Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Pre-Release Review: Iris Divine, "Karma Sown"

IRIS DIVINE - Karma Sown
Iris Divine
"Karma Sown"

- 9 out of 10

Even though Iris Divine hails from our area, they are by no means amateurs or just another random local band. Their uniqueness, talent and prog/metal mastery has been recognized all over the place by reviewers, show-goers and digi-downloaders. Even blogs as well-known as MetalSucks have sung their praises. The trio has already won over the greater Mid-Atlatic region with their energetic performances, creative (and heavy) riffs and unexampled originality... and with the kind of material contained inside Karma Sown, they have nowhere to go but up and out, making a fan of whomsoever hears the metal they've created.

The guys of Iris Divine awesomely offered me a chance to give a pre-release review for their new Kickstarter-funded full-length album, and I of course thanked my lucky stars that the long shot I took proposing the idea in an article a while ago actually worked... and humbly accepted. Ever since I saw the studio updates, I've been dying to get a listen at their new stuff.

It certainly didn't disappoint or fall short of any expectations - it shattered them!

Here is my review for Karma Sown. Enjoy - and may it tide you over until (and pump you up for) the album's release this December!

Track 1 - "The Everlasting Sea"

The first song begins with an energized, progressive build upon the drums that melts right into the powerized heaviness of the rest of the track. Navid Rashid's vocals come in strong and vibrant, complimenting the beat perfectly and transcending the song into a chorus that packs a little bit of a power-ballad feel to it before twisting again into the heavy and fading into the ambient. Already you can tell this album is just masterfully mixed and produced, and already I'm wondering how the hell just three guys are responsible for not only creating but producing all the elements I'm hearing. It gets nice and evil after about the 4:30 mark, then it's back again to that awesome hybrid of heaviness and power-balladry that seems familiar yet remains undeniably unique.

Track 2 - "Fire of the Unknown"

Loved, loved, loved the opening riffs to this song. Coarse, dark and dissonant with an atmosphere of malevolence overshadow the gritty yet soaring vocals as the track grows branches into territories you just aren't expecting but still satisfy like no other. Here again you can hear the prog, the metal, and the same impressive Dickinson-esque wails alongside sepulchral rawness - yet none of it is in a way you've ever heard before. It's the same elements many love about prog/power metal and bands like Maiden and Sabbath, even covering more death-y territory reminiscent of Opeth - except all of them melded together in the way these boys have presents them in a form unlike anything you've heard, all the while still bringing the occasional twinge of nostalgia or sense of familiarity. I'd say the same about this song as one might say about a Snickers bar... it's ultra-satisfying! Your ears are in for a little treat at the end, especially if you're wearing headphones.

Track 3 - "A Suicide Aware"

There's so much going on at the start of this track, and it wastes no time getting down to the nitty-gritty. You're on a constant ride with this one, effortlessly traveling up, down, and all around the scale in swift fluid motion. The vocals are extremely catchy, and I absolutely have to give kudos for the lyrics - they're phenomenally well-writ and fit like a glove around the ever-changing riffs and melodies. Many times during this song, I could have sworn that I was hearing Bruce Dickinson. Really resonant vocals here, but they never overpower. Everything, as chaotic as it is, falls right into place exactly where it should be.

Track 4 - "Mother's Prayer"

The first thing that caught my attention on this track was the slip-sliding riffage. They maneuver through notes like a bellydancer working their hips, up and down, to and fro in quick fluid succession with some really exotic undertones. The drums, which have literally been amazing throughout, really shine here as well. Kris Combs is a beast with his kit - constantly changing and shifting beats and styles, contributing to the complexity and depth of everything without missing a step. Even the simple interlude following the 3:35 mark is delivered with power and passion, intertwining with the damn fine fret finagling from Navid (try saying that five times fast). They really captured my favorite kinds of harmonization in this track and took it to a whole other level. I almost wish it was longer so I could hear what else they would've built around it.

