Originally written by Chris Redar
Chicago’s Immortal Bird wasted very little time crafting a full length after their late 2013 EP Akrasia took a swing and a miss at most critics’ EOY lists. Here’s a little secret for ya, kiddies: most of us have that shit somewhere between ninety and one-hundred percent locked and loaded by mid-September, so when your favorite band drops their awesome new album in November, that’s why it’s acknowledged by the two critics that wait until the day before Christmas to slap together an egg nog-soaked list of atrocities (if you read my list last year, you know that was me). So, if you didn’t hear it, or didn’t hear about it—our bad. Metal scribes suck at everything, especially scribing about metal.
Anyhoo, it’s now 2015, and we have another carton (heh) of tunes from the ‘Bird in the form of Empress/Abscess—five, to be exact. That’s right—it’s a debut full-length with less than a half-dozen tunes and just over a half hour of run time, and it works in favor of the material immensely. Bands of this ilk (melodically informed black/death) have a tendency to think the world of non-stop seven-plus minute jams and hour-long albums stuffed around the edges with what they think fog sounds like. In dissecting the formula and cutting away the unnecessary trimmings, Immortal Bird has managed to fill a shorter run time with urgency and impact rather than pad out a long player with overwrought atmospherics.
Empress/Abscess also sees the band coming into their own sound, whereas Akrasia was very much evident of its influences. In streamlining trace elements of noise rock (“The Sycophant”) and much faster death/grind percussion (“To A Watery Grave”) without abandoning solid riff assembly and pacing, Immortal Bird (which includes among its ranks former LR scribe Rae Amitay) makes a very compelling argument in favor of the potential of black metal—something a vast majority of black metal argues against. Black metal, to yours truly, is (a note to those of you who keep metal writer simile journals—now would be a good time to bust them shits out) like when you’re buttoning up a pair of pants or work overalls, and you don’t hear the button snap into place. Sure, you know it’s clasped together because you can see the lip overlapping, but if you didn’t hear that oh-so-satisfying *chp* sound, you may as well just throw the goddamn garment in the fire. It’s now a reminder of the very essence of disappointment, deserving of all of the scorn heaped upon it. Empress/Abscess, for the most part, is the *chp*.
There are a couple of very un-*chp*py moments, however. Closer “And Send Fire” transitions into (and out of) an acoustic-style interlude with the subtle nuance of a tree falling onto the middle of the song. It’s a rather jarring development after the previously mentioned “To A Watery Grave” does the same thing much more effectively. And the outro seems to extend to the edges of time itself. It’s not the worst thing in the world, but it’s a very strange way to end what is mostly a rager.
A couple of stumbles towards the end of the sprint notwithstanding, Empress/Abscess is where it’s at. Fine tuning a genre by ignoring its tropes and focusing on quality of output rather than sabotaging one’s own work by drowning it in filler should be every band’s goal at this stage in the game. Immortal Bird is two-for-two in that regard, and coming out in the throes of summer will serve Empress/Abscess well when writers begin compiling the best-of lists in August.