One of the most interesting things about following the history of a genre is seeing how the newest generation builds upon all those that preceded it. For example, with progressive metal, it’s fair to say that (excluding many other examples) King Crimson influenced Dream Theater, Porcupine Tree, and Tool, and each of these bands has influenced countless new bands. Case in point: Distorted Harmony. On their debut LP, Utopia, they undeniably sound like a mash-up of other artists; however, contrary to many copycat colleagues, their work somehow manages to feel utterly fresh, ambitious, and fascinating at the same time. In other words, this approach has been done to death, but rarely (in recent times) has it been done this well.
A sort of oxymoronic name (like Gentle Giant), the roots of Distorted Harmony go back to 2006, when keyboardist Yoav Efron wrote a piece entitled “Utopia.” Currently, the line-up also includes Misha Soukhinin (Vocals), Guy Landau (guitars), Iggy Cohen (bass), and Yogev Gabay (drums). Unsurprisingly, in addition to some of the aforementioned bands, their influences include Symphony X, Muse, and Opeth. They describe their method as “A heavy riff followed by a symphonic interlude. Sweet melodic vocals accompanied by unique Jazz changes. Intricate time signatures, melodic death innuendos and heavy metal combined with modern synth sounds and other electronic music influences.” That pretty much sums it up. With its mixture of hectic complexity and soft melodies, Utopia is fully of heavenly heaviness.
“Kono Yume” begins with (and sustains throughout) a mixture of staccato piano and strings, which easily recalls the opening of Pain of Salvation’s sophomore masterpiece, One Hour by the Concrete Lake. Eventually, guitar riffs and intense percussion take the track into more foreboding territory, and jaded metal fans might think that they know exactly where the piece is going. And they’d be wrong. Basically, the track erupts into a mixture of soaring, affective melodies, classical foundations, and some wonderful experimentation with dynamics. It’s a mesmerizing journey and a fantastic opener.
Similarly, “Breathe” bears an uncanny resembles (both in timbres and arrangements) to another one of today’s best prog metal acts, Sky Architect. While such blatant similarities would usually be a negative trait, the precise style is so unique (hence why Sky Architect specifically comes to mind) that it’s actually refreshing to hear another band succeed with it. As for the rest of the album, well, it never loses its creative punch. The vocal arrangements vary from superbly simple to fairly elaborate, and the music is thoroughly epic and touching without being outright pretentious or obnoxious.
Essentially, while so many other bands only bring franticness, Distorted Harmony also implements plenty of fragility. There are always a few extra layers of endearing arpeggios, dramatic strings, and/or other surprising timbres to keep the compositions vibrant and addicting. The group certainly isn’t doing anything revolutionary here, but they’re more original and creative than most. Their focus on songwriting, variation, and intriguing atmosphere is quite clear, and anyone who’s grown tired of clichés and generic takes on the genre will find Utopia to be paradise.