Review: Divide And Dissolve ‘Systemic’

Being part of an ethnic minority within the metal scene can be rewarding at times and exhausting at others, trust me. There’s not a lot of us in the scene, so whenever I see a fellow person of colour at a gig, I feel compelled to chat with them and compare our experiences. It’s definitely easier being a stoner witch or a doom hag nowadays than when I went to my very first metal concert aged 13 (it was a small band from the French Basque called Gojira) and it’s because we see more diverse faces and hear more diverse experiences of identity politics thanks to artists like Backxwash, Zulu, Duma, Soul Glo or Divide And Dissolve, who have all recently released amazing albums.

Divide And Dissolve 'Systemic' Artwork
Divide And Dissolve ‘Systemic’ Artwork

My first encounter with Divide And Dissolve was at Roadburn 2022 where I went to see their show and was hooked from the get-go with their drone doom sound. It was a great experience which got even better after I chatted for a bit with Takiaya Reed, the multi-instrumentalist who started this project in 2017 alongside Sylvie Nehill, who played drums and percussions until late last year.

Reed is black and Cherokee, Nehill is Māori and white Australian and together, they use their shared experiences of Indigenousness through their music. No lyrics are needed, just them and their music, which explains why their previous album, Gas Lit, was so critically acclaimed two years ago because they were able to convey a lot by not saying much and people loved it. But what happens when a band gets off the hype train? They usually work on a follow-up or a side project, and less than eighteen months after they last played in the UK, Divide And Dissolve are back with a brand-new album, Systemic.

Following the same trend of naming their albums based on very pressing socio-political issues that I will not delve into here, Systemic offers a breeding ground for reflection at almost every single one of the tracks in the album. Heavy hitters like Blood Quantum and Simulacra in particular are so powerful and visceral enough to intrigue us listeners, or Kingdom Of Fear which features a wonderful poem, spoken by Minori Sanchiz-Funga, about nature, healing and societal oppression at the forefront and gentle percussions accompanying the distorted guitar strums.

The future of the scene looks promising with bands like Divide And Dissolve…

The other great thing about this album is how well some of the songs complement one another, you can listen to Systemic on shuffle and you won’t miss any of the magic that makes this band so enthralling and interesting in the first place. The album opener, Want, will get you into the zone almost as instantly as the album closer, Desire, will gently lead you out of it.

Every song is crafted to push the envelope – as in the hauntingly gritty Derail or Reproach, which reminded me a bit of Helms Alee or BIG|BRAVE, two excellent bands that also feature native/indigenous references – but always make sure that their message is being heard loud and clear: Black and indigenous liberation is vital to their members’ survival in a world that has been hostile to them for the longest time.

In other words, Systemic is a brilliant album which will give you a lot to think about our world and how the system can stack so many painful hurdles to people who already survive on very little and against all odds. It is also super fucking cool and heavy, which is always a great thing to mention here. The future of the scene looks promising with bands like Divide And Dissolve showing us the way to rewrite our collective history through albums like this one.

Label: Invada Records
Band Links: Official | Facebook | Bandcamp | Spotify | Twitter | Instagram

Scribed by: Nessie Spencer