“Dysphoria (from Greek: δύσφορος (dysphoros), δυσ-, difficult, and φέρειν, to bear) is a profound state of unease or dissatisfaction.” Wiki. I’m not sure if that makes me unhinged or enlightened, because this album had the polar opposite effect on me!
When Formes initially posted an image of their debut LP cover, I jokingly commented that the face on the sleeve reminded me of Rogue Trooper. That was before I’d had the unmitigated pleasure of hearing ‘Dysphoria Part 1’, or the benefit of reading the accompanying press release, which alludes to the demonic battle raging within the mind. On closer inspection, and armed with these insights, the transformation overseen by Janus, possibly toward humanity’s inevitable oblivion, becomes clearer.
“… there’s a conflict in every human heart, between the rational and irrational, between good and evil. And good does not always triumph. Sometimes, the dark side overcomes what Lincoln called the better angels of our nature.” General Corman, Apocalypse Now…
Before heading off to Liverpool International Festival of Psychedelia in September, I made a point of checking out the dozen or so bands I hadn’t heard at that point. Fortunately for me the track ‘Tumult’ already spoke my disparate language, making Formes a “must see”. Everything that their mesmerising live set promised, and more, has been delivered on this album.
Pigeon-holing and division by genre has always made me uneasy, I pride myself on having an eclectic palette and Formes have quite a few of my bases covered here. Great music means different things to different people, thankfully there is no magic formula, which ensures that ‘Dysphoria Part 1’ challenges and remains outside of any contrived box.
What all great music achieves, returns us to our friend Janus, it simultaneously manages to look back whilst taking you somewhere new with those basic ingredients, morphing into something genuinely unique and original.
‘Dysphoria Part 1’ comprises 6 tracks with two added bonus tracks, when purchased through Leeds based Label, No Fun Intendeds’ Bandcamp page.
Opening track ‘Through This Hole’ is a sonic broadside equivalent of what Bassist and Vocalist, Steve McNamara has been quoted as saying of Formes, that they are, “not a psych band, but psych will need us when the mundane becomes boring”. This reminds me of when Celtic Frost’s ‘Into The Pandemonium’ was first hailed as ‘Avantgarde Metal’, another truly genre defying, yet intrinsically defining musical moment.
I challenge anyone to ever describe ‘Through This Hole’ as mundane or boring. It showcases a band with swagger and confidence, technically adept and unafraid to provoke. This track quite literally has everything from shades of Enslaved, joining the dots all the way back to King Crimson, making it a veritable 21st century, “21st Century Schizoid Man”…
‘Tumult’ is a rumbling tour de force, that saw masked guitarist Rob “The Alchemist” sparring, gladiator-like with guitar as improvised trident, in among the crowd in Liverpool!
‘I Am Nothing’ continues the light and shade rendering of brothers, Steve and Jordan’s bass and drum war ensemble. Steve’s plaintive song voice, stalked by Jordan’s death grunt growl. The track’s finale, a flourishing, melodic arabesque.
Continuing the parallel with Celtic Frost and Thomas Gabriel Fischer’s successors Triptykon, Formes’ song titles on ‘Dysphoria Part 1’ leave you in little doubt as to their intent. So follows, ‘I Will Make You Ill’ – a mist shrouded summons from beyond the sepulture.
‘Smile Club’ lifts the tempo heavenward with a Jon Anderson like refrain, before climaxing in a barraging, riff rapture.
‘Dead Ends’ closes the album and somehow, obscurely manages to remind me of New Order’s ‘Denial’, albeit cloaked in a far darker malevolence. The final anguished lyric,”All I see is death”, gives way to an innocent music box chime, rewind, reload, recommence the cycle…
Bonus tracks ‘Calm’ and ‘I Don’t Feel Safe’ offer a tantalising prelude to ‘Dysphoria Part 2’ which will see a welcome 2015 release. Hopefully both albums will see a release on vinyl, the fabulously detailed artwork on ‘Dysphoria Part 1’ will make a welcome full-size addition to my collection.
Dismissing the genre pigeon-holing, this is an uplifting album, it is invigorating and refreshing, possessing your spirit for the duration. ‘Dysphoria Part 1’ appeals to the apocaloptimist in me. Darkness is essential in defining the radiant beacon , leading us to our ultimate emancipation.
Formes are a band we will be hearing a lot more about in 2015, mark my words…