In some ways, this second EP from Disorientation sounds like nothing you’ve ever heard before. Scratch the surface, of course, and you’ll find bits and pieces of familiar noise, but nothing presented by this avant-garde metal duo ever takes a predictable route. This is doom and black metal, but never as you’ve experienced it before. It’s almost industrial, but never entirely so. There are also elements of avant-garde jazz prog and chamber vocals appearing, somewhat unexpectedly, alongside the heavier moments.

The opening bars of ‘Dissociation’ set up an angry metal riff that falls between black metal and thrash, but also has a faint underscoring of industrial, thanks to heavy usage of programmed drums. Then, just as you think you know where things are headed, the anger stops, allowing for a honk of an oboe to fill space. Things then take an even more dramatic turn when Marie-Claude Fleury lets out a massive shriek before dropping into a death metal growl, surely designed to see off any doubters. Bringing the two elements together, the following riffs sound like a tight extreme metal band with augmentation from Gong, as the oboe continues to lay a jazzy riff against the sharp edges. It shouldn’t work, but with the vocal branching out to feature strange choral moments, it’s always interesting even though it all becomes rather more strange. Letting go of the thrashier elements, the second movement finds guitarist Daniel Daris dropping a more melodic riff against a traditional oboe melody, before Marie-Claude adds operatic voices. Then, making good on the hints of chorale music, a middle eight goes full classical avant-garde, before the riffs descend into the most funereal doom sound ever, beneath a retching black metal vocal. It’s dramatic, certainly, but it’s absolutely twisted. Closing with a deep guitar chug and oboe duel, leading back into the opening riff, augmented by extra drums, this is certainly dramatic. Strangely, such potentially scary sounds rarely sounded so good.

For those not frightened away, there’s equally good sounds to follow when ‘Jaded’ opens with an abrasive black metal guitar riff, played effectively against a waltzing time signature. Within seconds, the musical melee increases when an atonal vocal and a world of jazzy instrumentation seeks to upset. The mix of free jazz, theatrical vocal and extreme metal can feel messy, but as before, it’s quite unlike anything else. Shifting into a blend of intensive thrash guitar and death metal vocal, the number then explores some of Disorientation’s purer metallic intents across a couple of very abrasive minutes, before reaching for the other extreme, where Marie-Claude’s atonal screaming joins disjointed theatrical drones. The effect is like experiencing the worst of Yoko Ono colliding with a weird dark cabaret act masterminded by John Zorn. It’ll take a lot of patience to get through, but there’s little doubt that, here, this duo are marking out a very distinctive territory for themselves. The much shorter ‘Dark Side’, meanwhile, explores a world of disjointed orchestration on a weird King Crimson-esque intro before exploding into a slab of industrial tinged thrash, dominated by mechanised rhythms and some very sharp guitar work. That’s not to say that Disorientation’s more interesting elements are sidelined; the oboe pokes through a couple of musical stops with utter glee, and there are other times where the free jazz lurks with intent, but this is certainly more of a more metal oriented workout. That should make for an easier entry point to the whole EP, but as if to make sure that’s never the case, the vocal reaches for some of its most piercing extremes at the neo-operatic end, and the most guttural when approaching death metal influences. It’s fair to say it’s pleasingly bizarre at best, utterly confronting at worst. Disorientation are definitely one of a kind.

This EP is obtuse, ugly and deeply troubled. Yet, at the same time, it’s oddly fascinating. It’s also hard to believe that its also only sixteen minutes long. The opening number occasionally feels as if it teases and tortures the listener for almost as long with its many mood changes. In terms of finding a way into Disorientation’s world of noise, there’s no easy route – and the duo seemingly want to keep it that way. For those who wrongly claim that extreme metal has nothing new to offer, this EP will gladly prove otherwise.

December 2023