Based in Queensland, Slaves of Dissonance are a great addition to the Aussie metal scene. On their debut EP ‘Toxoplasmosis’, the riffs come with the heaviness of Lamb of God, the pneumatics of late period Death and Periphery, and even a smidgeon of TesseracT’s artiness, to create something that’s interesting and occasionally challenging, but somehow always familiar. On that score, its a release that pushes all of the right buttons.

‘Involuntary Labotomy’ opens with an intense thrash/hardcore riff that flaunts a great crossover sound. The guitar tones manage to be simultaneously hard and dirty, and when in full attack, they quickly set Slaves of Dissonance in place as a band with some huge balls. On the negative side, the more pneumatic end of the drum sound seems a little thin, with a little too much influence taken from the formative years of death metal. It’s a minor point, though, as once the band slide into more of a groove metal influenced verse, the way huge guitars collides with some deeper toms gives the band the sound of a truck. This riff-heavy workout isn’t just groove metal by numbers, either. There are moments where off-kilter prog metal time signatures send the musical core off in a couple of really arty directions, and a the way an even more hardcore infused vocal melds with some very 90s metal riffs always places a focus on energy. In the main, it’s like hearing classic Lamb of God spliced with Death, overseen by Gojira – a lethal concoction that sets this band out on a riff dominated path where their willingness to cross genres has the potential for something immense.

Taking the heaviness in a more rhythmic direction, ‘Panopticon City’ marries sharp prog metal lead guitar riffs with off-kilter grooves, leaving an aggressive vocal to hold everything together. Surprisingly, it always sounds natural, and when sliding into a more traditional chorus where a little sludge drives everything forward, the band show an easy knack for a riff. As before, their kitchen sink approach to arrangement allows for a few classic thrash riffs tempered with a little prog metal quirkiness, but most unexpected of all is a brief instrumental interlude where everyone sounds like they’ve dropped into some kind of funk metal time loop. This track might sound like three or four ideas stapled together, but presented with a boundless confidence it really works, and is effective enough to suggest that Slaves of Dissonance are one of the most interesting arrivals on the metal scene since Wizard Rifle and For The Imperium reminded everyone to cast off their musical shackles.

Even better, ‘Breathe’ opens with cleaner toned guitars and a deep drone rock sound, which set against a clean vocal very much showcases the band’s proggier interests. With the arrival of a busy drum part, it’s very difficult to avoid easy comparisons with Tool, but Slaves of Dissonance quickly make this their own after taking a left turn into a much heavier riff and introducing a throat-caning hardcore vocal. There are a couple of groove metal traits lurking beneath, supplying a link with the other tracks, but this is far more from the art metal sphere. There are moments that occasionally sounding like Toundra with vocals, before branching off again to squeeze in a few bars of deep chugging, beforereturning to proggier climes via the main riff. It’s all good, but during this number, it’s interesting to hear how pointed lead guitar notes dance against an almost funk tinged bass, which again suggests this is the work of a unit who are a cut above your average metal band, groove or otherwise.

Still showing no signs of being restrained, ‘Failure’ recycles a couple of sounds from the KoRn debut – now sounding genuinely retro – before offering a purer slab of groove metal, complete with horsey squeals from the guitar. About halfway through the first verse, these guys prove a match for any of that subgenre’s greatest heroes, but as before, aren’t content with nailing just that. And so, this number is subsequently injected with a couple of metalcore riffs, a pinch of death metal – courtesy of a tight as hell rhythm section – and finally, a call and response vocal where the shoutiest elements intensify for a superb climax. Individually, none of these sounds and influences are especially original, but Slaves of Dissonance show a genuine gift for mixing them together in a way that still feels fresh. Last up, the title cut makes a superb feature of the drums – despite a couple of thin tones early on, the drums on this release are immense – and captures some great thrash/groove crossover sounds throughout. Although showcasing a much harsher vocal, there are huge chunks of this lengthier workout where a love of Lamb of God really shines through, and although the chorus is a little flat, there’s always something within the music to keep things sounding great. Whether it’s the way that harder guitar sounds add a tiny sliver of trad metal to the heavy groove, or the way the rhythm section will happily drop into something more of the prog metal persuasion whenever instrumental opportunities arise, the arrangement is great.

With its combination of almost relentless heaviness, earnest lyrical concerns and sheer power, ‘Toxoplasmosis’ has something to entertain a huge spectrum of “modern” metal fans. The EP format definitely makes the material seem more effective too, in that it doesn’t outstay its welcome or lead to fatigue, nor does it sell the listener too short. Overall, this is a near perfect showcase from a band who’ve arrived with all guns blazing. A superb debut.

August 2022