Like most developments in heavy music, the tech-metal/djent scene began with an explosion of groundbreaking bands but steadily became bloated with formulaic bilge. Poland’s Disperse always stood out. Their second album, Living Mirrors, hinted at hidden depths that most of their peers could only pretend to grasp, and Foreword more than delivers on that promise.
Shrewdly excising most of the standard djent tropes from their sound, the Poles have reinvented themselves as a fervently urbane prog rock band, with a bewildering array of melodic tricks and acts of structural sleight of hand at their disposal. Chin-deep in reverb and underpinned by ingenious electronics, songs like the jazz-laced Surrender and the glacial, dream-pop sprawl of Sleeping Ivy are mini-masterclasses in the power of dynamics, restraint and refined ensemble chemistry. Whether provided by frontman Rafał Biernacki’s wonderfully understated performance or through the genuinely extraordinary talents of guitarist Jakub Żytecki, Foreword has gorgeous melodies and lethal hooks in abundance. Succinct and incisive on the anthemic Bubbles, elegantly indulgent on the nine-minute Does It Matter How Far?, Disperse have clicked into a higher gear here and the results will reduce prog and tech-metal fans alike to a mess of goosebumps.