There are bands on this earth that would be better off without vocals. Often we hear music critics proclaim that albums are good but for the vocals. Perhaps they are too harsh or formulaic. Perhaps the vocals are just in the way of the musicianship underneath. Regardless, vocals are not always a positive. So what happens when bands eschew the tried and true formula and veer off into an instrumental world? Well, for starters, bands that don’t have vocalists need to be able to tell stories, communicate emotion and have interactive conversations with the listener by way of instrumentation. Probably the best example of this would be modern jazz. The entire genre is more-often-than-not without vocalists yet the musicians are able to have conversations with each other all the while allowing the listener, not usually an expert musician, to understand.
Dysrhythmia have always fit the jazz formula. Despite their strict composition and lack of improvisation, their music easily conveys meaning to their audience without the use of spoken language. On their latest album The Veil of Control, the band is back at it, procuring angular guitar lines, jagged rhythms and contrasting, dissonant harmonies all played in time signatures that would make a percussion nerd soil themselves.
There are tracks like “Black Memory” in which Dysrhythmia affects a Krallice-like take on black metal (bassist Colin Marston is also in Krallice). Blast beats give way to solid rhythms and the guitars set the frantic pace throughout. Immediately as the track opens, it’s as if a discussion was begun mid-sentence. There is no beginning and there is no end, at least not where there is supposed to be. And that’s one of the brilliant methods of composition that Dysrhythmia employ. They are able to take the listener in their hands and abscond to any musical landscape they choose.
On the extreme end of the spectrum there is “Selective Abstraction” that draws from a more Shellac or Pere Ubu framework. Thick, metallic guitars slam away as the rhythms cycle through a mesmerizing and harsh attack. The rhythm opens like Godzilla marching through town. That destruction is contrasted expertly through the use of atmospheric guitar and cymbal work.
Alternately, “Severed and Whole” presents a two-headed monster. There are times of dissonant beauty as atmospheric drums support guitars. Contrasting those sections are a thicker, more mid-heavy distortion level on the guitars as the track crescendos and decrescendos. This track also highlights Dysrhythmia’s ability to play in multiple time signatures at once. Their rhythms are complex yet primal–as if their songs could be clapped out by a group of early humans sitting around a fire. There’s a level of organic communication occurring rhythmically.
Dysrhythmia will always appeal to a select group of people. Their tracks are challenging and their rhythms are dizzying. Yet, the people who enjoy their music will be from all generations and walks of life. Not simply punks and not simply metalheads or “musician’s musician” types. Their fanbase will represent a cross-section of society–much like elite campuses their fans will enjoy the challenge and difficulty of their music knowing that the reward will be well worth the effort.