The band that always comes to my mind when I hear the word “mathcore” is Ion Dissonance. Solace was the first release under that tag which pulled me in and made me think, “Ah yes! I get it now.” So it’s only fitting that I begin my picks with this album – one of my all-time favorites – for our March Madness mathcore series.
When I was introduced to Ion Dissonance in the mid-2000s, my obsession with death metal had already moved into more technical territory and I was especially captivated by the Montreal, Quebec tech-death scene: Gorguts, Cryptopsy, Quo Vadis, Neuraxis, Augury, etc. These bands embodied classic death metal, but were also insanely progressive and avant-garde.
At the time, a new era of Quebecois metal had emerged, which naturally grabbed my attention. Along with Ion Dissonance, bands like Despised Icon and Beneath the Massacre, as well as The Plasmarifle (highly underrated, by the way), led this new wave that was still very much rooted in death metal, but with prominent hardcore and grindcore influences.
However there was something special about Ion Dissonance, and 2005’s Solace in particular, that stood out beyond the deathcore and metalcore labels: utter chaos and incongruity, paired with the aggressive brutality and technical intricacies of MTL death metal. Even after 12 years, Solace is just as impactful as it was when I first heard it.
Right from the start with “Play Dead… and I’ll Play Along,” Solace hits you with its complex intensity – from the spazzy guitars and breakneck riffs to the crushing grooves, it’s absolutely pummeling. And it just keeps getting better; “O.A.S.D.” features even more ferocious breakdowns, coupled with unconventional angular melodies. The unpredictable song structures and unorthodox time changes are brilliant, keeping things fresh and engaging throughout the record’s 41-and-a-half minutes.
Along with great song titles, outstanding tracks like “She’s Strychnine” and “Lecturing Raskolnikov (or How to Properly Stab an Old Widow)” contain the perfect balance of vicious slamming rhythms and inhuman jarring tones, while the slowly building 11-minute closer “A Prelude of Things Worse to Come” ends Solace on a bleak, anxiety-inducing note.
Another fundamental reason why I love this record so much is because of Gabriel McCaughry’s blood-curdling vocals. His diverse and extremely dynamic delivery is on-point throughout the album; from his corrosive angst-filled expulsions to his visceral banshee screams, it’s all so intense. And the lyrics are just as fervent and insane. I dare you to hear the first track’s line “kill yourself or someone you love” and not feel something.
For me, Solace is quintessential mathcore. I had listened to The Dillinger Escape Plan before, bought Calculating Infinity and saw them live, but I didn’t quite understand the whole “mathcore” thing until listening to Ion Dissonance. A defining moment for me personally, Solace was the record that got me to comprehend those discordant sounds and embrace a whole new approach to metal, which enabled me go back and listen to Calculating Infinity with a newfound appreciation.
An album that leaves that kind of impression? I think it’s gotta be pretty damn special.