People often talk about a band's second album as a 'make-it-or-break-it' album. Mostly all inspiration has been put in recording the debut album and sometimes preparations took many years to make sure that the best compositions will end up on a cd. Usually a second album takes less time to prepare and sometimes − under the pressure of a record company − the stress factor put in a word as well. I had to think about this when I received Chain Reaction, the second album by the Israeli band Distorted Harmony. The new album has been released two years after their debut Utopia (2012, see review), a very impressive debut that took the band six (!) years of preparation. Well, should I start to worry now? No way, since the music of the band has grown; it's more mature now. The band's line-up still consists of Yoav Efron (keyboards), who also did a great job being the producer, Iggy Cohen (bass), co-founder Yogev Gabay (drums), Guy Landau (guitar) and last but not least singer Misha Soukhinin, who again surprised me as a vocalist extraordinaire.
Strong compositions, much variation and a brilliant sound are what you get on Chain Reaction. When I say that the music has been matured I mean that the compositions are more balanced, the heavy pieces hit you harder and the melodies are more adventurous. But what struck me the most are the vocal performances; they dig deeper under the surface and with more emotion. While listening to Every Time She Smiles, the album's opening piece, I got easily carried away with Distorted Harmony's music: a slow and smooth start finally took me to a crescendo of mighty guitar sounds. The heaviness of the guitar riffs leads to the vocals. Some of the comments on the previous album stated that the vocals sounded to pop-like, but for me this light vocal style defines Distorted Harmony and these are the only vocals I can imagine being suitable for them. Just listen to the refrain; you'll never get it out of your head! I even wake up with this refrain in my head.
Children Of Red starts as a very heavy power metal song with an incredible guitar sound. When the vocals take over, I'm again surprised how well this combination works. This time Soukhinin adds a sort of grunting and screaming vocal style to his repertoire which results in another great composition. Goosebumps assure me that Misguided has started; a killer riff leads to an intense vocal part over a layer of keyboards that only enhances the intensity. Accessible singing leads to an extensive instrumental part in which keyboards perfectly balance the heavy guitars, drums and bass. A stunning guitar solo forms the icing on the cake. Nothing (But The Rain) shows Efron as a composer and keyboard player; it's a nice composition that gives me time to catch my breath again which is needed to undergo As One. This piece is less heavy than the previous songs, but again the voice of Misha Soukhinin carried me away.
Next piece is Hollow which builds up to a heavy monster. Whispering vocals and voices that belong to alternative rock are all are part of Soukhinin's repertoire. Together with Yoav Efron's outstanding talent for writing fine compositions, a classic song has been born here. As You Go shows another side of Distorted Harmony; it's based on acoustic guitars which are the perfect background for the smooth vocals. Another point of rest, but with Natural Selection the power is back again; the staccato guitar sounds of the upper string provide the ultimate base for melodic vocals. Both the guitar and the keyboards remind me of the technique of Dream Theater, while the drums and the bass guitar create a special atmosphere. To me this is an absolute highlight! And when you think you've heard it all, you get confused by the final composition Methylene Blue: a smooth opening, intense vocals that lead to a technical instrumental intermezzo that returns to the intense kind of singing of Kurt Cobain (Nirvana).
What else can I say about this album? As far as I'm concerned this album has it all; a great guitar sound and a fantastic rhythm section without which this mighty sound would not have been so powerful. Moreover, the band have an amazing keyboard player who composes wonderful songs, and a singer with a voice that grabs you by the throat and won't let go until the last note is played. For me Chain Reaction is the absolute highlight of the year so far!
***** Pedro Bekkers (edited by Peter Willemsen)
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