Artist: Divine Realm

Album Title: Nordicity

Label: Independent

Date Of Release: 2 March 2018

“As far as the concept behind the title, ‘Nordicity’ represents a place in our lives annually where our Canadian weather forces us into musical hibernation. The days are short, dark, and we are indoors creating the majority of our work and finessing our craft. I believe this is a parallel that can be drawn with many Canadian bands, especially in Ontario that play similar music. With many instrumental bands (respectively) taking on a more pop approach, I’m happy knowing that we truly created a “Progressive Metal” album once again.”

So says Leo Diensthuber, guitarist and founding member of Divine Realm, an instrumental progressive metal band that started out life as a one-man project in 2010 but has since morphed into a fully-fledged band, comprised of four highly talented individuals.

And Deinsthuber cannot be criticised about what he says either. Clearly he, alongside fellow guitarist Marc Roy, bassist Tyler Brayton and drummer Josh Ingram have reaped the rewards of being winter hermits, cooped up indoors whilst the cold and dark weather does its worst on the other side of their four walls. These guys can seriously play. And there’s no disputing the ‘progressive’ tag that accompanies their endeavours either; ‘Nordicity’ may only be an EP that features five songs with a running time of under 20 minutes, but it is an action-packed and complex twenty minutes of music that has come out of nowhere to thoroughly impress me.

Unaware of their debut 2014 EP ‘Abyssal Light’ or indeed their 2016 debut full-length album, ‘Tectum Argenti’, it was only a chance email that led me to checking out ‘Nordicity’. And boy, I’m glad I did. The band namecheck the likes of Pomegranate Tiger, Between The Buried And Me’s melodic side, The Human Abstract, and Animals As Leaders as influences and comparisons. Blending classic progressive metal with elements of djent, extreme metal, post-rock and tech metal, with a vague hint of metalcore for good measure, the final product is a multi-faceted, complex and ambitious endeavour. And it works.

Ironically, the snow is falling steadily outside my window as I listen to ‘Nordicity’ for perhaps the seventh or eighth time and all I can do is compare the music on this impressive EP to a puppy. Stick with me, because it makes sense in my head. Just like a puppy, this music has an incredible enthusiasm, wide-eyed and excited about anything and everything. That effervescent joie-de-vivre that oozes from every pore of the compositions is utterly infectious, planting a big smile on my face as I listen each time.

You see, the music might be complex, multi-layered and ambitious in its execution, but crucially, the songs are just that – songs. And they contain within them some wonderful melodic intent, not to mention a great structure and plenty of variety to keep the interest piqued. I really enjoy the way that Divine Realm manage to merge some heavy, thunderous djent-style riffing with serene acoustic guitar work and lighter, more melodic vaguely ambient passages. The final track, ‘Hanging Valleys’, is the perfect example of this, as well as successfully injecting an almost neo-classical edge thanks to some of the expressive lead guitar work.

‘Autumn’ has to be my favourite track on the album on account of its gorgeous melodies, it’s brisk pace and the variety that it offers in a whirlwind three-and-a-half minutes. It flits between all-out ostentatious attack and moments of more serene, introspective contemplation expertly, incorporating one or two moments of jazzy experimentation along the way. A top drawer rhythm section of Brayton and Ingram keeps things in check with precision and not a small amount of cheeky flamboyance at times. This is Ingram’s first recording with Divine Realm and as debut’s go, it’s superb, bringing a lot to the party in the process. And that melody courtesy of the lead guitars that hits at 1:16 is an unbridled joy that sets it apart ever-so-slightly from the other tracks.

‘Whitewater’ is every bit as adventurous and exuberant, whist offering a heavier, chunkier approach within some of the heavy riffing. Again though, the lead guitar work, shared between Deinsthuber and Roy, is a delight, liberally sprinkling the song with melodious yet complex lead runs, breaks and any manner of clever techniques far beyond my hopeless grasp and understanding. I like how it sounds though!

Then there’s ‘Revival’ which doesn’t let up the quality. Instead it blends some frantic, breakneck speed and technicality with riffs that are allowed to resonate just a little more, whilst bassist Tyler Brayton does his best to steal the show, although the final 90 second outro of sublime and gorgeously played solo acoustic guitar is an inspired touch.

I’ve just realised that I have got all this way through the review without mentioning a lack of vocals once. But ‘Nordicity’ doesn’t need vocals – there is more than enough to keep the listener entertained via the excellent musicianship, dexterity and songwriting skills of Divine Realm. Produced by Marc Roy and Leo Diensthuber together, this EP also sounds very good too. It is indeed the full package. There have been some great EPs released in 2018 already, and ‘Nordicity’ easily joins this list. So what are you waiting for? Go check these guys out now.

The Score Of Much Metal: 8.75

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dfnu0b8ad6c&w=560&h=315]

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