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October 10, 2011

Review: Loch Vostok “Dystopium”

Brutal Tunes

With their forth album “Dystopium”, Swedish progressive metallers Loch Vostok manage to create an interesting combination of catchy, melodic prog metal with harsher extreme metal influences.

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The album opens with “A Mission Undivine” – one of the best songs on the album and a shining example of why this band is labelled “extreme progressive metal”. The vocals from a deep growl to a distorted shouts to melodic clean singing that reminds of Nevermore, and the punchy, aggressive riffs create the kind of sound you’d imagine emerging if Symphony X and Soilwork got together over a cup of chai latte to discuss politics and lament the world’s lack of available women.

For progressive metal, I’m surprised at how far back keyboards sit in the mix, allowing the guitars and drums to dominate. Loch Vostok’s sound is truly dominated by the riffs. This is another feature that gives Dystopium an extreme-metal feel. Having said that, I wouldn’t exactly call this genre-bending – it’s a very solid prog metal album with an aggressive edge.

The lyrics speak out against religious intolerance, corrupt governments, racism, hatred – you know, all the good stuff. The album was written as an exploration on the idea of living in a dystopian society, with corruption and manipulation by religious leaders being the norm – a concept that’s becoming increasingly popular in fiction and music. Clean vocals with heavy-handed subjects can often draw attention to clunky or hackneyed lyrics, but vocalist Teddy Möller  (Mayadome, Wuthering Heights) rips them out with such conviction you cannot notice a word out of place.

Loch Vostok rip out some great tracks – I love the reversed structure of “Repeat Offender”. Fast, head-banging verses fading in to a slower chorus. The ballad “Navigator” shows their ability to extend their lyrics above the banal and grab at loftier emotions. This song has elements of the great stadium rock I loved in the nineties. “Sacred Structure” and “Viral Strain” remind of a metal band I love called Flaw – that classic mix of clean vocals, downtuned guitars and radio-ready melody, but the violent drums and spastic keyboard / guitar bridge in “Viral Strain” show Loch Vostok’s potential to produce interesting and intricate songs.

Some songs, however, fade into the background. They’re good, but the whole album doesn’t stand out to me. In particular, the clean vocals in “World Trade Dissenter” may be laid on a little thick. I’d love to see this band extend themselves more into this extreme/prog hybrid.

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Loch Vostok

Fans of Evergrey, Nevermore and Soilwork will find much to enjoy in Dystopium, which – despite it’s extreme metal influences – is a great example for progressive metal made accessible. Catchy melodies, shorter songs and sharp, simple vocal melodies make Loch Vostok a great listen.

You can find out more about Dystopium on the Loch Vostok website, or check out the band’s Twitter, Facebook and Myspace profiles.