Dis­torted Har­mony__

Prog - - Contents - Words: Phil Weller

It’s deep, dark and per­sonal on the Is­raeli prog met­allers’ third al­bum.

For Dis­torted Har­mony’s third al­bum, Is­raeli key­boardist and pro­ducer Yoav Efron chose to dig up feel­ings he had long since buried deep within him­self to cre­ate a more painfully per­sonal record. As a re­sult, A Way Out stands as the band’s most emo­tion­ally com­plex and com­pelling re­lease to date.

“O ne thing I can say about the new al­bum is that it’s very per­sonal,” says Dis­torted Har­mony’s chief song­writer Yoav Efron. “It wasn’t easy for me to ex­pose my thoughts and feel­ings, the things I’m used to keep­ing in­side, so this al­bum was ac­tu­ally more of a process of be­ing in the right place, men­tally, to write, more than any­thing else.”

Speak­ing to Prog from his home in Tel Aviv, Israel, he keeps his cards close to his chest when asked about what emo­tions and is­sues were plagu­ing him so much that, for the first time in his ca­reer, he turned to mu­sic for an out­let to ex­or­cise such per­sonal trou­bles. How­ever, the way his voice cracks a lit­tle when prised for more in­for­ma­tion, and the way he sheep­ishly tries to avoid giv­ing an an­swer that would leave him in too vul­ner­a­ble a light, speaks vol­umes. Yet en­gag­ing here with the darker side of his life on a deeper level than Dis­torted Har­mony ever got close to on their pre­vi­ous two records – 2012’s Utopia and 2014’s Chain Re­ac­tion – has helped hu­man­ise their tech­ni­cal, tech­ni­colour thump.

A Way Out ar­rives with a deeper, more de­tailed and more re­lat­able per­son­al­ity. Lurk­ing be­neath dense forests of down­tuned gui­tars, below ram­pant drum­ming and chaot­i­cally arpeg­giated key­boards, is a sen­si­tive, aching soul.

As dif­fi­cult as the creative process may have been – “I wrote three songs in a week, then didn’t write any­thing for months be­cause I wasn’t in the right place,” Efron tells us – it has made their mu­sic so much eas­ier to con­nect with. For a mu­si­cian who de­fines his band as “a liv­ing be­ing”, that is hugely im­por­tant. As such, their first re­lease in four years gifts the lis­tener an en­tirely new ex­pe­ri­ence.

“For me, this al­bum was all about me fig­ur­ing out how I wanted to write,” he says, elab­o­rat­ing be­tween sighs and pauses that be­tray the side of him he doesn’t want this in­ter­viewer to see. “The way we work is that I write the mu­sic and then I send demos to the band to get their feed­back. But be­cause I was open­ing my­self up so much with these songs, it took me a long while to get to the point where I even had any­thing to show them.”

How­ever, open­ing up to his band­mates about each song’s mean­ing al­lowed an emo­tional in­tegrity to be threaded through­out. Ev­ery­one’s play­ing be­came sym­pa­thetic to

Efron’s sub­ject mat­ter, and the re­sult­ing per­for­mances are more in­ti­mate and mag­netic.

“It was so much more ex­pos­ing do­ing it this way,” he con­tin­ues. “Be­ing so open with my band­mates was re­ally scary. The whole process was ac­tu­ally pretty rough be­cause of where I was emo­tion­ally. With the song Awaken, Michael [Rose, vo­cal­ist] and I sat down to­gether in the stu­dio be­fore we recorded and I ex­plained what I was feel­ing when I wrote those lyrics, and in the end his per­for­mance was just amaz­ing. I ac­tu­ally cried after he’d fin­ished record­ing. Michael is a fan­tas­tic singer and he re­ally man­aged to bring the emo­tions I was feel­ing to life. I knew I had to ex­pose my­self with the true mean­ing of the songs so that we could de­liver the lyrics with the right emo­tions.

“But for most songs,” he adds, turn­ing the tide of the con­ver­sa­tion to­wards why he’s had this change of lyri­cal heart, “it’s not so much about me and my prob­lems than it is ‘why did I ex­pose my­self in such a way’ and ‘how did I al­low my­self to do that?’”

Here, it’s not the des­ti­na­tion that mat­ters most to Efron – it’s be­ing able to make the jour­ney in the first place.

Awaken, a song which be­gins with gen­tle, cas­cad­ing clean gui­tar chords and dark, de­feated lyrics builds grace­fully through ris­ing dy­nam­ics into a stag­ger­ingly pow­er­ful song, marked with elec­tronic drums and Rose’s in­creas­ingly de­ter­mined and tri­umphant vo­cal per­for­mance. Hang­ing on an un­easy, dis­cor­dant note at the mid­way point, it soars from its epic, in­spired sound into a Dream

“Michael is a fan­tas­tic singer and he re­ally man­aged to bring the emo­tions I was feel­ing to life. I knew I had to ex­pose my­self with the true mean­ing of the songs so that we could de­liver the lyrics with the right emo­tions.”

Theater-flavoured bar­rage of in­tense riffs bub­bling with key­boards. It grows an­grier and more cin­e­matic, where Devin Townsend-sized or­ches­tra­tions char­ac­terise its sum­mit, be­fore a heart­felt vo­cal re­frain, which nods its head to Pe­riph­ery, stirs your heart. For a song with­out any real cho­rus to speak of – in­stead it has an “emo­tional peak”, Efron says – it’s in­cred­i­bly ad­dic­tive, pro­gres­sive in its un­pre­dictabil­ity but nat­u­ral in the way its emo­tions blos­som and burn. It’s the record’s crown­ing mo­ment.

