Sometimes handling your best qualities can be very tricky, even trickier than handling your flaws, and having a miser’s approach towards them can prove the most effective solution.
The Disarmed is a Sioux Falls-based band who’s been at it since 2013. Having released only a couple of albums with ‘What We Leave’ being the third, it’s clear to see that they are a group that take their time on their releases, allowing themselves natural maturation and spontaneous growth, which appears in the production value and in the songwriting and lyricism. ‘What We Leave’ is an album that deals with legacy, basically what we leave behind after we leave, and this concept is delivered in a grunge-y way that’s hard-hitting, unrelenting, and at times, unfortunately archaic.
The instrumentation throughout the album is sweet. The drums are consistently punchy and roomy, the bass is also largely prominent and boomy, the guitars are thick and oozing with grit and dirt, the vocals are raspy and very aggressive, and they are also the sole element that fails this album from my point of view. Bobby Kooiman’s voice is pretty amazing, with astonishing range and control. Where it fails is how he chooses to sing in the exact same register for the majority of this release. Very high chest voice that often breaks into feral grows on most songs. This type of singing is very detrimental and dramatic and is very suitable for grand choruses or drastic storytelling sections. So naturally, having it occur oh so often introduces a serious pacing issue, in which a state of emergency is declared throughout most of the album with few moments of rest and/or recollection, making the album a difficult and aggravating trip if you’re not expecting and accustomed to this style of singing.
With the negatives out of the way, it’s time to discuss what works on this album. ‘Fear of Fading Away’ is a standout. A simple acoustic ballad that grows beyond the stratosphere in one of the most satisfying crescendos on the album. ‘Rest Easy’ is an oasis in a brutal desert, one of the cleaner and prettier offerings on the album, and the only one that manages to stay that way throughout. It is also the only song in which Bobby rarely hits those high registers, opting instead to stay in a low, moody, and enticing lull. The drumming is also delicious and the clean guitar riffs are very imaginative. ‘Source of Anger’ is very angry. With prominent and consistent growling and a lengthy instrumental section that gives the guitar a chance to howl as well. The riffs on ‘Fake’ play with time in an interesting way and ‘Holy Grounds’ is downright metal! With intense and dynamic riffs and exceptionally heavy distortion and well-paced singing.
‘What We Leave’ is a mixed bag, that if you are a seasoned lover of grunge, will be a mix of different levels of good. But if you’re not, you might find it slightly difficult to sit through because of its breakneck pace. In that situation, I’d recommend taking it on in 2 or 3 sessions, and you’ll find a wealth of imaginative music and stellar performances.