Published Jul 14, 2015It was late in 2013 that Chicago-based experimental blackened sludge outfit Immortal Bird released their debut EP Akrasia, a shattering and challenging creation that knit together disparate influences deftly. Their first full-length is similarly ambitious in its scope, touching on everything from blackened thrash to sludge-soaked grindcore, but where Akrasia was about broken edges rubbing together, on Empress/Abscess the band have moved toward a synthesis and, in the process, found a more cohesive sound.
At barely over half an hour in length, the five tracks go for succinct impact rather than drawn-out agony in their style of violence, and the brevity serves them incredibly well. Aside from a few jarring transitions, the songwriting is sharp and elegant. Rae Amitay (drummer for blackened folk duo Thrawsunblat) showcases her vocal talent here, and her performance is wicked and raw, acrid and aching, often serving as a foil to Evan Berry's ever-swarming, sometimes plaintive guitars.
Colin Marston's production is pitch perfect, balancing an acidic chilliness against weirdly organic warmth. (He also provides guest vocals on "And Send Fire," while John Hoffman of Weekend Nachos appears on "Neoplastic.") Despite the record's brevity, Immortal Bird still find plenty of room for exploration, and the build and release of tension, from the spiralling structures of "Sycophant" to the weird, melting slowness of the outro in "And Send Fire."
Empress/ Abscess is a strange, powerful record that delivers on and then exceeds the promise of this group's first EP. With this much muscle and brains packed into such a lean, tight package, Immortal Bird are going to do great things. (Broken Limbs)