To be honest, I have no idea how the hell to label a band like Germany’s Island. Progressive death metal? The Orakel side of this release certainly maintains a number of death metal elements, but the band’s later material — the Island EP that’s generously tacked on to the end of this release — strays from the brutal blueprint into something I suppose should simply be referred to as…progressive?
Labels can be such a pain in the ass. How about…
Island play progressive heavy music that swirls in loads of discordant measures with sporadic flashes of bludgeoning brutality, schizophrenic pinches and stretches of quiet, jangly moments that are often quite beautiful.
The first six tracks of this disc represent Island‘s inaugural endeavor, 2004’s Orakel, and it’ll land you all over the bloody map. “Journey Through the Jewel,” “River Source,” “Grund,” “Ueber Dem Thai” and the untitled sixth cut all bend and cut through multiple moods and patterns, but the overall gist is this: beat-the-living-shit-out-of when things are heavy and fairly mechanical (some clobbering riffs and RUMBLING bass when the death-ish face shows); lull into a fidgety sort of calm when things are lighter and more discordant; and occasionally drift into junctures of complete serenity when things are at their most quiet (the absolutely beautiful acoustic layering on the instrumental self-titled track – wowee). The gruff hollering found throughout Orakel is also tempered with generous doses of perfectly executed clean vocals akin to something latter-era Enslaved might do. In essence, Orakel is all over the metal map, but the transitions are seamless, so the harsh and quiet moments play off one another beautifully.
2005’s Island EP rounds out the last portion of this disc (tracks 7-9), and while it’s obviously produced from the same band, the brutality is toned down. The harsh vocals are essentially gone, save for some screaming towards the end of “Veritas,” and everything is delivered a bit more directly. Still interesting stuff in a sort of “modern Disharmonic Orchestra” kind of way, but here’s to hoping future releases go back to focusing on a more stark contrast between the ferocious and the mild.
The lines continue to blur as metal endures and forges forward, and while it’s comforting to know that we still have plenty of artists with roots firmly set in nothing but good ol’ tradition, inventiveness is key if we expect this beast to keep on kicking. Island is clearly focused on innovation, and Orakel is definitely worthy of attention if you like things a little wonky.