The Great Discord – Afterbirth Review

Afterbirth is dark, brooding but introduces a new quality, one that indicates that their ‘Black Album’ is about to follow. 8/10

The Great Discord Afterbirth Cover

The Great Discord are Linköping’s top musical export since that other band’s Cardinal relocated to Stockholm in 2017, and Afterbirth is a reminder of why they hold that position over the rest of Linköping’s significant talent pool.

Back when The Metal Report was still a part of the Gear4Geeks Blog, The Great Discord swept our 2017 Year End Awards winning Band, Album and the unofficial Single of the Year Awards thanks to The Rabbit Hole. For those not familiar with the band, Afterbirth is in keeping with how they followed debut album Duende with Echoes, an EP that was contained five songs – two radio edits on album tracks, an acoustic version of a single and two covers.  This EP features two new songs (Heart and Afterbirth), one cover (Army Of Me) and a re-imagined version of Neon Dreaming from The Rabbit Hole.

Afterbirth opens with Heart which saw release as a single on Valentine’s Day, so it’s a nice familiar introduction to the EP. The song is a continuing evolution of The Great Discord as they move away from their prog start towards the rock/metal mainstream which is no bad thing at all. The sound is epic and this has stardom written all over it without alienating their existing audience. It’s a perfect next step for the band.  The guitar work here is brilliant and in places beautifully subtle,  Andre Axell and Gustav Almberg are on top form as always.

The song Afterbirth is a bit of a bigger change with its funkier, bouncier sound that is quite reminiscent of In This Moment.  Thematically the song is still very dark and will still keep fans happy; it is clever in its construction to be three parts classic The Great Discord and one part something new, but as the song goes on the bouncy opening riff fades away leading us down that familiar dark rabbit hole. While the beginning of the song seems new and unfamiliar, by the end it feels like a memory of something that was always there. Very clever writing indeed.

Army Of Me was one of those songs that bridged a large canyon for Bjork and gained her a big following in the Industrial scene when it was released in 1995. 2011’s movie Sucker Punch introduced a heavier remix of the song to a new audience and it’s from that remix that The Great Discord have drawn inspiration for their cover. Bjork fans will hate what I’m about to say, and the one currently in the office looked like she was going to murder me when I said it to her, but this is what Army Of Me was meant to be. Just like Prince sent the ownership of Nothing Compares 2 U to Sinead O’Connor after hearing her version, like Trent Reznor said that Hurt was now Johnny Cash‘s after hearing his rendition, Army Of Me is now The Great Discord’s. Gone are Bjork’s weak vocals, replaced by Fia Kempe‘s menace, swept away is a weak rhythm to be replaced by Rasmus Carlson‘s driving bass and Aksel Holmgren‘s Terminator precision drumming. This isn’t a cute Icelandic elf talking about an army of her, this is a very palpable threat of an army of demons coming for your soul.

The EP finishes up with the re-recorded and rewritten Neon Dreaming, a minimalist track from The Rabbit Hole that has been stripped back to be even less, but far more unsettling. I asked Rasmus about this new version and he said:

We felt like we could dress it up in some different, new clothes, try to experiment a bit with soundscapes and instrumentation. I personally like the idea to revisit music from the past records and see if you can get some more out of them.”

He’s not wrong. What we have here is a frankly evil version of the song that is perhaps better than the version on the album as it conveys the danger of that part of The Rabbit Hole‘s story. Standing alone like this, out of the structure of the concept album it doesn’t work quite so well, as it’s an almost accapella version with screaming at the end, which doesn’t gel with the other songs. It’s also not a radical departure from the original; a piano/vocal version of Noire on the other hand would be vastly different but in keeping with the original.  Neon Dreaming isn’t bad at all, but being reasonably close to the original, on a four track release it’s hard not to feel like a fifth track could have rounded Afterbirth out a little better.

The cover art here is by Juhani Karhunmaa, who won The Great Discord’s 2017 contest to design artwork based on the song Gadget. Since then he has designed artwork for the Heart single and now Afterbirth, which is a dream come true for any fan.

Lastly it has to be mentioned that the production on Afterbirth is beautiful. In the era of ‘The Loudness Wars’ where every album is brickwalled, this is one of the few albums that has actually been created in the dying art of real production values. If you are one of the lucky few who will be buying the very limited vinyl release you’ll be buying a rare item indeed – an album that will sound incredible because it has been produced and mixed properly. Aksel Holmgren is one of the last bastions of decent production and should be sought out by every musician who wants their music to sound how they intend it to.

Afterbirth is dark, brooding but introduces a new quality, one that indicates that their ‘Black Album’ is about to follow. 8/10