Boomkat Product Review:
Naarm-based doom metal duo Divide and Dissolve make music to soundtrack a revolution, and their new full-length is their most charged deployment to date, splicing dissonant sax squeals and orchestral flourishes with brickwall riffs and molasses-slow drums. RIYL Sunn O))), The Body, Boris, Deathprod.
Divide and Dissolve's last album 'Gas Lit' was a decolonialist milestone that used the language of sludgy doom metal to approach themes of white supremacy, indigenous rights and Black liberation. Duo drummer Sylvie Nehill and guitarist/horn player Takiaya Reed claimed at the time not to listen to much metal, but were aware of its power to hit listeners with furious, impassioned sonics. 'Systemic' picks up where its predecessor left off, examining "the systems that intrinsically bind us" and asking for "a system that facilitates life for everyone". Like 'Gas Lit', 'Systemic' was produced by Unknown Mortal Orchestra's Ruban Neilson, who tweaks Reed and Nehill's eccentric fusion of jazz and metal into tight, kinetic passages of free-flowing orchestral ambience and ear-pummeling drone rock.
It's a mix of styles that in the wrong hands could have been overblown or melodramatic, but Reed and Nehill avoid all such pitfalls, concentrating their energy on energy, expression and sonic density. So while opening track 'Want' is a tape-futzed, beatless experiment, 'Blood Quantum' starts like Benjamin Britten, diving from faint instrumentation into dark-hearted riffage that's got the bite of Melvins' enduring 'Gluey Porch Treatments'. The duo slip into a hardcore mode on the nippy 'Simulacra', dragging from rapid-fire guitar-and-drums destruction into mercilessly downtempo sways until there's nothing but sustained, distorted guitar tones. Then on 'Indignation', Reed and Nehill bring us to the opera house once more, conjuring magic from wiry woodwind chirps that inevitably cede to the duo's cacophony of overdriven guitar and machine-strength percussion.
It would be way too simple to label Divide and Dissolve as simply a metal act, their philosophy and sonic fusion is way too advanced for those kind of labels. Their music is jazz, in a sense, but uses familiar beats and techniques to embrace the sheer weight of extreme music. In their hands it's a blunt instrument to hammer out messages that are too important to leave as mere nuance. It's a remarkable achievement.