The Great Discord
Biography: How do you describe an enigma? In the case of THE GREAT DISCORD certain words come to the fore: Cinematic. Grandiose. Haunting. Soaring. Devastating. Unique. But still, it is perhaps impossible to paint a vivid picture of the Swedish unit, whose layered, textured music gets under the skin and is as likely to conjure exhilaration or a sense of poignancy in the listener as it is a profound and deep seated unease. “We wanted to make an album that gets to you.
Having Duende means having soul, the aspects of music that makes you shiver. The darker elements in the music that makes it convincing and enthralling.” states vocalist Fia Kempe. “We did not want to make an album you could have on in the background. It’s supposed to jump out and grab you, hold you down and make you consume a new piece of it every time. Lyrically it deals with the mundane as well as the extremes of what you as a person potentially live with.”
The relationship between Kempe and drummer Aksel Holmgren has stood for many years, connecting on a deep personal level when it comes to music, though it was only when they came together to form THE GREAT DISCORD in 2013 that their collaboration began. Sharing an interest in progressive music, they count the likes of Genesis and King Crimson as well as contemporary acts such as Meshuggah and The Dillinger Escape Plan among those who have inspired them.
At the same time, individually they look up to a diverse array of musicians beyond the confines of this genre, which broaden the musical base they are working from, and from the start the duo were not interested in merely regurgitating their influences. With a sound rooted in weighty, contorted metal with Kempe’s formidable, beautiful vocals soaring above the mechanized tumult, they constantly shift between tones, moods and dynamics, and with every song on Duende they simultaneously challenge and seduce the listener, eluding easy pigeonholing. “We both have very specific ways of writing and we compliment each other very well.
The first song we worked on came together in a day, and straight away we could see that we were onto something special,” says Holmgren. “The driving force behind everything we do is a desire to artistically tell a story, and have that reach as many people as possible. In the process, we have come to learn that this comes naturally to us. This is what we do.” Recruiting guitarists André Axell and Gustav Almberg alongside bassist Rasmus Carlson the band evolved into a fully-fledged entity, all of whom share the same passion and devotion.
“With our music being what it is, the need for a shared passion and understanding of this type of music was fundamental,” says Kempe. “And we were fortunate enough to find these incredibly talented musicians. People who share our drive, vision and commitment, and with them in the fold everything seemed to fall into place. It’s an extremely fulfilling musical relationship, and yet it feels like we’ve only just scratched the surface.”
While on the self-produced Duende the band push themselves to the limit to deliver the best possible performance nothing comes off as forced, and though the mix is pristine and ultra-precise it never places perfection before passion. Moreover, within the maelstrom of gripping noise is very real, human emotion, and across the record Kempe and Holmgren explore the darker aspects of human nature as they weave compelling stories, touching on both the existential and the societal.
“Some of the themes are very relatable while some are more extreme,” explains Holmgren. “For example, “Eigengrau” is about drug addiction, and it tells a story both within the music and lyrics. The chaos at the start of the song is supposed to be representing the struggle with the psychological and emotional weight of addiction, and then as it progresses it reaches a point of giving in, an acceptance that this is going to kill you, it’s going to destroy you and your life and everything you have, and the music becomes more sorrowful.
Then we have songs like “The Aging Man”, which as the title suggests is about a man coming to terms with his pending death, “Ephemeral” is about depression, and “Woes” is pure sorrow, which is something that everyone feels at some point in their life. But alongside those we have “Selfæta”, which is a narrative about the life and death of a hermit cannibal. “A Discordant Call” is a first person story and struggle of a psychopath suffering from dissociative identity disorder, and “L’homme Mauvais” is about a narcissistic necrophile, all of these very dark states to exist in, serving as counterbalance from the “mundane” and the more relatable.”
However, the band are not interested in hammering anyone exposed to Duende into submission with relentless heaviness, and in both the lyrics and music there is a push and pull, an ebb and flow, shifting unpredictably from fearsome anger to aching sadness, or from unnerving the listener to uplifting them. “It’s supposed to be emotionally dynamic. You can only be angry for so long. After that you need some other aspect to take over, so that you don’t drive yourself completely insane,” states Holmgren. “That’s how life works,” Kempe continues. “If you’re struggling you might find yourself angry and upset, you react, you act on impulse.
You might not be aware of what you are doing. After that you might feel remorse, regret, everything calms down, and our music embraces and embodies this. There are parts of our songs that are supposed to be challenging, they’re supposed to be tough to get through at first, but then suddenly there is space to breathe, to reflect. Maybe you find something you didn’t know were there. Make you feel better about yourself.”
It is this constant, ever-shifting dynamic from which the band draw their name, recognizing that life is conflicting emotions and thought processes, and from these derive a struggle, a discord. Taking this a step further, the band brings these elements into their visual presentation, and most powerfully in Kempe’s transformation into her onstage persona.
“We wanted me to be the personification that connects all these little dots, to be the manifestation of all of these elements. I am sorrow, I am weakness, I am ambiguity, but at the same time I am your strength, your passions, your soul. What essentially makes you human. And, in those human elements the murderous cannibal, the psychopath and the necrophile has their place. Extreme utterances of course, but still, uncomfortably human.”
Likewise, the band bring a strong theatrical element to their live performance, adamant that they are only interested in playing shows in which they can offer audiences more. “It wouldn’t work if we just came out in jeans and T-shirts,” says Holmgren. “It needs to be spectacular, it needs to be some kind of show, and this theatrical element is important. It makes it more of an experience, it makes it more engaging, and it allows us to really bring these themes to life.”
While music pundits and critics will fall over themselves trying to label the unique and intriguing sounds contained within Duende the band are more interested in presenting their music to the world, with the hope of making a profound musical connection with the likeminded.
Having been working toward the completion of the record for nearly two years the band have perhaps only just arrived at the beginning, and the ambitiousness of their music is further reflected in their goals. “We obviously want to take over the world,” Kempe smiles. “We really believe in our vision, we really believe in the concept behind everything that we do. We want to entertain people. We want them to come to our shows and experience everything that we have visualized for this band, and we want them to relate to the emotion that we’re putting into our songs, to be able to find something in THE GREAT DISCORD that they cannot find anywhere else.”
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Fia Kempe – Vocals, Keys
Aksel Holmgren – Drums
André Axell – Guitars
Gustav Almberg – Guitars
Rasmus Carlson – Bass