originally written by Chris McDonald
Well, this is definitely not what I was expecting.
Long-running Danish act Illdisposed began their life as a catchy, epic melodic death metal band, with lots of flashy guitar solos and groovy riffs. This is the only era of the band with which I’m familiar, and I’ve been completely ignorant of their work from the late 90s until now, so I was expecting something at least moderately similar to that era of the project. I have to say that this album surprised me immensely – not just by sounding different than I anticipated, but by how much I enjoy it.
The style of There Is Light (But It’s Not For Me) is a bit hard to classify or provide reference for. It’s not out of anything overtly bizarre or indescribable, and the combination of influences here is neither revolutionary nor unheard of. I guess this could be considered some weird kind of symphonic/melodic death metal. The guitars are thick and tuned low, the vocals are fairly guttural (though not to a bowel-shaking degree), and the simple riffs are supplemented with a large variety of prominent keyboard and electronic sounds. The tempos are brisk but never that fast, and the compositions as a whole are very digestible. I guess a distant comparison would be newer Dark Tranquility, but even that’s not very accurate. This stuff is heavier and not as sugary as a lot of that band’s later work.
Anyway, comparisons be damned – Illdisposed has crafted one hell of an infectious take on modern metal. I can’t really recall any moments on this album that bored me or rubbed me the wrong way — impressive considering the abundance of rather cheesy melodies in the electronics and the simplicity of the song structures as a whole. In fact, while they may be outside the taste of many reading this review, the keyboards really contribute a ton of depth and catchiness to this record. They’re never brought up too far in the mix but are always perfectly audible, dancing around over the chugging guitar riffs in a subtle but contributory fashion. I particularly love the symphonic tones, but all the sounds add to the music in some way. Bright, uplifting lead guitar also surfaces occasionally, lending an element of emotion and personality to what is often quite militant instrumentation.
I was pleased to discover that the vocals never wander out of growl/scream mode into clean territory, and the riffs are almost uniformly heavy and articulate. Drums occasionally burst into a quick thrash beat or storming double-kick groove, but it’s always in support of the song and never for its own sake. Really, everything about this album’s construction is remarkably solid and consistent. Rather than alternate between heavy and non-heavy parts, Illdisposed builds an aggressive framework upon which to layer a variety of different musical and emotional tones. There’s some angry, extreme moments, but the band is really at its best when it embraces its poppy melodic sense to deliver a simple, irresistible musical idea, such as in the heartfelt verse/chorus exchange of “Taste of You, ” the delightful electro-charged bridge of “Sunday Black,” and the enthusiastic guitar/electronic interplay of “We.” It’s an uncomplicated and highly effective approach to songwriting that gives the straightforward compositions an added layer of complexity and range.
I think what really sets this album apart is how it’s portrayed to the listener. While the production is quite slick and the musicianship sharp as a whip, there’s something very personable and direct about Illdisposed’s music. It’s intelligent and confident, but still completely genuine and not overly ambitious. It’s one of the most inviting and listener-friendly albums I’ve reviewed here recently, but this is just as much due to how well it’s composed and executed as it is to the style of the music itself. In a perfect world, this kind of stuff would serve as the gateway to more obscure metal over many of the mainstream artists currently populating the scene. There Is Light (But It’s Not For Me) is just an extremely enjoyable album — melodic without being sappy, simplistic without being shallow, and as catchy as anything you’ve heard this year.