To start, let's examine the timeline of progressive metal. The journey started in the 80's with acts like Queensryche, Fates Warning, and Dream Theater, who honed technical and theoretical virtuosity along with conceptual theme tropes. Once the subgenre hit the 90's, many new acts developed greater experimental heights as well as a softer and more emotionally vulnerable aspect. Regarding the most recent decade, a higher sense of production and the offshoots of the djent style are most apparent. Overall, the evolution of prog metal within the past forty years is quite impressive. However, I think a disconnect has developed over the years.
When compared side-by-side, there is a vast void between the original prog pioneers and modern ones. Although many contemporary artists are open about their likening to the original prog metal bands, I never quite hear the influence shine through their music as much as I'd hoped. With a growing fear that modern prog has lost a sense of the subgenre's roots, I stumbled upon a group that perfectly bridges the gap between the past and the now.
Although Distorted Harmony hasn't exactly hit mainstream success in modern prog, they are an undeniably underrated act. I'd assume part of the reason that the band is fairly underground is the fact they're based in Isreal. Like other Middle Eastern artists I've discovered, the talent and creativity are clearly abundant. However, these acts unfortunately have not yet reached Western audiences. While Distorted Harmony's two previous LPs, Utopia and Chain Reaction, show immense innovation, I expect A Way Out to finally break the band into the limelight. This LP showcases the skills of Michael Rose (vocals: HaTachtonim), Amit Plaschkes (guitar), Yoel Genin (guitar), Iggy Cohen (bass), Yoav Efron (keyboards, programming), and Yogev Gabay (drums: Systema Teleion, Anakdota). This is also the group's first record with the new two listed guitarists considering the departure of previous member Guy Landau.
The most applaudable aspect of A Way Out has to be the cohesion. The Tel Aviv quintet cram a universe of dynamics and emotion throughout these eleven tracks. "Room 11," for example, starts off as juicy and beefy as Meshuggah, but transitions into a melodic marathon touching on Tesseract or Monuments. The contrast between the lead-heavy moments and the penetrative vocal hooks is radical, yet the group glues everything together into a smooth and swallowable pill.
Not a single song has a sense of unnecessary predictability or tonal consistency. The band tends to sandwich subdued soundscapes between headbanging movements. "Awaken"—disguised as a Periphery-like anthem—seduces the listener before churning out some Dream Theater and Devin Townsend-esque musicalities. Parts like the lush orchestral intro on "For Ester" or the more piano-driven electronic soundscape for "Someday" could have very well come from a Porcupine Tree or Steven Wilson record.
The point is that these guys aren't one trick ponies. They have the ability to harness the best aspects of every progressive metal generation. If you're old school and get down with 80's prog, I'd suggest the eccentric opener "Downfall." For those who follow the softer prog family, check out "Puppet on Strings" and "Time and Time Again" for their touching vulnerable moments. Songs like "Anima" and "We Are Free" are sure to blow away current djent fans. Additionally, there's some phenomenal synth work on many of these cuts all prog fans can appreciate.
Distorted Harmony is quite possibly the first band to truly bridge the gap between modern progressive metal and the subgenre's success of the 80's and 90's. In the span of a single song, there are influences of early Devin Townsend, Dream Theater, Porcupine Tree, and Periphery. There is an awareness of progressive rock and metal's infinite stylistic spectrum and the band absolutely explores many paths. A Way Out is the ideal direction that progressive metal should head moving forward. With a tasteful respect and influence from past prog pioneers mixed with the musical style's current tropes, Distorted Harmony unearth an absolute balance and best of both worlds. I eagerly look forward to this band's rise in acclaim and continual innovation within the progressive realm.