An instrumental powerhouse that manages the rare feat of telling a story through music alone, ‘Stages to Osiris’ by Divided by Design is undoubtedly one of the best metal albums that I have listened to in a long time. This ambitious debut album sets out to take you on a journey through the five stages of grief and it does not disappoint!
‘Orion I Denial’ kicks off proceedings slowly and ambiently before gradually cranking up to all out metal. The track remains heavy but chaotic before drawing to its melodic close, capturing the turmoil of emotion that the initial reaction to trauma often is. ‘Orion II Reactionary’ holds a sense of the epic that puts me in mind of blaring speakers in a gothic cathedral, closed out by a tolling bell. While ‘Orion III The Negotiation’ jumps from driving to melodic, as if playing out an internal conversation, jumping from alternative to alternative until a moment of calm about halfway through that builds back into the rage of the inescapable situation.
Much of ‘Orion IV Collapsing Reality’is disjointed mess fragmented by coherence, nailing the theme of the song before moving on into a metal medley that overtakes and drowns out the piano, like a voice being silenced and overwhelmed by the torments of the mind. ‘Orion V The Fatalist’ starts with a big post rock Sci-Fi soundscape before building to poignant strings that communicate more a melancholic inevitability, rather than overblown melodrama before the band returns for one last wail of desperation to close.
Taken on their own, each song is well crafted and highly enjoyable but as a whole they reach new heights. As a purely instrumental affair, ‘Stages to Osiris’ has none of the easy crutches that most concept albums rely on. No emotion in a singer’s voice, no lyrics to tell the listener what is happening. It is a testament to the skill that Divided by Design have put into crafting this album that they need none of these things to convey the story that they wish to tell of the five stages of grief. They find emotion enough in the screech of the guitar and the angry rumbling growl of the drums and bass.
They also tell this story through the ever changing music; in the contrasts between the brutal and the melodic; in the often unhinged leaps it makes and the changes in timing. Stages to Osiris always keeps you guessing, and the result is a rewarding listen that familiarity will do little to rub the sheen off.
As is so often essential for an instrumental band to flourish, the musicianship on display here is top notch. I often find that the line between guitars providing a technical masterclass and fast fingered excess, to be a thin one. Thankfully, Liam Stephenson pushes right to the limit of indulgence in his complexity before pulling it back with a fresh idea, often taking each track into an unexpected new direction. Tom Chambers on drums and Joe Messingham on bass, provide the perfect rhythm section, knowing when to sit back to let the guitar do its thing and when to grab the steering wheel and drive. When they let the bass thud and the drums pound, it is immensely satisfying, speeding ticket inducing but never allowed to out stay its welcome before the guitars cut back to the front of the queue.
‘Stages to Osiris’ is an album packed with ideas. Sometimes crushingly heavy, sometimes beautiful but always engaging. It takes metal as a genre and looks to create something special and unique that probes at the boundaries but always stays true to the heart of it. In this regard, it is an absolute success that you will not regret listening to.
Written By Jimmy Rock