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Dysrhythmia - Pretest

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Artist: Dysrhythmia

Album: Pretest

Label: Relapse

Review date: Jul. 30, 2003

Not Your Daddy's Metal

This isn’t the kind of thing I normally review. Though I’ve written for several publications, the music I generally cover tends to fall into jazz, free music, or various forms of experimental and improvised music. But I’ve been a lifelong fan of heavy, angry, out rock too (and, for what it’s worth, I’m a lifelong funkateer as well). So I figured I’d try a shot at this band, being that it’s being released on the fine Relapse label (which, along with Hydrahead and a few others, is one of the better metal labels around). What I found was not the crushing, prog/math metal I expected but a much more idiosyncratic mix of some pretty hip post-punk (Jesus Lizard, Shellac, Don Caballero, and Slint; and hey, this disc was even produced by Steve Albini) with some of the darker and more moody metal being explored by Isis, Neurosis, or Cult of Luna (with maybe a bit of Swans thrown in for good measure).

They certainly play with the turn-on-a-dime accuracy of mathcore and progressive metal bands like the above (and particularly groups like Coalesce, Dillinger Escape Plan, Grand Ulena, or Botch), but the sonic template is rather different. As an all-instrumental trio (Jeff Eber plays drums, Kevin Hufnagel plays guitar, and Clayton Ingerson plays bass), they let the forms take shape not through vocals or lyrics but through very complex rhythmic patterns. What’s more, rather than simply pounding them out in full-on aggression, these guys are pretty hip to texture and color. They set up skirling, phased patterns a la King Crimson one minute, and dive into blessed-out fields of feedback the next. "My Relationship”, the most thrashy of these tracks, features good attention to dynamics, and an almost cinematic sensibility (the ever-mutating forms do really tell some good stories). Tunes like "And Just Go" or "Heat Sink" generate a slowly intensifying, escalating drama – they’re refined and flowing, yet packing the punch of a brutal live show. Guitar squalls shade into round-toned chimes that float over the winding bass and drum patterns.

It should be obvious that any expectations you have about metal will likely be dashed here. And in fact, each of these tunes defies convention and turns where you least expect it (it’s often hard to tell where they’re just improvising and where the structure is tight like a fist). These guys are smart and playful, but they can bring the rock. Hard. It’s not willfully complex, or tricky just for the sake of it; the tunes hang together as tunes first and foremost. The tension that’s at the heart of their music is the natural by-product of each member’s differing taste and training. Everything from sheer hard-hitting rock to ambient trance, from thrash to Melvins-like sludge-jams is put in the kick-ass blender that is Dysrhythmia. Hang on!

By Jason Bivins

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