Thursday, October 5, 2017

Album Review: Iris Divine - The Static And The Noise

Modern prog metal has gone in a direction I don't quite understand. With bands like Haken trying to recreate the worst of the 80s, and Leprous leading the way into rhythmic non-songwriting, so much of what constitutes the young generation of the genre is making music that is a chore to listen to. Gone are the days when prog metal bands showed off their skill and knowledge while in the context of real and good songs. Now it's all about being dark, and playing in odd time signatures, but with very little focus from the singers on connecting with the listeners. I find it sad, but few people seem to agree with me.

Iris Divine is a band that does, however. Their debut album was one that had plenty of intricate playing, and was certainly heavy, but it was all centered around great melodic songwriting. "Karma Sown" was one of the best prog release of that year, so I was excited to see them return with a new record that doesn't change up the winning formula.

Let's take the opening track, "Catalyst", for example. The song opens with a super heavy riff, then the drums start pounding out a pattern that isn't a straight 4/4 beat. Some unique chords ring in the background, and then the chorus comes in with a strong melodic focus. There's also a few technical riffs in the middle-eight, capping off a jam-packed five minutes of music. As you can see, there's a bit of everything thrown in, but it's done with skill. This isn't like some bands, where the various sections get glued together with no thought behind it. This is well-conceived, and logical. It's also very good.

One of the things I appreciate about Iris Divine's writing is that they use dynamics to their advantage. "Taking Back The Fall" starts out with a crushing riff, but the band doesn't feel the need to keep the song at that intensity throughout. Their let things pull back for a while, which is not only smart because that kind of heaviness gets tiring, but it lets those moments sound heavier by virtue of having a comparison to be made.

Another point to note is that this is a phenomenally produced record. While the sound is still modern and loud, the clarity and balance of the recording is great. The guitars have just the right amount of bite on them, the vocals come through clear, and the mix has everything sitting just right. And unlike a lot of metal, the bass is even easily audible. Plenty of bands on major labels can't match the pure sound of this album.

"The Static And The Noise" is a very fine modern prog metal album. While the genre's leaders are getting lost, Iris Divine is stepping right past them. I'll admit that I'm not as keen on the closing track, "We All Dissolve", because of the overuse of spoken word elements, but otherwise the album is as good as you can ask for from a young band like this. Iris Divine has made an album that is heavy, challenging, yet accessible. That's the perfect balance, and "The Static And The Noise" fits right in with "Karma Sown" as great examples of how to do it right.

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