The sonic and political anarchitecture of 2021’s Gas Lit saw Divide and Dissolve reach their widest audience yet with their bludgeoning-yet-beautiful battle cry against systemic oppression, skimming between the brutality of metal and the assuaging experimental soundscapes of classical leitmotifs and melodic refrains.
Sonically, new album Systemic largely represents more of the same as the duo set out to honour their core artistic intentions, but owing to the success of Gas Lit, this time round Divide and Dissolve seem more enabled than ever to express their profound intensity. Looped and layered saxophones provide the bedrock for tracks like ‘Indignation’ that continually grow in ferocity, crescendoing in a fury of opaque guitar chords and cataclysmic drums. The slow march of ‘Derail’ and ‘Reproach’ display an unyielding emotional weight, one that saxophonist and guitarist Takiaya Reed says “is congruent with the message of the music, and the heaviness feels emblematic of the world’s situation.”
New ground is explored too. Album bookends ‘Want’ and ‘Desire’ stray further into electronic experimentalism than any of Divide and Dissolve’s other work to date, with circling melodies and synthesiser drones creating an atmosphere of yearning and upheaval without the need for earth-endingly heavy guitar or drum work. More traditional heaviness isn’t sidelined for long though: the Napalm Death-like blastbeats of ‘Simulacra’, for example, push Systemic into grindcore territory.
Most impressive here is the fact that the band have maintained an unwavering commitment to their sound and to their demands for Black and Indigenous liberation. That they’ve managed this whilst also furthering aesthetic possibilities and achieving such a visceral emotional affect through their music is remarkable; Systemic is one of the most vital, rewarding releases of this year.
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