- Immortal Bird
- Thrive On Neglect
- July 2019
This record is an interesting one because of how conflicted I am about it. It kind of sounds like half way through making the record they realised what they ‘actually’ wanted to play but didn’t want to ditch what they had already written. For me it starts pretty close to bad and ends with my full attention. The opening has a lot more early 00’s melo-death vibes that sounded a bit flat but with a couple of good peaks. After a few tracks the style changes up a bit with some more brutal death and prog guitars. By the last few tracks it’s almost outright blackened sludgy death doom that would have been ideal from the start.
I’m used to the blending of hardcore into extreme metal with Birds In Row, Boss-de-Nage and Conjurer (UK). I’ve always been a huge fan of Dillinger Escape Plan, The Number Twelve and Rolo Tomassi. It’s kind of difficult to impress me in that department, and so they didn’t. It is however a completely serviceable record and will be a new favorite of a lot of people who have heard more metal than -core. So I’ll get into some pros and cons musically and why this is a good physical release.
The drums had me from the get go, he’s got a great ability to service any style transition and generally creates great emphasis on the peaks and breaks. It reminds me of the rhythms from older Code Orange releases. For me the drumming is the most consistent part of the record. The guitar often alternated between down-tuned death or sludge and higher noted solos and prog licks, some parts were more engaging than others and often felt inconsistent or even intrusive. Vocally it varies with the earlier tracks being close to Arch Enemy and I wasn’t really feeling the subversion promised by Immortal Bird yet. The more brutal death parts were an improvement and I love when she leaned into the hardcore/sludge style more with it being emotional but still guttural. I really dig her lower range, I think the blackened wet sludge style should be a focal point of the next record.
As a unit I think some decisions have been made that I don’t really like. Their mixing up of the genres is more subtle a lot of the time, like I said the first part of the album felt pretty straight forward and middling. Boring initially. It feels like they change genres every 3 tracks rather than mix up the genres throughout each track. It’s like listening to three EP’s, one of them is kinda shit, one’s pretty cool and the last one is thicc. Really cool long death doom kind of vibes. As a whole the experimentation with genres feels too safe, as if to be palatable or viable to metal fans more broadly. I wanted darker and harsher like Sunrot and Body Void. Something more raw. They did touch on some of that darkness but ultimately they wanted to explore the more tech/prog licks and progressions more, occasionally sounding derivative of Rivers Of Nihil. It compromises the aggression here without actually adding progression to the song structure, it just starts playing the bridge or the chorus from a different genre at random points – actually losing momentum in places. I’d like to see them blend it across into one coherent track that progresses logically with story telling and contains a common ‘essence’. Then keep doing that to develop a more unified signature sound like Deafheaven has refined over their releases, for example. Thrive On Neglect is sitting on the fence a bit too much on a few of the tracks. The final track is probably my favorite, “Stumbling Towards Catharsis” is more the sound I want to hear.
The artwork by @kikyz1313 suits very nicely and carries a balance between beauty and malice. This art alone makes this worth purchasing the physical copies, I wouldn’t mind having this one in my collection if they put out any cassettes. For my vinyl addicts there’s some available on their bandcamp link. This definitely lends to my usual thesis that the artwork matters to enough people that the investment is worth it. Even a smaller band without physical releases can get pretty far with an eye catching cover, especially with how digital presentation works.
I feel Immortal Bird tried to make something epic here and in some ways they did, it’s a wide sound – it just doesn’t always occupy the space with enough confidence or direction. Song structure wise they need to let the middle and high guitar parts just do their their instrumentally because the mid range vocals are boring and they appear to be the result of needing to match the lead. Their strength is executing a peak and the drums and vocals are behind most of that. I get that more fanciful guitar work adds layers and attempts to create a dynamic sound, but I think beneath that is a better sound that doesn’t need to promise subversion, simply deliver it. The Chasm are a great example of fanciful guitar work in heavy music that don’t introduce too much melody or comprise the despair of the sound yet to do intricate sprawling riffs and solos. Switching from typical heavy tremolo picking and palm muted power chords to variety of prog/tech just isn’t serving the record enough. He is good at playing and knows the riffs, just needs better placement in the structure.
This review might sound harsh but I actually like this album, I just happen to write a lot about this particular idea of combining extreme metal and sludge/hardcore a lot and there’s insanely high quality bands to aspire to. I’m trying to be constructive in my critique. I look forward to a future release improving on this one and perhaps providing something more ground-breaking or defining. To a lot of people this will be highly listenable. It has great presentation and production value (Mastered by @daveotero). If they were to make a cassette tape I’d be happy to have it in my collection.
Give it a go and figure it out for yourself, check out the other bands too. I’m just a fussy nerd.