In what is sure to be alternately the most loved and/or hated release by any band this year, we have the new album by genre benders IWABO. In the outright PR and marketing coup d’état of 2011, the band shocked the world with the declaration that they were “turning black metal” on May 17th. This what we call in advertising the perfect confluence of a savvy band and their handlers knowing exactly how to push buttons and manipulate the public. The metal media and public outcry from both fans and detractors was an amazing spectacle to behold for a few days. The band, with some help from MetalSucks.com essentially punked the world. Since there is in fact no such thing as bad press, they indeed had the last laugh. The fact that so many people didn’t get the joke and the level at which IWABO operates just tickled my funnybone silly. Hype is all fine and good, but the real punchline is that the new IWABO album delivers musically beyond all expectations.
Although there is an occasional flirtation with black metal, the sound of the new album is the same IWABO you always loved or hated. Spasmodic shifts of tempo blended perfectly with their aggressive mash-ups and wry sarcasm. Opening track “Next Visible Deliscious” straddles the line between tech deth, proggy deathcore and a PRIMUS like jam section in the middle. The sleeves of the band are all rolled up, revealing their entire bag of tricks to all comers. The first thing you notice about the song of the band is how much more defined and prominent the rhythm section is than ever before. “You Know That Ain’t Them Dogs’ Real Voices” has a sick heavy verse and an amazing chorus. The second verse finds the enchanting and limitless Krysta Cameron wailing on her brutal vocals. There is other assorted good weirdness in the track like surf guitar and grindcore. I have literally listened to this one song alone dozens of times since getting the album. “Deoderant Can’t Fix Ugly” is discordant, avant-garde and most of all wonderful. And yes, it does end with a gospel style chorus like a 1990’s RnB song. Although the entire band has improved individually and collectivley, I’d have to single out drummer Mike Montgomery for being excellent and particularly crushing. The actual song on the album with a black metal influence is “It is “bro” isn’t it?” which sounds like it could be an outtake from the current BLACK DAHLIA MURDER album. That is until the gorgeous chorus and angular guitar riffs come in. More surprises like well developed keyboard parts come to the forefront like never before. John Ganey and Steven Bradely are not just fine guitarists, they are sick songwriters and programmers to boot. “Gold Jacket, Green Jacket” flirts with techno and other oddities in and around a deathcore song structure.“Break it Down Camacho” is another song I can’t say enough good things about with it’s cool bass parts courtesy of Ricky Martin. Songs like “Stay to the Right” and “I’m Gonna Shoot” just rock and again show there is no boundary the band cannot shatter. The single “Karate Nipples” is great on repeated listens as well. Rounding out the proceedings with possibly the best track of them all in “Button It Up” with its subject matter as dark as its tone. Sorry to break it you haters, the joke is still on you!
IN SEARCH OF SIGHT from Fort Worth, TX has a new album coming out that is sure to set ears on fire. There are so many contenders for the “djent” throne and so little time to check them all out. This one however, is worth repeated listens. After the opening salvo of “Revision” which sounds like an outtake for THE LORD OF THE RINGS TRILOGY the album begins in earnest with “Onuris”. The song is an instrumental gem of the highest order. Buzzsaw guitar riffs, shedding harmonized solos, complex meters and proggy twists and turns highlight the track. The urgency of the main riff can’t be denied as a face melter right from the play book of MESSHUGAH, but still sounding fairly original too. There are some interesting bass harmonics in the track as well that caught my attention. Next comes “Animism” which has nods to BETWEEN THE BURIED AND ME and newer bands like TESSERACT. Vocalist Danbo has a gorgeous melodic voice reminiscent of Tommy Rogers and his guttural low screams are excellent as well. Guitarists Dustin and Russell blast out crazy amounts of riffs and plenty of shred guitar orgy-style goodness to sink your teeth into. Nolan on the drums again impresses with his laid back approach, his technical skills and his trigger heavy sound. The atmospheric ending of the track amazed me and bring to my mind a band like CYNIC or ATHEIST as well. “Emotional Insight” is another killer track with over the top playing and writing. The track is brutally heavy, angular and complex. More great vocals by Danbo and the deft work by bassist Brian are big pluses. The song also has a brief, but sick guitar solo. In a possible nod to their hometown heroes PANTERA, the song has a tremendous groove factor too. The final track “Completion” is a fine piece of over the top prog revelry. It proves these guys are not content to join the musical movement that may just be a fad, but push forward and lead to a new place beyond this realm. I’ll be interested to hear a full length from them soon.
