Album Review: Dyssidia – Costly Signals

Album Review: Dyssidia - Costly Signals

Celebrating their 10th anniversary this year, Adelaide, Australia progressive metal quintet Dyssidia have come a long way since then. After three EP’s the band has penned a full-length debut entitled Costly Signals, released on March 27th this year.

Comparing it to the previous three releases, Costly Signals makes an obvious effort to mend the flaws, and the album embraces tighter songwriting, more concise transitions and tamer instrumentation. The delicate balance is exemplified by each individual musician, treading the tightrope between proficiency and humility remarkably well. On “The Gutted Stag,” drummer Liam Weedall meticulously works his snare drum during a tense moment that could have easily turned into chaos. Rudiments your high school percussion teacher could have taught you, utilized for a much greater purpose.

“Infinitesimal” begins in media res, launching directly into a hypnotically serpentine odd-metered riff underlain by scattered spirals of percussion and an undulating, intricately woven bassline. In a jarring transition, the song’s pace accelerates into a vivacious and grimy double-bass death-march, with Mitch Brackman providing his snarled mid-register screech over a steady, even rhythmic pulse; the remainder of the track alternates between variations of the introductory riff and its heavier latter counterpart until a whirlwind solo erupts from the hands of guitarist Corey Davis, closing out the piece.

These sudden shifts in speed and intensity characterize Costly Signals entirely, with many of its compositions based on a similarly alternating structure: as if to immediately re-iterate this pattern, the album’s fifth track “Arrival” commences with a clean, melancholic intro that mutates into another savagely triumphant death metal assault, then reverts into its original form and ends with another death metal outburst. Furthermore, the haphazard nature of the album’s first movements displays the emphasis Dyssidia has placed on the progressive elements within the album: although their previous releases are all thoroughly prog-infused, this endeavor sees the band’s material essentially revolving around the experimental nature of its compositions.

The caliber of performance on Costly Signals is undeniably impeccable, with all five members deftly writhing and cartwheeling between densely claustrophobic tremolo passages and soaring virtuosic solos. In terms of pure musical ingenuity, some of the most striking moments throughout the album can be attributed to the fortuitously audible low-end wizardry of bassist Neil Palmer. Rather than simply thumping along as simplistic, rudimentary support for the rest of the band, he instead creates fascinating harmonies and extremely intricate shapes that wind their way between jagged and frenetic 1990s style riffs, sometimes even taking over a song’s melody entirely while Davis and keyboardist Dimitri Ionnou provide backing treble harmonies.

This clarity of tone and well-balanced auditory texture is largely thanks to the album’s extremely polished mixing and engineering, courtesy of V. Santura at Woodshed Studios; despite its gruff, obfuscated demeanor and faithfully executed homages to the shrill and spontaneous riffing style of old-school seath metal, it never spills over into abrasive or aurally dissonant territory thanks to the fluency and depth of sound endowed by its hyper-smooth production.

These sleek and crystal-clear sonic qualities notwithstanding, Costly Signals spares no measure of brutality in its faster moments, with Brackman summoning otherworldly vocal specters atop blistering percussion and evilly meticulous riffs. On this album, though, Dyssidia balances every moment of calculated destruction they unleash with an equal measure of melodious tranquility. Many passages are in fact unabashedly melodic, even conveying themes of peacefulness and positivity. The whole of “Good Grief” is arguably the most potent example of this compromise between polarized aesthetics — composed of equal parts serenity and violence, it excellently demonstrates the equilibrium that Dyssidia seeks to realize with their music. Even in its final moments, Costly Signals surprises the listener, as the tour-de-force closing track “If truth Be Told” unexpectedly ascends into a towering epic prog metal elegy.

When looked at individually, each track on Costly Signals is extremely well-built with its own distinctive essence of ground-breaking fusion between diverse artistic principles. It is this hidden potential within their sound that makes one yearn for Dyssidia‘s already fantastic music to surge above and beyond the ranks of their contemporaries. For now, they have wrought another impressive work of progressive death metal that will pique the interests of both genre purists and individuals with more wide-ranging tastes, establishing themselves once again as an invaluable hidden treasure in the vast labyrinth that is metal.

Costly Signals is out on March 27th; pre-order the album from Bandcamp here. Follow Dyssidia on Facebook.

Dyssidia - Costly Signals

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: