Seattle based trio Dissonati began as a trip to Seattle by Portland, Oregon musician John Hagelbarger (keyboards, sax, & woodwinds), who came about 5 years ago to audition a guitarist. As the story goes, the guitarist did not work out but the drummer (John Reagan) who Hagelbarger asked to sit in with the audition, liked the music, so the birth of the band began. Ron Rutherford (guitars, guitar synth, bass, lead and backing vocals, occasional keys) was added later to form the band that released the debut “Reductio Ad Absurdum”. The total time is 44:51 minutes.
Things begin with a Porcupine Tree/Opeth/Marillion styled piece of just over 10 minutes. Though a bit odd, the whiskey Tom Waits blues grounded vocals give the band their own sound and are best at the higher range and also with harmony added. With repeated listens, they are easy to warm up to, and mix nicely with the instrumentation. I hear all sorts of influences beyond the more neo prog here with parts of more classic progressive rock like King Crimson, Genesis, and Pink Floyd. I instantly notice that no one tries to overplay and I respect that immensely in a group of musicians. Each part is well thought out and the three musicians play extremely well together.
Track 2 ( ‘Middle Man’) has a more sparse and wandering beginning with guitar and then a nice connection with drums, then all else brings a cool mix of a few seconds of Gentle Giant then the more neo prog later day Marillion. There is a tinge of what Jim Morrison might sound like today if still alive in the vocals. Track 3 (‘Age of Foeces’) is worth mentioning as it’s the only track written by John Hagelbarger and sung by him. It’s also the most different sounding song at this point. It has a more diverse sound with lots of nice choppy keyboards, a more urgent lead guitar, a slight more up tempo beat, and driving force. This is more complex with multiple changes and dynamics. It’s as if something popped out of the box and ran round the room.
You will notice a nice tight band throughout the CD, and while not every track is a stunner, you do get what I feel is a good first album. “Mindwarp’ ( track 4) was performed totally by Ron Rutherford and was a bit less interesting, but did have a 70's classic rock sound that many will like. Now track 5 (‘Senescence’) is another story. This is the highlight of the disc. It reminds me of a pleasant blend of Porcupine Tree and Crimson with more twists along the way. I also like the way some off kilter keyboard chords are thrown in at particular places like more of a Gentle Giant style. About 3 ˝ minutes into it, there is a premium Crimsonium part that leads to another beautiful bridge, and back to the cool Gentle Giant/Crimson twine of arpeggios. One more nice big change that allows things to come to a slow pace, then back to the structure of the initial song. There’s more but you have to listen yourself. Let’s just say this one is a true winner.
Track 6 (‘Driver’) has another Frippoid guitar part and partly treated vocals (slurred, froggy, and somewhat aquatic) , then some mellotron flute that is a nice change of tone, but only for a couple of seconds, then some bigger ‘tron’ sounds along with lead guitar taking more the front and center. This tune is hot and shows some nimble work by all. It totally cooks. Then comes the last cut called ‘The Sleeper’ and it’s beautifully arranged. The rhythms of the finger picking electric guitar, the nice key pads, the steady solid drums, and the changes are outstanding. For the first time, there is some avant garde introduced at around 4:30 in the track. I loved the big contrast with a more fractured Crimson/Univers Zero/RIO display. Then a good impressive Crimson kick, and another short RIO insert, they give a dandy display of tremendous progressive music. This is without question a true gem.
Dissonati really do have talent and the overall production sounds like Opeth in their more calm tunes. There isn’t any heavy metal here, so I am simply referring to the atmosphere when I compare it to Opeth. The vocals will be something people have to get used to and accept, but I look at it as a unique sound so I only bring it up to report the facts as a reviewer. The band could be bettered in that department and I feel harmony vocals would warm up the lead vocals a lot. That said, this release has some fine music and very well played and arranged pieces. A few of them I just want to listen to again and again. I would have liked to have heard more keyboard and hope the next recording will add to the superb guitar work, and give some more taste of the mellotron and strings, I also loved the small amount of winds and sax. More of that would give this band it’s extended sound. I know this band has a big potential and wish it well. I await the next release with eager ears.
Reviewed by Lee Henderson on June 27th, 2012