Disastroid - Screen

by Jon Burke Rating:6 Release Date:2017-09-29
Disastroid - Screen
Disastroid - Screen

Screen, the latest album by Bay Area noise rockers, Disastroid, is a hard-driving, throat-punching, explosion of sonic tension. At times Screen wallows in a sludgy mess of distortion and lumbering rhythms. In other moments the album rockets ahead with enough intensity to achieve escape velocity. It’s hard not to like an album with a cover sporting an image of a Don Rickels-esque older man, sitting amid the rubble of a crumbling civilization with some kind of VR device strapped to his face.

In terms of their sound, Disastroid come across a bit like Badmotorfinger-era Soundgarden meets early QOTSA. Though he never achieves Chris Cornell’s upper range, vocalist Enver Koneya’s baritone is startlingly similar to Cornell throughout Screen. Travis Williams and Braden McGaw’s rhythm section is incredibly tight and very reminiscent of the best moments on QOTSA’s Songs for the Deaf.

The album’s eponymous opening track begins rather subtly with a barely-there strumming and whispered vocals from Koneya. It’s all rather peaceful and serene. The serenity quickly erupts into a grungy lockstep dirge. Unfortunately, some of the intensity is lost due to subpar lyrics:

“Stare down/Into the screen/Search for image unseen/By anyone else”

Lyrics are a problem throughout Screen. On “Dinosaur,” one of Screen’s longest tracks, Koneya’s vocals are distorted enough to be nearly unintelligible. There’s something about being ordered to “pack bags” and get into a car. Then something about someone who’s as “old as a dinosaur.” The inanity of the words distracts from the really interesting musical transitions which happens just over three minutes into the song. The dirge speeds up and this wall of distortion builds until the track explodes briefly into a series of soaring guitar solos.

Similarly, “Coyote,” seems to have a political message which gets lost in lyrical vagaries:

“Look at all the people/Gave up everything/Try to start a new life/In the promised land/Will they get to stay here?/Find themselves a home/If Coyote does his work well/Fate will do the rest”

The song is a stoner rock epic, musically speaking, but even the most burned-out stoners will find themselves pondering Koneya’s intention here. Is it celebrating human traffickers? Is it pleading for more lenient immigration policies? The final section in which Koneya is screaming “Run for your life/Guns and lights will kill!” seems to be a critique of the violence on the US/Mexico border between ICE agents/militia members and immigrants but it never amounts to anything more than an order to run from lethal guns and lights.

Screen’s shorter tracks fare better overall. The cutting “Clinical Perfection” is an in-your-face, under two minute, explosion of aggression. Similarly, “New Day,” the album’s first single is rather minimalist in lyrical scope but sonically massive. “New Day” really showcases Disastroid’s range and influences which includes the sludge of The Melvins, the vocalized ethereal harmonies of Faith No More and the thrash of bands like Slayer. The homogeneity of many of the songs on Screen masks the band’s full range and if Disastroid takes anything away from the album it needs to be that they are at their musical best unleashed and that their lyrics need polishing.

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