Ion Dissonance Control Chaos

Ion Dissonance Control Chaos
"To be completely honest with you, the second we released the new song [‘Kneel,’ on our myspace page] we got a lot of negative comments,” says Ion Dissonance vocalist Kevin McCaughey. "Maybe not everyone comes to the shows or buys the albums, but they know Ion can play their instruments, and they have a certain amount of respect for that. The second you come out with a song that’s just chugga chugga breakdowns for three minutes, I guess people get discouraged, especially the diehards.”

Together for almost half a decade, Montreal, Quebec’s purveyors of overly complex metallic devastation, Ion Dissonance have established themselves as one of the leaders in the Canadian aggressive underground, embracing throwback ideals such as unrelenting touring, ferocious live shows and ruthless, overwhelming albums in a time that seems to be about who has a hot song online. Breathing is Irrelevant, the band’s 2003 debut for extreme-benchmark-setting label Willowtip, was an intricate riot of barely contained technical devastation, establishing lofty expectations for the then-nascent unit. Their sophomore release, 2005’s Solace, on Abacus, saw the band pushing their own limitations, and that of listeners, in an attempt to outdo themselves and their debut. However, it’s their third full-length, Minus the Herd, that has fans talking.

Kevin’s description of new song "Kneel” is both dryly self-deprecating (he is, after all, French-Canadian) and misleading. There are no radical style shifts on Minus The Herd, no new ventures into trendy waters. It retains all the elements Ion Dissonance have become renowned for — the complexity, the musicianship, the overwhelming musical oppression — and, if anything, streamlines their attack, attempting to control the sonic chaos instead of unleashing it without regard, which makes the fact that some fans are up in arms all the more surprising.

"In terms of the new record, it’s not a completely new direction,” McCaughey agrees. "The same elements are still there — it’s still low tuned, it’s still Ion Dissonance, it still has that dark feeling — it’s just we wrote songs this time instead of cramming four million riffs into one song. Some people seem not to appreciate the ‘new direction’ but I guess once the album drops and people actually hear it, we might lose a few fans but at the same time, we’re hoping to gain many more.”

It’s not only their established musical chaos that the band are trying to control — they’re also attempting to harness the turmoil that comes from replacing a front-man. In 2006, original vocalist Gabriel McCaughry took his blood curdling banshee scream and went home, opening the door for McCaughey, who had done time in Montreal band Shaolin and as a session/touring vocalist in fellow Montreal heavyweights Despised Icon, to ably step up to the plate. "A lot of people like what Gabe did on the first two records. I love his lyrics and his patterns were just so crazy; they’re like something you’d never heard before,” enthuses Kevin. "When I joined, the biggest concern I had was that I had some big shoes to fill because people really looked up to Gabriel.” However, extreme metal rarely places the same emphasis on the singer as more mainstream styles, which made the change less painful and dramatic than it might have been. "When a vocalist leaves a band [like this] it’s not as hard as finding a new drummer. Everybody’s brother wants to be a vocalist these days. If [Ion’s drummer] J.F. had left, maybe things would have gone in a different direction. But I don’t think you can say that a tech-ish metal band is the singer.”