Disaffected – Vast (1995)
If being from Portugal is a gimmick… and from the perspective of the music media, it probably is… it doesn’t seem to have given Disaffected very much commercial success, at least not compared to… let’s say Moonspell since I can’t name any others off the top of my head. In terms of Portuguese language metal, Brazil has its parent swamped, but that’s entirely irrelevant. Vast is reminiscent of early-90s Pestilence (particularly on Spheres) in that it tastes of synthesizer and despite clearly using the musical language of death metal, it doesn’t favor aggression and brutality to the extent you might expect based on your average death metal recording.
Luckily for us, the listeners, Vast has its own voice and particular substyle, although merely having such does not alone a worthy listen make. Compared to Spheres (you know, I REALLY need to get around to listening to Testimony of the Ancients, but the physical tracking of its interludes irritates me and therefore delays this), Disaffected carries more musical baggage from their earlier, more violent days, at least in their surface aesthetic. The chunky, midranged production belies the oddly shaped riffs and occasionally very densely packed songwriting (which probably reaches maximum density on “Dead Like My Dreams”), as well as the surprising versatility of the band’s keyboard section. There’s a stereotype about metal keyboardists not having much to do, but it certainly doesn’t apply here, with varied samples and synthesis all over the songs. Voice shifts inside the songs are reliably accompanied by instrument patch changes; compare to some bands (like Emperor) that tend to stick to one instrument per song.
It seems that Vast‘s substyle is rather smaller than the name of the album, and that seems worthy of understanding in this band’s context. A great deal of bands who try their hands at this tend to favor the ‘progressive’ side of their sound after a while. Whether or not that results in better music, it tends to soften them up. Vast, if it’s affected by this, is still relatively early on in the process. I mentioned that the death/thrash elements are still pretty prominent, but more consonant and melodic material pops up fairly frequently. To the band’s credit, this doesn’t always accompany the frequent appearance of keyboard, and in general, Disaffected is able to turn their songwriting in interesting, non-obvious directions, like the chord patterns at the ending of “Dreaming II”, or the weirdly melodramatic, gothic flavored cover of Slayer’s “Seasons in the Abyss”.
Sometimes things actually do just fall through the cracks. If Disaffected had better marketing behind their work, Vast would’ve been recognized in its time as quality techdeath, strengthened by its influences, and possibly gone on to record many more works in the style… or transitioned to a more accessible one for even more cash, like Moonspell did. You never know, although you can probably guess based on the band’s even more obscure 2012 revival. Who knows what sounds come forth from that work when dropped into a CD player?
Highlights: “Unlimited Vision”, “The Praxis of the Nonbeing”, “Dead Like My Dreams”