Debut recordings can be tricky for a number of reasons. First, they’re often comprised of songs bands have been playing for years that finally get to put on record, making the transition to album two a little different. Or, they can spoil listeners who get used to a particularly impactful virgin offering and decide the band must play the same way forever and ever. No changes!
Luckily it appears Chicago’s Immortal Bird will not fall into either of those categories. For one, the band had songs in the bag and were recording their debut EP “Akrasia” with Jeff Ziolo (the esteemed and indestructible Kurt Ballou handled mixing, while Brad Boatright mastered this filthy beast) before they really moved their craft to the stage. So it was sort of a work in progress. They also aren’t married to any one sound, so much so thats it’s really hard to push this band into a corner and affix them with a label. Why must you be so difficult, Immortal Bird? Their bio tags them as blackened death thrash (a sub-sub-genre?), and all of those descriptors work, but that only gives you a basic idea of what this trio is up to on this four-song offering.
Immortal Bird also marks the move of drummer extraordinaire Rae Amitay (Thrawsunblat, Mares of Thrace, and a live member of Castle for a tour) from behind the kit to in front as its lead howler/lyricist. She proves herself quite the force on the mic, using her authoritative, savage vocals to put as much impact as possible behind her words, and she has one hell of a future scaring the shit out of us in this manner. Oh, and she does handle the drum work here and even wrote some riffs for this sucker. Joining her are guitarist Evan Berry (Wilderun, Replacire), who also contributes backing vocals to the recording, as well as bassist John Pacillo. They work pretty damn well together, pulling out all kinds of influences and sounds and never etching in stone anything that isn’t inspired and mind warping. What they deliver here on this EP not only has me excited for these four, diverse songs, but intrigued as to where they go next.
Amitay says the title “Akrasia,” acting against one’s better judgment, not only is a great sounding name for the EP but one that embodies what these words and and compositions stand for, expressing those moments of rage, resentment, and anger that have played a part in her life. Listening to these songs, and the way they drill you and leave you dizzy and exhausted, really indicate the band hit the nail on the head and drove it full force. The schizophrenic tempo changes, the mauling damage, and the whirling emotion that is drizzled all over these songs might even make you feel a little uncomfortable inside as you relive similar moments from your own life. And if you insist you never had those, I call bullshit.
The EP kicks off with the scathing “Spitting Teeth,” a song rife with anger, revenge, and loathing that is treated with whirling guitars, spiraling and penetrating melodies, and Amitay’s words are pure rage, as she spits out lines such as, “Everything you dread clasps its fingers ’round your throat,” and, “I would watch you burn, but that takes too much time.” There are traces of atmospheric tones and some imaginative dreaming in the song’s mid-section, but the conclusion plays like a snarling, runaway truck coming to destroy you. “Ashen Scabland” keeps the punishment and creativity walking hand in hand, as guitars envelope you like a whipping wind, leaving you helpless to fight it, and destructive drumming that bloodies your face and knuckles. The middle of the track is really compelling, as the band slips into a prog-metal sequence that reminds me a lot of Voivod’s more playful moments, and just when you think perhaps Immortal Bird are going to let you down easy, the final minute of the track ignites again, with a metallic surge and Amitay unleashing some of her most passionate, scarred vocals on the entire record.
The second half begins with “Akratic Seminar,” a track with lyrics full of faulty decision making and loathing regret, that Amitay delivers perfectly. At one point, she unleashes her cleaner voice, though it only pops in for a few fragile moments, and then it’s back to blazing intensity. The song is dark and murky, with further prog adventures, airy passages, and cooler breezes emerging and adding some chills. But toward the end, everything blows up again and goes into a thrashing, mashing display of chaos, with Amitay howling, “Take this away, a mess of skin and agony/Chemical waste of space, perfume and nicotine.” Harsh, no? Closer The Pseudoscientist” blows open from the start, like a raging furnace looking for something to burn. All of the elements come together to scorch and destroy, with sprawling melodies, destructive thrash and death influences, and an overall sense of audio and mental punishment. Amitay’s words drip with hurt and anger, as she growls, “I was a person, not a sin/Your body bloats with swells and lies/As your excuses wear thin.” You can’t help but feel bruised along with her, as we’ve all had those moments where we look into the eyes of hypocrisy, and she conveys that disgust and anger with both violence and vulnerable humanity.
Immortal Bird succeed on so many levels, from making music that is fresh and cannot possibly pin listeners’ hopes on a specific path to where they’ll go next, to creating something that sounds organic, furious, adventurous, and wholly inspired. It might poke at some bruises on your heart if you follow along with Amitay’s words, but maybe it’ll help you develop some callouses that’ll benefit you in the long run. Or you can immerse yourself in the band’s total sound, that’ll surprise you over and over again, even on subsequent listens. Their full-length debut is most anticipated.
For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/immortalbirdband
To buy the album, go here: http://immortalbird.bandcamp.com/