The Isolation Game
posted on 2/2010 By:
Disarmonia Mundi first made waves in 2004 with their sophomore album, Fragments of D-Generation. It was a wicked little melodeath album in a time when wicked little melodeath albums were an increasingly rare commodity, and the album's modest success rendered this Italian duo a sneaky, sidelined Soilwork killer. The trick of their trade? Employing Soilwork's own Bjorn "Speed" Strid as a guest vocalist, a job he holds to this day. The crux of Fragments' appeal, quite frankly, was the opportunity to hear Strid sing on an album with legitimate balls, as his main unit had undergone a rather loathsome castatration at this juncture. Disarmonia Mundi's hyperspeed electro-bop was a killer vehicle for him (though still lacking the horsepower of a Terror 2000).
So Fragments was a right place, right time, right dude kind of thing; a point proved by the largely ignored 2006 follow-up, Mind Tricks. No matter. These guys have proven to be as resourceful as they are resilient, and their latest, The Isolation Game, slips and slides like it's 2004 all over again. Their formula hasn't changed in the slightest: breakneck tempos, bouncy riffing, brighter-than-a-neon-teddy-bear lead work....and more pinballing, clean vocal harmonies than you can throw a Scar Symmetry CD at. It's a formula that works quite well in small doses. Unfortunately, at a bloated thirteen tracks, The Isolation Game will trigger a stomachache before the sugar high wears off.
It's a pretty decent buzz, though. The first half of this album is damned infectious, if not necessarily dangerous in any aspect. Opening shots "Cypher Drone" and "Structural Wound" pump out supercharged fun, as all three members trade manic vocals with playful vigor. "Building an Empire of Dust" is another space-race bouncehound, peppered with a bit of pseudo-arena Nightrage flavor. And the nonsensically-titled "Stepchild of Laceration" is the coolest cut. Easily the most aggressive track, Speed is all piss-and-venom here, and the quick-picked chorus is as fist-quaking as anything they've done to date.
Unfortunately, "Stepchild of Laceration" is The Isolation Game's pinnacle. The band wastes little time in laying an egg with the gag-inducing title track, then proceeds to dive face-first into a wormhole of forgettability. For all of these clean vocal passages (and they're fucking everywhere), there are precious few hooks. Worse yet, the band fail to take any risks. They're still stuck in the same squeaky-clean creative rut, even after a three-year layoff. The guitar work is safe, even by melodic death standards, and of most the vocal harmonies seem to exist simply for the sake of existing. And while the electronic element of the Disarmonia Mundi sound is persistent, it's never used to take chances or push boundaries, a la prior standouts like "Oceangrave."
These qualms make The Isolation Game a difficult album to recommend. Those familiar with Disarmonia Mundi's material already possess a superior, edgier album (in the exact same vein) in Fragments of D-Generation. Neophytes and wayward Speed Strid fans, likewise, should look to this entry in their catalog. The audience for The Isolation Game basically boils down to DM completists (if there are any) and those that can't muster any savagery without the help of the saccharine.
(Scar Symmetry geeks, I'm looking at you. Stop rockin' the air keys to "Separate Ways" and check this thing out.)
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