Invisible White is the EP follow up to the 2009 full-length release of this LA based doom prog quintet, Ancestors. The band has brought back many of the psychedelic elements that won respect in their first two albums, but they stripped most of the heavy blues characteristics from those ventures and focused on maturing their ability to make damn near perfect melodies that can trip you far out into the clouds. The first song named after the album sets a dreamy landscape of psychedelic folk rock with a wide range of eclectic influences (from PINK FLOYD, ARTHUR BROWN, and URIAH HEEP) that will surely introduce newcomers to what they can expect from the entire album. Ethereal guitar and the organic keyboard tones remain to add to a mystic ambience of the record. The emotionally charged conclusion to the 29 minute long album, “Epilogue,” brings us back into the heavy distortion expected of a doom album and lures the listener into a track nearly half of it’s length. Invisible White’s most prominent characteristic is the piano backdrop that guides the listener between instrumental themes of melancholy and uplifting deliverance on all three songs. Although short (much like any EP) it promises a lot of potential for the future of this spacey band lurking on the edges of the heavy metal stratosphere.
Once in awhile as a reviewer you hear a band that reaffirms everything you believe about music. A band that puts out a piece of music so good you want to stand up and shout. I listen to more records than I review because that is the life of a professional music appreciator. Not everything you get to listen to is the best quality or inspires great reviews because simply put, not everyone is great. The word great gets thrown around like love and hate in this disposable age. The new record from ORWELL, which is in fact great with a capital G, came to me as part of my job as a reviewer. Had I just come across it as a fan I would love it all the same. If I was starting a brand new band today and declared that it was going to be metal, I would aspire to be a great as ORWELL is on AVOH FASIH.
Laid out as a concept record of the highest order, the first song “In Tides, I Wake” is a slow, moody crusher of a song. Although it opens with gentle picked guitars, the bruising riffs and anguished vocals kick in to give it the right heavy flavor. The track would not be out of place for a CONVERGE, CAVE IN or MASTODON album. Such a good songwriting choice to build tension and start the record off with this tempo as opposed to the million albums I come across that just blaze right off the bat. There are also some beautiful and unexpected droning guitars towards the end that call to mind A PERFECT CIRCLE. From the wash of guitar noise, to the chugging middle section all the way until to the final chiming notes, the track is a keeper. Second track “In Crude, I Remain” tricked me a bit. The song started off like the last one ended, but amped up the heavy factor even more with a snake-like main riff that is addictive on repeated listens.
Vocalist Logan Hauser has pipes of cement and is a difference maker with his low howling voice and his caustic screams punctuating every track. When the tempo kicks into high gear the song shifts into overdrive. Rhythms that evoke both LAMB OF GOD and DREAM THEATER at the same time will make heads spin. The song spirals out into some top choice chordal aggression. Guitarists Tim Bradley and Erik Bolstad do a fine job of weaving complex parts together that mesh perfectly. “In Depths, I Sink” starts off with a metal roar and doesn’t let up until the very end. A true neck breaking mosh song full of PANTERA-esque grooves. None of this blend of prog and brain bashing metal would be possible without the skills of drummer Cris Bissell.
Bookending the previous track with its heartbeat ending and tribal drum intro “From Depths, I Rise” features gorgeous female vocals and a hypnotic beat. We also hear bassist Will Strickland stretch out with some fine walking lead lines. This one of the best tracks among the other outstanding ones and really surprised me on a lot of levels even though I was already enjoying the album. This song ought to have a chance to live on a place like the Liquid Metal XM radio show for being so heavy yet, so damn catchy. Frankly, I expect a song of this quality from a much older group and this speaks to ORWELL’s readiness to rise to bigger things soon. Another epic in the form of the thoughtful “In Dust, I Stand” comes later in the album and is an exercise in dynamics not unlike TOOL, especially after the breakdown. Finally the closing song “A New Awakening” ties the experience of the album together with a fitting and adventurous ending. Military marching drums give way to more intricate guitar while Hauser just wails away on vocals. The song is also gritty and has plenty of heft to go with its soulful melodies. After the climactic ending riff the entire opus ends with a mournful piano piece that just drifts away leaving a reminder that you just listened to something truly amazing.