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Album Review: Disconnected Souls - Fragments Of Consciousness (2024)

Formed in 2018 from a longing to amalgamate the distinctive elements of electronic, classical and metal music, Chester quintet Disconnected Souls have already begun to establish themselves as a band with a unique make up. With band members naming acts as diverse as Nightwish, Fit For An Autopsy, Lotus Child and Hans Zimmer among their favourites, they truly have an eclectic base for their music. While they encompass many components of the three genres named above, Disconnected Souls set no boundaries for how these genres are blended within each one of their songs. Their debut EP Warring Elements – released in 2020 – concluded with the track Mischievous Spirits and throughout Fragments Of Consciousness, we follow a mischievous spirit as it seeks to make sense of the human world.

From the outset, integrating spoken word, a range of familiar sound effects (the Microsoft Windows closing sound, for example) and genre-defying composition, Fragments Of Consciousness is an intriguing, darkly seductive, often disturbing and mind-altering sojourn through the human psyche, visiting places of confusing disillusionment and the challenge to escape such confines. Band leader Matthew Simon Fletcher acknowledges that album may prove a difficult listen for many. “I don’t expect that this will be an easy listen and you might be positively baffled by what’s going on, but hopefully you’ll agree that we fulfilled our objectives of producing something different, and you’ll feel enriched for having had the experience (positive or negative)!" 

Disconnected Souls waste no time taking us into their varied and challenging world, traversing the genres of techno, EDM, pop and metal – from symphonic to djent to industrial - during the opening five minutes of the album on first track Delirium. Weaving together these styles, the band add another layer of drama with the lyrical narrative which illustrates the struggle between the seductive illusions created by substance abuse and the harsh reality that inevitably surfaces because of these choices. Another life destabilised / One last hit, end of the line / I guess you never saw the signs / Can't rewrite or redefine / We're closing out this storyline / You're paralysed and neutralised / By all the ones you idolised / By all the poisons glamorised. The protagonist is portrayed as being caught in a dangerous limbo, teetering on the edge of a reality they are trying to escape and an illusion that cannot be maintained. Entwining the penetrating, authoritative growling vocals of Patrick Lloyd and the clean vocals of Holly Royle, Delirium is both a sinewy metallic stomp, and a song with elements that would not be out of place in late 1990s rave.

Dissonant Whispers explores the tension between the desire to help others, the cost of that help to oneself, the willingness to hide our own pain and take on the burdens of others, and the realisation of the destructive nature of such sacrifices. Pull me further from the shore / Let me save you from this war / Feel the water fill my lungs / Never will you see the sun. Opening with lamenting, anguished piano and ephemeral vocals, Dissonant Whispers takes an increasingly gothic turn which is reminiscent of Within Temptation’s debut album, Enter. Infinitesimal but effective moments of silence hang between chiming bells and chugging guitar during the central instrumental section of the track, adding to the eerie feeling of desolation echoed within the lyrics.

Plague Rats – in places the heaviest song on the album – is a vicious, devastating attack on the politicians and governments of the world – especially that of the United Kingdom (as evidenced by the lyrics and a sample taken from a particularly interesting session in parliament). Intense language and imagery calls for meaningful change to address systemic societal issues. A king unwound by his ego trip / As the rats flee the sinking ship / A narcissist still clings to power / Craving his own finest hour / Disaster capitalist / A Darwinian system for eugenicists / We need to eradicate this evil at the root. Fast paced, unrelenting and intermittently discordant, Plague Rats is amongst the most pervasive and thought-provoking songs on the album.

After three songs, Fragments Of Consciousness is already living up Fletcher’s promise of producing something different; there is no doubt that the merging of the genres will prove too much for many. However, this readiness to meld genres and with no consideration to what is expected, Disconnected Souls have given themselves unlimited licence to experiment. Pertichor and Symbiont rise and fall through different atmospheres, colours and ideals ranging from mysterious, spellbinding timbres to swirling kaleidoscopic images.

Whether Fragments of Consciousness appeals listeners on a musical level will depend on the individual’s ability or desire to open themselves to the radically different approaches to songwriting taken by Disconnected Souls. What cannot be denied is their ability for intelligent lyrical flourishes. Cleverly titled sixth track Kintsukuroi (named after the Japanese pottery repair technique in which lacquer mixed with precious metals - especially gold - is used to fill cracks and replace missing pieces) addresses the need for resilience in modern life, the importance of seeking help when required and that with the right guidance and support, we can regain stability and balance. You must emerge from the darkness / And diverge into the light / Bitter words of discontent / Push you to the start again… Reclaim your life from the abyss / A gilded metamorphosis / Reclaim your life from the abyss / A gilded metamorphosis. Combining components of melodic metalcore with resplendent keyboards, it is one of the most accessible tracks on the album while retaining depth within the message it sets out to share. Human Error – the shortest song on the album at just over four minutes – visits the same dark places as John Carpenter’s sinister piano based compositions twisting dissonantly with threatening, industrial patterns.  

