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Following up their debut release, last year's 'Change' EP, the UK's very own tech-metal crew Derange are about to unleash their first full-length offering, 'The Awakening'. Working alongside prolific producer Russ Russell to bring this album to life, a man whose CV includes various production credits for the likes of Amorphis, Napalm Death, Dimmu Borgir, Lock Up, The Bezerker and Sikth, it'd be a safe bet to presume the overall sound of Derange's music is in more than capable hands. And 'The Awakening' does, indeed, sound great... at least on the surface, instrumentation-wise. Their bass-biased, low-end sound is given a fully resonant whack in the production/mix, which both contrasts and blends well with the higher register of singer Cat Pereira's vocals. However, for all the technical wizardry and instrumental competency on display through each composition's reification, Pereira's performance is not always that great.

First, Russell himself is quoted in press blurb as boldly claiming she's "one of the best vocalists I've ever come across." Interesting. Preconceptions are, therefore, primed with the highest of expectations. While this lady can certainly sing and has a wide range in terms of pitch through her clean voice, and also delivers some incisively rasped screams, it's the nasal nature of her clean singing that I find a little annoying. Her vocal melodies work ever so well, although are somewhat tarnished by their nasality. Of equal annoyance is the production inflicted upon Pereira's layered vocal harmonies, a technique that's not only overused, but one that sounds gratingly false, over-processed, and over-produced. In fact, the only place her clean voice genuinely works to perfection, and where its nasal qualities actually fit, are during the second half of the album's closing, title track, where they have a reverb-heavy sound, and are angelically sublime.

With all that said about Pereira's singing, it's not that bad; rather, it could've been so much better, and maybe her vocals fare way better in a live context. And, music-wise, there's much to recommend 'The Awakening'. Through drums, bass and guitar, the compositions have been coloured with characteristics associated with that long-dead subgenre, and perennially dreaded phrase for some, nu metal. However, blended with the music's more tech-metal twang, Derange rarely descend into overly regressive territory. That said, this never sounds overly fresh or genuinely progressive, either; at least not in the way that Periphery always manage to succeed in weaving their tech-metal prowess with a healthy dose of retro sounds into their forward-thinking music. There's something about Derange's music that's a little too familiar and falls into the category of pastiched innovation rather than being autonomously innovative. Still, for a debut album, it's a grand effort and the talent and promise on show here will hopefully translate into some genuinely innovative compositions once they fully find their feet. And once Pereira de-nasals her voice.
Review by Mark Holmes
5th Oct 2015
1) The Thinker
2) Echo
3) The Observer
4) Passive
5) This is the End
6) Ruins (Part One)
7) Ruins (Part Two)
8) The Negative
9) The Other Side
10) The Awakening
"There's something about Derange's music that's a little too familiar and falls into the category of pastiched innovation rather than being autonomously innovative."