IATT – Magnum Opus


Philadelphia quartet, IATT (pronounced eye-at), started out as a metalcore band but soon evolved into a more progressive and extreme outfit with a slew of EPs before their 2015 debut full-length. 2019’s sophomore effort, Nomenclature, cemented their position as a rising force within the dissonant death metal movement and won plaudits for its daring avant-garde experimentation. Now they return with album number three with supreme confidence that they’re on the right trajectory to discover their natural sound. Magnum Opus is a chronicle and a re-imagining of the lives of the great alchemists of the Medieval world cloaked in the trade secrets of modern extreme metal.

IATT predict that the future of metal will gravitate towards discordant guitars and away from its pentatonic origins. You only need to listen to forty seconds of opener, ‘Servitude, Subjugate’, to know that the guitar duo of Alec Pezzano and Joe Cantamessa prefer Gorguts over Goatwhore when it comes to composition. The obscure chord slashes reverberate under loud amp settings and pinch you like a hundred infinitesimal gnats biting into your neck. Imbalance and vertigo are the side effects. Listen how the expressive folk guitars and violins in the intro give way to intricate bass scales and aching guitar arpeggios. This could be the latest Blindfolded and Led to the Woods record, but it could also be Opeth at the turn of the century.

Can forty-eight minutes of dissonant guitars, intense drum tempos and shrieking vocals retain your attention? ‘Ouroboros’ has no such problems with its violent beginnings reminding you of Dillinger Escape Plan’s ‘When I Lost My Bet’ but with the hysterical rage of Strapping Young Lad. This song has it all – the widening range between deep death metal roars and black metal shrieks, the macabre moments of Carach Angren, the technical drum work, and, uh, a wild saxophone solo from Jørgen Munkeby (Shining). Seldom will you hear a power chord in these songs. ‘Prima Materia’ has more in common with the spooky Danny Elfman film scores of the late 1980s than Dismember and Darkthrone. See if you can avoid chanting “Beetle Juice” three times during this onslaught.

The half-way point at the album suggests IATT have no end of surprises in store for your discerning ear and open mind. ‘Elixir of Immortality’ starts like ‘Suite Sister Mary’ by Queensrӱche but played with the same foreboding as Slayer’s ‘Seasons of the Abyss’. They smash all conventions with ‘Exculpate, Exonerate’. Fans of Akercocke and Voices will appreciate the rainfall and piano sprinkles at the beginning as much as the heavy syncopation and nod to Death’s Individual Thought Patterns.

But you understand that there’s more to IATT than breath-taking musicianship and genre-hopping. Their sound is in the last stages of refinement. They’re not fazed by this process unfolding before their eyes and ours. Yes, they throw in the sweep-picking patterns when stuck for ideas and go heavy on the tech death when you need more breathing space. How this record would shoot up the album of the year shortlist if they ended it at track seven instead of extending the experience for another two songs. ‘Planes of Existence’ is the standout cut with its ethereal choir harmonies, post-punk bass lines and art rock shapes giving way to fast alt-picking riffs and complex death metal. And yet it ends with slow saxophone and symphonic brass flourishes that take you back to a 1970s detective drama through the intrusion of black metal.

Magnum Opus will challenge you. It will dazzle you. It will also leave you a bit jaded due to its uncompromising ferocity and tendency to flood each song with as many notes as possible. But it will not fail to impress you.

JVB


Verdict


Release Date: 27/05/2022

Record Label: Black Lion Records

Standout tracks: Ouroboros, Elixir of Immortality, Planes of Existence

Suggested Further Listening: Blindfolded and Led to the Woods – Nightmare Withdrawals (2021), Carach Angren – Franckensteina Strataemontanus (2020), Voices – Breaking the Trauma Bond (2021)