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Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Album Review: Loch Vostok - Dystopium

Having never come across Loch Vostok before, I was quite surprised to hear, upon listening to this, their fourth album, just about everything but the kitchen sink blazing back out of the speakers at me. You name it, from the abrasive hectoring of Lamb Of God to the 80's commercial rock polish of Whitesnake (see 'Navigator') and on to the sweeping pomp of Turisas, you'll find it in 'Dystopium'. So just who are these adventurous Swedes?

History tells us that they formed back in 2001 when three members of prog-metal act Mayadome decided to split and look for something a little more destructive to play with. You really only have to know that former drummer Teddy Möller has switched instruments, to perform both lead vocal duties and lead guitar for Loch Vostok, to realise the talent that lurks within their ranks. With 'Dystopium' they clearly have their sights set on ruffling a few feathers with potentially provocative song titles like 'A Mission Undivine' and 'World Trade Dissenter' - no, it's not quite what you think.

'Dystopium' starts big. Real big. Fiercely thrashy, shredded guitars release to give the spasming bass, pounding kick-drum and emotive, wildly adaptive Dickinson-esque vocal some space to spread themselves out. The black chords, djent dynamics and death motif quickly step in to wrench away any prospect of the music getting too emotive and instead manage to bestow an almost seedy vibe on proceedings. 'Repeat Offender' changes tack once more and bristles with expansive melodics, mimicking the same big choruses and stop-go patterns that makes Viking metal such a force.

There's also the aforementioned 'World Trade Dissenter' to chew on and this turns out to be an attack on multinational corporations playing games with our earnings rather than a few choice words about the War On Terror. It gallops along with a strong, clear vocal taking the lead - imagine the kind of sound Iron Maiden might make if they channelled Therion and you won't be a million miles away.

Shamefully, the band seem to run out of steam half-way in and try too hard to mix up their bag of tricks. There's the crazily overplayed mish-mash of prog and power that is 'In The Wake Of Humanity', whilst the insidious 'Viral Strain' comes off sounding like the deformed bastard son of O.S.I. and Betraying The Martyrs as they try and weld electro-industrial metal, with added vocoder, to the side of the rumbling tank that is pig-grunting deathcore. There are also far too many occasions where they disappointingly fade out just as they are getting going. Now that's unforgivable. They really need to tighten this ship up. Having said that, there are moments like 'Absence', which you'll be stunned to hear sounds an awful lot like they've stumbled upon Devin Townsend's marbles, and 'Sacred Structure', which is the undoubted star of the show. It integrates more progressive elements, like its kitsch, warbling guitar riff into the verse and a classy harmony to an insanely catchy chorus.

Being as chaotic as it is, 'Dystopium' is by no means a perfect album (for one thing, Teddy Möller definitely needs to tighten up his shaky, nail-gargling growls), but it's definitely worth checking out if you're a fan of inventive melodeath or, ironically, modern progressive metal. You do have to take the rough with the smooth but that's what happens when a band tries to cram every one of their influences into one album - Loch, Vostock and two smoking barrels. Sweden has been hiding a bit of a potential gem here.

Also online @ Metal Team UK = http://www.metalteamuk.net/oct11reviews/cdreviews-loch.htm
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