; it's as if the search for surprising and novel form in art ultimately leads back to emptiness, as with all that attention put into form the content doesn't change, and thus the basic artistic experience remains the same, even if dressed up like a Mardi Gras reveler in "unique" and "new" stylings. After going grunge with "Pleasuredome," on "Ahead," Disharmonic Orchestra have again iterated this concept, by both diverging into heavy metal and mixing in a good deal of avantgarde rock stylings that are actually not dissimilar to ex-dead horse frontman Mike Haaga's solo project, "The Plus and Minus Show" (for bonus points, Haaga resembles the bassist/vocalist of Disharmonic Orchestra). There's a lot of chanting in cadence with heavy metal lyrics in a style that resembles that of New Yorkers Biohazard, and an excess of quirky twists in songs and increasing use of found sounds and digital samples. What comes out of it is progressive heavy metal in the style of The Netherlands' Kong or France's Supuration, meaning the unpredictable predictable, but to Disharmonic Orchestra's credit, their composition has truly improved. The legendarily adept layered drumming that resembles a cross between Karl Bartos and John Bonham is still there, as are the interweaving of parallel melodies through changing chord forms, and an adept use of different rhythms to transfer between riff forms hangs tenaciously in the style. The quality of melodies - their lack of absolute symmetry, the precision of their expression, the gentleness of the curve in notes transitioning between points - has improved, as has the sense of pacing that allowed them to make an album like their previous opus believable. The problem here is that this art work is too clever for its own good; it has so consciously defined itself as being different that it often avoids grasping the simple truth, which is that style is not superior to content, and if one wants to express something outside the norm, one first must know what that is and then find melody, harmony, rhythm and texture to express it. Too much cleverness clutters the listening experience with irrelevancies that feel like proof of concept, but leave the listener with her finger on the fast-forward button. Elements of older pop vocal styles, absurdly unsuitable tempo changes, and variation in instrumentation including a pointed lessening of guitar shore up this release, but, like Europe trying to accept the Christian doctrine of external judgment from another world, this band spends too long exploring the undiscovered country of novelty and not enough looking within. The slow maturation of this band has brought progress, but one wishes they would ditch the whole "Progress" direction and focus on making quality music as they clearly are able, in whatever style is handy at that moment.
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