Disforia – The Age Of Ether
Disforia – The Age Of Ether (2014)
Reviewed by Daniel Millard
As if we needed more proof that independent power metal from the United States is now amongst the strongest and most varied in the world, the underground Salt Lake City darlings in Disforia have finally polished off their new album, The Age Of Ether. A buzz was initially raised about this work due to the involvement of Blind Guardian’s Hansi Kürsch and Unleash The Archer’s Brittney Hayes, but with the album now available for streaming, it has become clear that Disforia means to stand quite smartly on its own two feet, thank you very much.
Disforia’s approach is a more interesting one than many bands right out of the gate. Utilizing sound samples, extended song lengths, and harsh vocals (all in moderation), The Age Of Ether is immediately a more vigorous and novel blend of influences and sounds than the vast host of its brethren. Add to this the band’s knack for very strong guitar leads and commanding, memorable choruses, and you’ve got a surefire recipe for success. Being the Euro-power fan that I am, I experienced an immediate and deep attraction to this album’s most infectious songs, including opener “Chaos”, the sizzling “Dream Eater”, and the rapidly-shifting but ever-capable “Lunar Sunrise”. The latter showcases Brittney Hayes in a subtle guest role as a backing vocalist, while Hansi pokes his head in noticeably on “The Dying Firmament”, a substantially more sober track featuring excellent riffing, an unhinged solo section, and almost dirge-like vocal dips. This isn’t one of my favorite entries, but it’s definitely one of the more remarkable ones, and it reminds me more than a little of certain mid-tempo tracks that Blind Guardian itself has crafted over its career.
Nowhere on this album is any instrumentalist complacent – a refreshing change from many 80’s-nodding power metal rehashes that seem to be the norm in this country. Disforia’s drum work is remarkably varied and interesting – and contributes heavily to the label of “progressive power” that I would place on The Age Of Ether. My single favorite element of the entire show, however, are the keyboard lines of Austin Bentley. The key solo and support of the main riff in “Dream Eater” are positively stunning, and hands-down my favorite integration of great synths in power metal to have popped up this year. Collectively, Disforia is strong, mature, and diverse, and bulls forward with a strength and conviction that I did not anticipate.
From writing infectious hooks to cultivating a distinct dystopian atmosphere, there’s nothing that this band doesn’t seem to be at least “pretty good” at. Some might perceive this album as not being quite riffy enough, not quite accessible enough (for those preferring clean vocals), or perhaps might not like John Yelland’s rather unique brand of vocals. Personally, I find him to be very strong here. I have picked at him on previous releases for struggling with his upper register and lacking confidence in pitch, but while I wouldn’t say he’s a master vocalist yet, The Age Of Ether sees him taking a great stride. His voice is immediately recognizable, with a very strong mid-range. At the very least, I no longer consider him a detriment to the music in any way.
Disforia’s new effort is absolutely recommendable to fans of most power metal. Since it dabbles in most schools of the subgenre to some extent, I see its appeal as being pretty wide. The artwork is decidedly funky, but it’s a good indicator of how arresting the contents of the album are. No two ways about it: Disforia is up to something big. I am pleasantly surprised by just how good this turned out to be, and foresee a very solid future for the band and its burgeoning fanbase.
4.0 // 5