Loch Vostok – Dystopium

Sweden’s extreme progressive metal band Loch Vostok is the brainchild of Teddy Möller (Wuthering Heights), and is a relative newcomer in the scene. Despite this, the experience of said main man and his revolving door of talented musicians has resulted in a band that exploded out of the gates with confidence and veteran like precision. 2011 appears to be the year of highly charged political heavy metal, and Loch Vostok’s newest album Dystopium is no exception. It is an intense, thematically dark album that remains immensely powerful through a multitude of spins.

I’ve always been a fan of the brand of progressive metal these Swedes play. While they certainly didn’t invent the extreme progressive metal brand, they have refined it in a way few bands have, opting for the sweeping, epic scale of progressive metal while injecting it with a healthy dose of death, thrash, and technical influences. Songs like “A Mission Undivine” and “World Trade Dissenter” really display the full spectrum of influences, with harsh vocals, gorgeous cleans, and a myriad of musical ideas swirling about, blending and contrasting to create a truly fresh sound. “Repeat Offender” is a short, unremarkable track sandwiched between previously mentioned tracks, and is probably the weakest on the record. With that said, it does have a very catchy chorus that may win over some listeners.

“In the Wake of Humanity” begins with riffing and percussion that is more suited to extreme tech/death metal, before quickly shifting into the mid-tempo, melodic progressive sound. There is a beautiful trade off that continues throughout, the neck breaking aggression and mellow passages providing a delicious contrast. “Viral Strain” is another highlight, with balls to the wall tech/thrash riffing combining with some heavily effects laden vocals creating a sinister atmosphere. Drummer Lawerence Dinamarca is particularly brilliant here, and again the vocal contrasts leave the listener both uplifted and beat down. “Disconnection” plays out like a Swedish melodic death metal song (ala mid-era Soilwork) and, while contextually out of place on this record, is a killer song in it’s own right.

“Taste the Flame” is another monster, and will no doubt be the go to song getting a live crowd worked up. There is some fun synth/vocal interplay backed by tasty lead guitar and a solid, punchy rhythm section. This is probably my favorite song on the album, a difficult choice to make given the quality of the material. “Absence” is another decent, but largely unremarkable song, with some interesting guitar effects/riffing, but little to stick out to the listener. The closing title track is the closest thing this particular release has to your typical progressive epic, and in this role it does well enough, although there is no moment of extensive instrumental noodling, so if you’re into that, you may want to look elsewhere, as this album is more direct in its presentation. Overall, a solid, heavy, triumphant ending.

Production wise, this album can be compared more to the genre’s American counterparts (think Nevermore for a point of reference), forsaking pristine production for a more gritty, heavy sound. This is some dark stuff, and while everything is audible, this is a guitar driven record, with the synth relegated to an atmospheric role, and in your face, crushing percussion. The vocals are exactly where they need to be, not to loud, but not buried in the mix. When all is said and done, this is an expertly crafted, memorable slice of one of the less common brands of progressive metal. Highly recommended!