Track 5 - "Prisms"

This one gets off to an epic start, and the opening few riffs are just addictively incredible. Once again - those drums!!! They really pump the intensity into the vocals here, proving again that the best vocals are the ones sung with your heart behind them. The following riff harmonizes beautifully and drives us into a vigorously heavy interlude at around 2:30. THOSE FUCKING DRUMS! They drop a little groove on us from out of nowhere, and as quickly as it came, it goes - or does it? It stays in the background like a ghost and you're not sure if you hear it or not, but for as complex as it all gets, nothing loses its fervor or appeal. It never feels forced, or even out of place. Everything feels just right, even for all the change-ups and transitions, it fits together in perfect accord.

Track 6 - "In Spirals"

The opening here felt to me a cool combination of groovy doom, as usual, a combination I've never heard pulled off so well. Before you know it, you're starting to thrash it up and the atmosphere is perfect for a pit. This carries into those beautiful exotic harmonies that you get to experience in Track 4, which leads up to an uncommonly marvelous guitar solo backed by primal drums that amp you up to the point of volatility. Just at the right moment, they transcend into otherworldly harmonies which continue throughout the track. It gives the sense that you're airborne, weaving through the clouds over the corruption and chaos seeding and unfolding within the world below. Never fear - Iris Divine will bring you back down to Earth again safely for the next track.

Track 7 - "Apathy Rains"

This one gets off nice and slow, for a change in pace compared to the rest of the album. It's equally mesmerizing, however. Almost as though they transformed into a Swedish doom/death metal band in one fell swoop. It's a very multi-layered, harmonious, melodic track that, before you know it, hits you with a weight so heavy and wails so epic you'll be wondering what else could possibly be waiting for you at around the 3:00 mark. It does not disappoint, nor does it relent, fusing powerhouse vocals with the beautiful greys of doom and melo-death, keeping true to its semblance of anguish and earnest. The title is absolutely fitting as a descriptor of the feels this track will give you. It fades off effortlessly and into the next and final track.

Track 8 - "In The Wake of Martyrs"

You think you're in for another slower-paced song, when not long into the track Iris Divine blindsides you (albeit in the best way possible) by changing from a walk to a rolling gallop in no time flat. The tempo is wonderful and the riffs are wonderful... but wait, is that a slight black metal aura I'm sensing? Holy shit - these guys are some serious shapeshifters! They went from shades of Katatonia to, dare I say, Stormblast-era Dimmu Borgir within the span of two tracks; yet they still possess that unquestionable uniqueness that assures you what you're hearing is something completely different than either one. How do they do it?! The effects on the vocals with this track are really outstanding, and for the first time in the album you get to hear them try their hand at the much lower scales with some deep guttural infusions scattered throughout their dynamic and methodical cleans. The guitars, bass and drum all collide around 4:30 and form this intense, chaotic and very edgy interlude, jumping back and forth amid each other in a tug-o-war of sorts between all the elements of the band. Each one is superb, including bassist Brian Dobbs, and they hit their marks with striking precision. Somehow, amid the discord, a menacingly heavy sort of beauty emerges. Around the 4:50 mark almost reminds me of Between the Buried and Me, with their masterful dissonant-yet-harmonious multitude of arpeggios set to the primordial pounding of the drums. Just before the 6:00 mark, we go back to a build ushered in triumphantly over the last stretch and eventually including some stellar keyboarding by Kris Combs, as if we needed any more icing for this cake! Just when you think it can't possibly build any more, it does, and it leaves you wishing there were another 8 minutes left of the song just to feel that high you were riding on the final throws.

When you realize the album is over, all you'll really want to do is start it up again for one more spin.

Hello, round 2!

Absolutely phenomenal job by Iris Divine. Overall, I thoroughly, thoroughly enjoyed this album, and that's no exaggeration. These are some truly talented and inspired dudes to be able to manufacture such an experience using guitars, bass, drums, keyboards, and vocals as their vessels. Self-produced, self-made, and totally incredible. I really can't wait to see where these guys end up going in the future. With this kind of talent, there's really no limitations. Well done to all of them for a great addition to the ID discography!

Keep in touch with studio updates from the guys by liking their Facebook page, or check them out on ReverbNation. Whatever you do, buy yourself a copy of Karma Sown! It'll be one present that will keep giving for a long time to come.

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