REVIEW: Dissonance in Design – Sentient (2013)


Artist: Dissonance in Design

Album: Sentient


We, mankind, are all linked by our essence—our commonality found in our humanity—that which defines us. While each person is indeed different, we all have that one thing in common—and just because it’s simple does not mean it should be overlooked. It is this uniting factor, this very essence which unites us, and gives us all common ground. Whether or not you’re familiar with that aspect of Aristotelian thought, it is one which provides apt background for technical deathcore masters Dissonance in Design’s latest epic, Sentient. Sentient tells a marvelous, boundlessly comprehensive tale of mankind’s struggle against an intrusive and ruthless alien race. Not only is Dissonance in Design’s storytelling masterful, though—their ability to craft diverse, sprawling settings with their instruments—settings which range from bone-splintering and devastating to immersive and atmospheric—is nothing short of remarkable. It is the summation of these elements which crown Dissonance in Design as rulers of not just the realm of technical deathcore, but perhaps the universe of heavy and thought-provoking music as a whole.

Like all great conflicts—and great stories about conflicts—Sentient begins surreptitiously. The first footsteps the listener takes through “The Gateway…” are cautious ones, heavy with atmosphere and ambience before maturing into an entirely different kind of heavy. It is here that Dissonance in Design waste no time in letting the listener know what they’re in for—especially vocally. “The Gateway…” highlights Dissonance in Design’s uncanny vocal diversity—as Sentient is a completely comprehensive display of vocal mastery. Shrill, shrieking highs contrast with low, visceral bellows and gutturals that sound as if they’re tearing the flesh of the vocalist’s throat. These screeches and growls share the microphone with a mid-range shout and a raspy, inward gasping scream that are done equally as masterfully. The short introductory track is not the sole display of such stunning vocal acuity—as even the long, spanning epic tracks “Between Space and Time” and “Sentient” feature an incessant vocal assault which amazes the listener with its sheer, immense display of every vocal tone and style imaginable—a facet which perfectly mirrors the sprawling, dynamic instrumental mastery Dissonance in Design bring to Sentient.

A fitting battleground for this crucial battle of cosmic conception, the musical setting for the vocal savagery that drives Sentient is simply—well, out of this world. “Between Space and Time” is one fitting example: spanning nearly twelve minutes, it includes shred-heavy sections that would make Between the Buried and Me proud, but heaviness which hits hard enough to roll with acts like I Declare War and I’ll Be an Empire. The riffs found throughout Sentient aren’t just technical or spine shattering, however: Dissonance in Design supply calming, soothing sections of fretwork on “Terminus Pt. II—The Cleansing” or portions of the introduction of “Absolution” which are contagiously catchy. The percussion keeps perfect pace with the absolutely incredibly guitar work and rollicking, punchy bass, being more than able to provide punishing blast beats, splashy cymbal work and pounding, looming percussion and everything in between. Together, these instruments create awe-inspiring effects of immersion which puts the listener behind the wheel of an interstellar war vessel, obliterating not just the enemy alien race, but the efforts of Dissonance in Design’s peers.

While the vocals are diverse and destructive—and the instrumentation is immersive and intense, it is the cumulative effect of these elements which make Dissonance in Design supreme storytellers. From the very first syllables of “The Gateway…” to the last ringing note of “Sentient,” the listener is completely hooked. The immense, incredible vocals scrawl stellar lyrics across a captivating canvas of crushing musicianship. Laced with generous helpings of interstellar shredding and punishing, spine-cracking brutality, there is simply nothing for the listener to dislike about Sentient. These elements combine and weave into epic tales which, rather than wear heavily on the listener, instead keep them entranced and enthralled—as if their very attention would turn the tides and win the war Dissonance and Design so vividly describe. This culmination of completely superior songwriting and dynamic—yet dissonant—structure is what make Sentient several cuts above the efforts of Dissonance in Design’s peers. There aren’t many technical deathcore acts who can write consistently engaging and smoothly flowing epic tracks like those found throughout Sentient—and those who do pale in comparison to Dissonance in Design’s ability to keep them diverse and to keep the listener on the edge of their seat from beginning to end.

Yes—we all share this essence of humanity—but we don’t all share the same substance, or fill the same shell. Likewise, while Dissonance in Design are certainly the essential technical deathcore act, there aren’t other bands who can fill their shoes; especially with the steps taken by Sentient. Mind-numbingly technical, bone-crunchingly heavy and contagiously catchy, this album is not just genre-or-style-defining, but world-defining.



For Fans Of: I’ll Be An Empire, Between the Buried and Me, Obscura

By: Connor Welsh