Loveless begins with a programmed pattern redolent of the first moments of Jean Michel Jarre’s Zoolookolgie before becoming a heated, rancorous, magma spewing infestation of metalcore and synth-driven industrial blast beats. Loveless explores the themes of emotional disconnection, the pressure to conform to societal or a partner’s expectations of love, and the struggle for self-acceptance. One of the most impassioned lyrics on the album, the protagonist balances the artificiality being imposed on them with the quest for authentic emotional expression. (I want your synthetic love) / Am I loveless? I'm not trying to mislead / (I want your plastic desire) / Am I senseless? / I can't give you what you need / (I want your synthetic love) / Am I soulless? / Does my heart pump naught but ice? / (I want your plastic desire) / Am I hopeless? / Lock me out of paradise.

As Fragments Of Consciousness reaches its final third, it is almost impossible to imagine what the album might have become if the band had stayed with their first idea for its structure. “Fragments of Consciousness was originally intended to be a double release, however we elected to split this in two in order to keep the momentum going after the success of the Warring Elements EP. There is a conceptual story being told across these albums that pertains to the Mischievous Spirit, introduced on the aforementioned release.” So much is there to take in during a listen to this single album that it was probably a wise decision to release this part of the story now, as a double album could have been overwhelming, notwithstanding the fact that many will find this single album to be just that.

Certain roles within Disconnected Souls are more fixed (the harsh vocals for example are all the work of Patrick Lloyd); however, all the band members are credited with programming and three with clean vocals (and one with backing vocals), three with keyboards, two with synths and three with guitars. So labyrinthine and multifaceted is the album that each song has a named ‘Creative Director.’ It is easy to see why.

With a wealth of synths – handled brilliantly throughout the album by Felix Luca King and Tim Jenkins - programming and overlapping soundscapes, Silence Of The Doves passes through a range of strange time signatures as it examines contrasts between the grim realities of combat, the valorisation of fallen soldiers and the futility and omnipresence of war; it is described by the band as “madness”. Fragments is – by the standards of Disconnected Souls at least – one of the more straightforward songs on the album. We have reached an emotional descent where we are asked to contemplate the sum of our lives, disconnection with those we have known, and our acceptance of death or of insignificance to others. Callous misconception / Denied my way back home / Refuted reflection / There's nowhere we can know / Which face to turn to, time flies; it lies too. Evoking the darker moments of Depeche Mode or more recent albums by Ulver, Fragments pulses with a disconcerting synth pattern in the background while an eloquent, melodic guitar solo (performed by Jeremy Valentyne of New Year’s Day) belies the darkness elsewhere in the song.

As penultimate track Monachopsis (A Waltz At The End Of The World) begins, it seems as if Disconnected Souls cannot possibly draw on another genre to tell their story; however, Monachopsis (which according to The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows is the subtle but persistent feeling of being out of place) is a brooding concoction of jazz, pop and dark gothic ambience delving into themes of existentialism alongside the tension between the beauty of life and the chaotic, destructive nature of the universe. There is a sense of embracing the moment, living fully even as the end looms. Watch it all burn / Before it's our turn / We're carving our own epitaphs / The end of all shall come to pass / An oasis in the hourglass / We couldn't make amends / Before it all ends.

The final track on Fragments Of Consciousness – the instrumental Iyashikei – deliberately leaves us with a more positive outlook at least at its outset. Iyashikei is Japanese for "healing", a term used for anime and manga involving alternative realities with little to no conflict, emphasising nature, the mundane and the little delights in life. Beginning with bouncing, effervescent synths, it aims to capture the naivety we live within during childhood. It becomes increasingly complex as our lives become entangled with the influences of others, societal demands, work and relationships before returning to the starting theme as we finally understand how to control our personal expectations and look back on our achievements.

Fragments Of Consciousness is a spectacular achievement. The challenge to compose, arrange, record and produce an album such as this would have been intense. It is an album which dares you to throw away your pre-conceptions of genre, your wish for traditional song structure and to embrace the unexpected and uninvited. Lyrically, the album is a triumph asking us to examine your inner psyche and re-evaluate the world around us.  Fragments Of Consciousness is an album that you should listen to at least once and see where your feelings lie; however, it cannot be fully absorbed in a single visit and with each listen, it gnaws away at the mind for another. In a world where so much music is manufactured, generic and tedious, Fragments Of Consciousness is a beacon of ingenuity. Endlessly inventive, often obscure, cognitively demanding, cinematic and symphonic, it will delight many, confuse some and horrify others - in short, it achieves what Disconnected Souls set out to do. There will not be another album like this released this year. See you on the other side for the next chapter…..

Written: 6th and 7th January 2024

Fragments of Consciousness will be released on January 19th, 2024.

Pre-save Fragments of Consciousness here:

Watch the video for Kintsukuroi and Loveless below.


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