…goddamn, the way this latest Immortal Bird starts off deserves a review that starts off the same way RIGHT FUCKING NOW straight mauler of a front riff and Amitay sounds like someone is throwing fire ants on her wait they changed up a black metal riff still fire ants wait they changed again oh this is a monster refrain okay who do I think I am Cormac McCarthy time to write like a normal person…
Normal people are fine. We need them for everyday things like teaching disinterested teenagers algebra, maintaining nuclear power plants, and delivering mail we won’t read. But normal people are not in Immortal Bird. At least in the creative sense. I am sure the members do lots of normal things, but they create something special together. Something that manages to incorporate the disparate aspects of modern metal and synthesize it into a sound that is at once generally compelling and intrinsically personal.
The band have a clarity of sound that almost belies the dirty nature of the compositions and subject matter. It’s a little Voivodian in many ways. Voivod always have their own quality above and beyond their compositions; some aspect of it is hard to place a finger on. It has something to do with the rhythms chosen, something with the countermelodies that wander in and out as well.
No matter where you are in a given Immortal Bird song, there is a gut level movement that many blasting bands lose in their fury, but it is part of Immortal Bird’s nervous system. “Vestigial Warnings” had my head bobbing through all the sick asymptotic bends that buttress its structure, and thus I was completely hooked for the crunching slowdowns in the mid-section and drawing the song to a close. “Avolition” carries that forward with a heartbreaking chord combo and release. Even without the lyrics you know this is a song of pain and loss. And headbanging. Very much headbanging.
The production is so clear that each member of the band is well presented, even as the songs themselves exhibit a unified flow. Many parts of the songs depend on nuance, so the production really hits the mark. Could the death metal fan in me have used a little more mud and murk? Maybe. But that might have taken away from the nuances, so it’s all for the best.
The vocals are well mixed, and Rae’s voice is as terrifying as we have come to expect. Nate Madden’s guitars are bright. The chords—hell, the individual strings—are very discernible, and the rakes and metallic squeals make the performance spark. The rhythm section of John Picillo (bass) and Matt Korajczyk (drums) is noose-tight, flexible and athletic, giving the album that headbangy motion I talked about.
Longtime readers, of which there are undoubtedly tens, already know that I do not dwell much on lyrics—mainly because I never get to see most of them, digital promos being what they are. So it is a welcome surprise that the undying aves provided one for this album. The main impression is that they are very personal, very internal, and allow the listener to insert their own experience into the verse. The main themes, if I am able to correctly discern them, are betrayal and spiritual isolation—with hints of dark vengeance. The themes match the music, and allow a listener to enter into and participate with the songs in ways more traditional metal lyrics don’t. At least that is how I feel about it.
Are there any drawbacks? There could have been, but the band seem to know just where a cool idea might become overplayed, instead introducing a new idea. The songs have a knack for avoiding tedious repetition, making the whole experience very satisfying and exciting. And again, the death head in me misses the murk, but also again, it would be misplaced here.
Bottom line: Here is a record without any downsides, and with a lot of ferocious—and moving—upside. Uncompromising and niche-less, Thrive on Neglect should place Immortal Bird on best-of lists come year’s end, and secure for them a place at the table of the heaviest hitters in modern metal. But most of all, it should be in your library and your rotation.