Chester four-piece, Disconnected Souls, have been on our radar since April, so now is a good time to review their debut EP following the release of their Christmas cover of Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s ‘The Power of Love’.
If you know nothing about Disconnected Souls, you’ll be confused by the end of your first experience. This is progressive metal boosted with a shot of trance and splashed in the icy symphonic melodies of Nightwish. Chief songwriter, Matthew Simon Fletcher, will not settle for your acquiescence at any point unless you can navigate through his compositions with an open mind.
‘Emergence’ is quintessential early 90s club mania, like Blue Pearl, yet utilises groove metal drums to the trippy synth patterns. If you think this is ambitious wait until you hear the excellent ‘Divergence’, a song that mixes a gothic metal template with folk emotion and a brutal djent breakdown that would not be out of place at an After the Burial show. Holly Royle’s enchanting vocals are crisp and clear, like the shadowing beauty of the moon illuminating the snow-covered spires of rural England. Listen to the cadences of those mezzo-soprano croons among the metallic crunches. These are as haunting as the harpsichord samples glowing over the chunky guitar riffs.
Nobody can doubt the restless urge of creativity running through Warring Elements, but sometimes this can be a drawback. ‘Oathbreaker’ filters Medieval scales through synthesisers and hints at Paradise Lost of the early 2000s, yet the male vocals in the chorus lack the power of Nick Holmes. The same thing happens on ‘Shatter’, which is another sojourn through a snowy meadow with a Michel Stipe-esque voice that fails to captivate until lit up by the backing harmonies of Royle. No such problem exists in the harsher male vocals. These are awash with spittle and vitriol and enunciated with great power. ‘Shatter’ could be an epic with more polish and shows an undoubted talent for musical arrangement.
Perhaps the most distinctive aspect of the music is the attempt to balance arpeggiated synth loops and MIDI strings in the format of a gothic metal framework. But instead of Moonspell and Draconian we get the guitar stylings of Tesseract and Monuments, which only adds to the perplexity. On first listen Warring Elements leaves a permanent frown on your face; the second experience is a bit easier. The title track is a case in point. Starting with a dance beat, it morphs into the sound of a djent band sabotaging a Him song and flies into a fantastic Meshuggah riff after the second chorus. Yet the surprise inclusion of rapping throughout the verses spoils the mood and makes it impossible to dislodge the distressing image of Linkin Park from your mind. The cascading beauty of ‘Mischievous Spirits’ expunges the frustration at the end with a melancholy Celtic vibe that adds yet another element to this record, but the feeling of incongruity persists on repeat listens.
Which brings us to the cover of ‘The Power of Love’. Is there a song better suited to the professional singer and the amateur karaoke singer? Those vibratos and myriad slow-motion moments of eye-closing reflection should give Royle the platform she needs to demonstrate the full range of her voice. Yet she settles for a stripped-down effort of ghost whispers and contralto brooding when we’re expecting a performance from the lungs. It’ll do the job for one of those annual John Lewis adverts at Christmas that tries too hard to be poignant, but it feels underwhelming here. Even Fletcher’s intricate interpretation of the music cannot quite save it from an undeserving anti-climax, even if the atmospheric keyboards demonstrate yet another aspect to his talent.
Disconnected Souls have the potential for great things, but their attempts at originality are disjointed. Nevertheless, their scope and ambition should see them realise their vision on their next release. This is a band to watch.
Release Date: Warring Elements – 13/03/2020; The Power of Love – 03/12/2020
Record Label: Self Released
Standout tracks: Divergence, Deviate, Mischievous Spirits
Suggested Further Listening: Return of the Soul – Digital Dream. Pt. 1. Echoes of Thunder (2020), Paradise Lost – Symbol of Life (2003), Evanescence – The Open Door (2006)