Music review

On a Technicality – Dichotomy Favor Heaviness Over Intricacy

Dichotomy is a band with a penchant for heaviness. Death metal is their game and they’ve been brewing up a fanbase in their home country of Ireland since 2010. They can dole out the darkness and build up the circle pits; that is clear as day. But the band members prove to be unsatisfied with fury alone. Very much like Opeth and Between the Buried and Me, Dichotomy are fans of the virtuosity of their influences, which they aim to show in their debut album. Dichotomy prove their reverence for death metal’s anger with an unchained brutality and some of the heaviest songs in the genre, but their debut album Paradigms doesn’t make much of a case for their reverence of the more technical side of death metal.

Despite the growls, grinds and drum fills, Dichotomy show that there are some surprisingly textured death metal tracks on Paradigms. “Polarity” is a culmination of technicality. Time signatures shift in abrupt, but ultimately appropriate ways, there are plenty of opportunities to demonstrate extensive musicianship from guitarists Andrew Kealy and Rats, and the song even has a few solid hooks throughout. “Covenant of the Forsworn” unearths a mightily epic vibe, one that escalates and expands to new heights about halfway through the track. One of the best tracks on Paradigms, the instrumental “Alea Iacta Est,” despite not getting going until nearly two minutes in, is a breath of fresh air. It’s a song that changes the band’s musical pace significantly. It’s a dramatic work that calms the ferocity just enough to sound epic, climactic and enjoyable without unclenching its fists.

Dichotomy is a band claiming to embrace the technical side of death metal as well, announcing Gojira and Opeth as influences. The problem is that the band doesn’t make that technicality a lasting feature. Where Opeth and Between the Buried and Me have expanded their brutality with some incredibly intricate and dynamic arrangements, Dichotomy’s brief moments of technical prowess are severely overshadowed by the same death metal tropes that the genre has been cursed with since its inception. Melody is unquestionably secondary for any death metal band, but rhythm and force are usually the elements to pick up the slack. Dichotomy deliver the heaviness, no questions asked; that is clearly their forte. But most of the album (the first half specifically) doesn’t live up to that promise. Songs like “The Sentient Oppressed” and “All-Seeing Eye” are very flat compositions and don’t emit a promising first impression. “No Catharsis” is underwhelming on every front, while the closer, “Of Strife, Of Discord” is a disappointment. Right when the band starts to move into the melodically technical world of metal, the album ends. It’s crushing to hear such progression and excitement in the second half, but hearing that final fade-out is a slap in the face to the listener.

The album is a short one: seven main tracks and one intro track, all with no song breaking past six minutes in length. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, considering that the death metal grinds can grow tiresome after a while, but with many of the songs being rather underwhelming, the band could’ve offered a couple more compositions before the conclusion.

If you’re looking for the next technical marvel in the world of death metal, Dichotomy really aren’t it. They don’t pack in the ambitious and experimental nature of their peers, instead focusing on heaviness over virtuosity. For a band claiming to offer groove to death metal and flow to brutality, Dichotomy don’t deliver on their promise. Paradigms is an album that seems more content to stick with the guttural growls and double-bass-pedal fury of the death metal scene than the ambition that Gojira and Opeth have brewed. There are brief tastes of that technical death metal world on Paradigms, but Dichotomy are far too reluctant to sink their teeth into it all the way.

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