“Time And Time Again, which is prob­a­bly the most per­sonal to me, was the hard­est song to write,” he re­flects. “It’s al­ways hard for me to know that the lyrics I have are the right lyrics for that song and that I’m 100 per cent be­hind them. I had to think about how to ex­pose my feel­ings, how do I feel about shar­ing such emo­tions and ex­pe­ri­ences – be­cause in real life I never do – so songs like that, where I was so emo­tion­ally in­volved, were ex­tremely dif­fi­cult to write.”

The track is laced with an In Ab­sen­ti­aera Por­cu­pine Tree sto­ry­telling pres­ence which works hard to craft vivid, chill­ing images in your head. Efron’s words float atop rip­pling synth tex­tures, which also take in el­e­ments of bands such as Shat­tered Skies and Voy­ager. This is the one song he gives a lit­tle back­ground on.

“It’s ba­si­cally me telling the world that

I’m lonely and I’m tired of be­ing lonely,” he says. “It was a big mo­ment for me where I re­ally be­gan to be more di­rect and blunt with my lyrics.”

In­deed, you can al­most hear his dis­com­fort at open­ing up like this dur­ing this con­ver­sa­tion, but such in­ter­nal brav­ery has helped make A Way Out so much more ac­com­plished than its pre­de­ces­sors.

“Chain Re­ac­tion spoke about broader, less per­sonal topics like world hunger or dic­ta­tors. This time I wrote from in­side my­self and if I liked it, it stayed. I didn’t want to over­think it.”

While Efron is very much the leader of the band, the one who al­ways has the fi­nal say, his emo­tions and sub­con­scious al­most be­came his leader, and his de­ci­sion to al­low this to hap­pen has proven to be an in­spired one.

An­other big turn­ing point with this record is the ad­di­tion of a new gui­tarist, and this idea of adding an ex­tra mu­si­cian was born from Efron’s grow­ing pas­sion – now bor­der­ing on ob­ses­sion – with pro­duc­tion.

Efron ex­plains, “I also pro­duced our first two al­bums but I was still ex­per­i­ment­ing and learn­ing. This time we did it in my stu­dio. I or­ches­trated ev­ery­thing and was in con­trol. This made it cheaper to record and I could use all my tricks to chop down pro­duc­tion time too, but there was also the feel­ing that maybe I could have pro­duced it bet­ter. So that’s part of the rea­son the al­bum took so long to fin­ish.

“I lis­ten to a lot of [Pol­ish death metal band] De­cap­i­tated,” he con­tin­ues. “In fact, apart from Haken, Earth­side and Kar­nivool, I don’t lis­ten to any prog metal, and so even though we’re not try­ing to sound like De­cap­i­tated, they def­i­nitely in­flu­enced how we pro­duced the al­bum. They are ex­actly the rea­son we added an­other gui­tar player. I hated the fact that ev­ery time there’s a gui­tar solo, the rhythm gui­tar dis­ap­pears. With only one gui­tar player I felt we were miss­ing that ex­tra heav­i­ness. I wanted to move fur­ther down the heavy mu­sic route – I want this band to be more heavy than pro­gres­sive.”

That in­creased ag­gres­sion, which builds off the thick lay­er­ing of gui­tars while es­chew­ing the tones with which the band strived to strike a bal­ance be­tween light and dark­ness, has pro­vided them with an ex­tra im­pe­tus. It has pro­pelled them for­wards. Room 11 hinges on spin­ning, dizzy­ing yet hyp­notic Meshug­gah grooves while Sev­ered lav­ishes an en­er­getic metal track with pal­pa­ble doses of pop. We Are Free boasts a manic, pur­pose­fully scat­ter­shot and glitch­ing break­down. Mean­while,

Pup­pet On Strings is full of en­ter­tain­ing, goug­ing vo­cal hooks.

There’s a vig­or­ous in­ten­sity to these tracks, even dur­ing its dy­nam­i­cally re­served mo­ments – of which there are far more than on pre­vi­ous al­bums – which Efron was eager to bring out in his pro­duc­tion. He wanted to sur­round the lis­tener with sound.

“I like to sit very close to the screen in the cinema,” he ex­plains. “So if you want to see some­thing in the up­per right-hand cor­ner you have to con­cen­trate on it so ev­ery­thing else is just a blur. It’s the same with mu­sic, when you fo­cus on one gui­tar player you can still hear that some­one else is do­ing some­thing dif­fer­ent on the other side and that re­ally ex­cites me.”

So sit tight, get up close and im­merse your­self in an al­bum of cin­e­matic pro­por­tions. Mu­si­cally, it’s driven by

Dream Theater-eq­sue bom­bas­tic for­ays and a mod­ern metal ap­proach. Emo­tion­ally, its trans­par­ent and en­gag­ing per­son­al­ity sees you vi­car­i­ously ex­or­cis­ing Yoav Efron’s per­sonal tur­moil along­side him on each and ev­ery track.

With A Way Out, Dis­torted Har­mony will find a way into your head and your heart.

A Way Out is out now and is self-re­leased. See www.dis­tort­ed­har­mony.com for more in­for­ma­tion.

“Chain Re­ac­tion spoke about broader, less per­sonal topics like world hunger or dic­ta­tors. This time I wrote from in­side my­self and if I liked it, it stayed.”

DIS­TORTED HAR­MONY, L-R: YOEL GENIN, IGGY CO­HEN, YOAV EFRON, MICHAEL ROSE, YOGEV GABAY, AMIT PLASCHKES.

BANDLEADER YOAV EFRON: OF­FER­ING A WAY OUT.

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