Genre bending should not be something that surprises any metal fan these days. It’s almost the norm, or at least something closely approximating some kind of weird game, in certain circles to see how many sub-genres of metal can be twisted and contorted into an easily digestible amalgamation. So when a band comes along and attempts to meld, say, black metal with grind and death metal it can go one of two ways – it can be a dull and trite attempt at trying to stand out amongst a crowded field or it can be a unique and powerful listening experience. For Chicago’s Immortal Bird, they are firmly planted in the latter on newest release, Empress/Abscess.
With their 2013 debut EP, Akrasia, Immortal Bird turned more than a few heads. A molten blast of death-grind frosted over with second wave black metal influences, Immortal Bird immediately stood out from a plethora of bands that had begun to add “blackened” to their genre description over the years. On their newest offering Immortal Bird take everything intoxicating about their debut – nasty, nasty vocals, an ethereal aesthetic deftly intertwined with machine-like, grinding precision, and pure musicality – and expound on them tenfold while taking their sound on new and imaginative flights.
There are multiple highlights on this new album. “To A Watery Grave” for example sounds like they dropped the ‘Bird’ from their name and individually donned about twenty-five pounds of bullet belts and corpse paint…for the first four or so minutes, until a sombre piano interlude and the resulting discordant finish interrupt the glacial cacophony. It’s followed up by “And Send Fire” which is a ten-plus minute roller coaster ride where shoegaze, doom, and black metal are making out at the top of the tracks just before the world falls away and the thunderous tyranny of blackened death metal throws the whole thing right off the tracks. Somewhere amongst the twisted wreckage there is again a peaceful interlude before Hell’s minions are released anew in the most unholy of ways. But the warping of genres doesn’t end there. On “Saprophyte” Immortal Bird manages to somehow intertwine a jangly, indie riff into the madness before all hell breaks loose again. And on “The Sycophant” they are able to take seemingly dissonant segments and weave them into a head-bobbing, fist-pumping affair.
There was a time when adding any reference about black metal to your bio was too limiting in many ways. The time for that though has come and gone as the genre continues to explode and explore, and Immortal Bird take full advantage of what now seems like limitless boundaries for anyone who wants to test the waters. We’ve said it before in this space, but if Immortal Bird were four dudes standing on a snowy mountain somewhere in Scandinavia there would be no doubts about how to classify this band. They are brutal and unique enough to do the black metal genre proud, no matter how many other genres they decide to throw into the mix (which on this album is quite a few of them).
Empress/Abscess hits the street on July 14 via Broken Limbs/Manatee Rampage. You can experience the track “Neoplastic” at the Decibel website and if you are in the Northeastern section of the U.S. on August 15 be sure to catch Immortal Bird on the Metal Insider sponsored Death To False Metal Festival in Hamden, CT.