The solo project of Josh Graham, IIVII (pronounced “ivy”) have returned from 2015’s outer-space ambient fiction of Colony, with further tales from beyond our world. But whereas Colony told a tale of loneliness that emphasized the void between the stars, new album Invasion draws its fear not from being alone, but from learning that there is some kind of intelligence out there, and it does not come in peace. Though it is more immediate than its predecessor, and its narrative is more obvious, neither of these elements are to the detriment of Invasion, which is a strong continuation for IIVII.
It doesn’t feel like it was long since the first album from Wiegedood was released, with the Church Of Ra affiliated band unleashing a masterclass in modern black metal that rightly saw them lavished with praise. In the almost two years since the release of De Doden Hebben Het Goeg, the band have been touring and generally building upon the buzz surrounding them, meaning that expectations are high for the follow-up. Now that it’s here, does De Doden Hebben Het Goeg II meet them? The answer is: absolutely. It takes all that was good about the debut and doubles down on it, resulting in an album that is intense, captivating, and sure to be recognised as one of 2017’s finest.
Death Poems is a very deceptive album. Whilst, on the surface, it may seem to be front-loaded towards the heavy and oppressive, dig a little deeper and you’ll find that this is an album of remarkable subtlety and intelligence. For sure, there is plenty of darkness and despair here, with lumbering sludge-covered riffs backed up by bone-crushing drums and desperate screams. But equally, there are just as many moments when The Fifth Alliance break free from raw, primeval violence, adding hardcore and post-metal elements to the music, and it transcends in to something remarkably cathartic and atmospheric. It’s easy to be dismissive about anyone dabbling in post-metal contrasts and arrangements these days, with many considering the best days of the style to be well and truly gone; but with Death Poems, there is the clear feeling that this is the only way to adequately express what the band intended to put across, with their emotions raw and bleeding. And as such, it feels refreshingly honest, possessing an urgency and force that is so often lacking in this style.
Here’s the fourth part of my 2015 A-Z favourites. One more post remains after this one, containing my 5 favourites, so if there was a record notable by its omission, there’s every chance it will be in my top 5. If you missed the previous posts, then you can always go back and read through parts one, two, and three.
Following on from the first A-Z section of my 2015 favourites – which can be found here – here is the second part. As always, these are maybe not the best albums, but that is such a subjective, loaded term that it is all but impossible to write about with any authority. What can be stated, though, is that over the course of the year, the albums features have proven, without doubt, to be my favourites, with lasting appeal that kept me coming back to them.
Whilst there’s obviously nothing wrong with the artier and more subtle strands of metal, sometimes all you’re after is something straight to the point. There’s something to be said for a direct display of strength and power, which is where Belgian duo SarsoniS come in. They don’t so much strip doom and stoner to their roots, as they follow through to the obvious conclusion. III – their third album – features no vocals, no technical self-indulgence, and barely an ounce of musical fat. This is metal that is all about the riffs, the drums, and the glorious way they work together to crush your skull.
Colony is an ambitious album. IIVII is described as an “ambient-fiction project” by sole member Josh Graham (A Storm Of Light, Red Sparowes, and past contributor to a whole host of other projects, including Neurosis), and that description is well earned. The fiction part is especially important. Whilst many instrumental bands can be described as telling their stories in cinematic terms, Colony goes beyond that, and over the course of 50 instrumental minutes, tells the kind of story that has real depth and history, with the full grandeur of what is on offer more hinted at and shown in glimpses than revealed in full. For sure, the dark ambient on offer is very strong; but rather than other musicians, it makes me think of the greatest, most captivating of sci-fi novels, where the real power is between the lines. And like such novels, it desperately leaves me wanting more.