Originally written by K. Scott Ross.
Step right up, step right up. Are you angry? Of course you are. And we’ve got just the product for you. Midwestern angst, right here. Slipknot CDs from the 90s! Oh, that doesn’t suit your mood? Something heavier, no? Well, how about this one? Suicide Silence. Classic deathcore from California. Never gets old. No? Acacia Strain? Whitechapel? You were hoping for something a little bit more sophisticated? We’ve got something special just arrived from Canada that you might like then. Fresh Ion Dissonance.
That’s right, Ion Dissonance are back with their fifth album. It’s the same five guys we’ve known, except for their fifth bass player, after their last bassist, Yannick Desgroseillers, developed health problems. So what can be said about Cast the First Stone? Is it angry? Absolutely. Is it noisy? Pretty much. What about sophisticated? Well…
That depends entirely on how you choose to define sophistication. Is it musically complex? Without doubt. Ion Dissonance has long been known for jagged rhythms and syncopated burbling instrument shrieks, and they continue that trend on tracks like “To Expiate” and “Ill Will.” The band takes the simple “chugga-chugga breakdowns are heavy” mentality of deathcore and mixes in an unhealthy dose of Dillinger Escape Plan-esque math madness to break up all the ruts.
“D.A.B.D.A. State of Discomposure” is the longest song on the album at nearly nine minutes (the other ten tracks are between two and three minutes), and an album highlight. The song feels like a Meshuggah track from the Chaosphere era, but wrapped with extra barbed wire. The lead playing throughout the album gives a Chaosphere or Catch Thirtythree vibe, and the influence is felt strongest in this song. Particularly on their last few albums, the djent-inventing Swedes have developed a heavy but smooth tone; an expertly polished sculpture. Ion Dissonance, on the other hand, just sounds gritty, like an artist was aiming for the same sort of thing but didn’t bother to clean the splatted weld off his sculpture and then set it in the path of a diesel engine to get sufficiently grimed up.
If you’re looking for sophistication in lyrics, though, you’re more likely to be disappointed. The album opens with “Burdens” where Kevin McCaughey screams “Get out of my head!” There’s a lot of yelling about how “I don’t care anymore” and “I don’t fuck with you.” The music might have matured a lot in the last decade, but the lyrical content is hardly a step above “I feel the hate rise up in me” from ‘99. Now, delivery, on the other hand? That’s where McCaughey sells it. His screaming is so raw-throated it almost hurts to listen to it, and this style is the best influence that the band takes from hardcore music.
Oh, and breakdowns. Those are here, so if you hate them on principle, take note. Surprisingly, they’re less prominent than on any Suffocation album of note. “The Truth Will Set You Free” provides a good example of a breakdown used to finish up a song and transition to the next. “To Lift the Dead Hand of the Past” invokes breakdown style to provide a first verse in the midst of the destructive sounds of diminished chords. There are a few more, but they don’t define the songs like typical deathcore bands often do.
The production on Cast the First Stone feels a tad muted at first when compared side-by-side to Ion Dissonance’s last album, 2010’s Cursed. But that’s only at first. Cursed suffered from an extremely harsh treble spike that made listening to the 49-minute album an exercise in endurance. Cast the First Stone is only 36 minutes, and once you get through the first song or so everything feels snappy and sharp without being painful. It’s certainly better than the band sounded back on 2005’s Solace. Considering that they use 8-string guitars these days, having a good balance between the low-end of guitar and bass and the pounding of drums is more important than ever. The band accomplishes that. Turn up “Suffering: The Art of Letting Go” and marvel at how you can hear the bass, the 8th guitar string, the kick drums, the cymbals, and the pinch harmonics all at once.
So, are you angry? Ion Dissonance still is. Perhaps it’s time to ride along with them for a few miles. Maybe you’ll find out that by comparison, you’re actually pretty tranquil. Or maybe you’ll thrash and smash your way to apoplectic rage. Your results may vary. Either way, Cast the First Stone is worth your eartime.