Not many young metal bands have the audacity to cite the Cocteau Twins as a major influence. Perhaps this is why it's so rare to find a record as innovative and stylistically complex as Acts of God, the sophomore release from San Antonio's Illustrations. It's an ambitious album that covers significant musical ground and adds a rich palette of colours to the band's crushing blackened hardcore.
While Illustrations still offer up a generous array of destructive guitar riffs, they use expanded instrumentation and production techniques to add an extra dimension to the hour of music on Acts of God. A saxophone screeches in the background through one of the many breakdowns on "Pestilence," while "Libation" plays out as a sinister ambient track, incorporating glitching synthesizers and the sound of running water.
These details complement whispered the vocals and surprisingly melodic moments that thematically connect the notions of spiritual dialectic that sit at the core of the record. The righteous fury of "A Blessing From Below" is complicated by the pretty guitar lead soaked in chorus effects. The moral currencies of "above" and "below" work with a different exchange rate here as Illustrations explore inner conflict and social hypocrisy through their pseudo-religious metaphors.
Illustrations sound remarkably comfortable mining their curious composite of goth, noise rock and crust punk without feeling the need to provide definite resolutions. This experimental approach works beautifully on Acts of God, marking it as one of the year's most creative metal releases thus far. (Independent)