Infected Rain – Time


‘One day, Infected Rain will write a masterpiece,’ predicted Scream Blast Repeat when reviewing the band’s 2022 Ecdysis album. ‘They’re not there yet with album number five, but they should win over more sceptics with this record, even if the syncopated guitar riffing has a nu metal tinge.’ We now have album number six in front of us – is this the missing piece in the jigsaw from Moldova’s most famous metal band?

At fifty-four minutes in length, Time is not short of confidence or grandiosity. If anything, it might be too certain of its importance. But there’s no doubt that guitarist, Vadim “Vidick” Ojog, and singer, Lena Scissorhands, have a telepathic understanding of each other’s moves. Having lost the Babich brothers on bass and rhythm guitar since the last outing, they return here with new four-stringer, Alice Lane, and a slimmed-down guitar presence that – somehow – sounds heavier than their 2022 LP. Opener, ‘Because I Let You’, offers no surprises at first. The stereotypical electronic drumbeat introduces a down-tuned nu metal bounce riff as if it’s 2002 again in the age of Otep. Yet Lena’s vocals are sharp and incisive and strong in their enunciation, and the eerie electronic bridge to the chorus works to great effect. Vidick plays through the Korn grooves with the aggression of a metalcore band. It’s not as predictable as you think. The sudden reset to delicate pianos and soprano introspection in the middle-eight will leave you with an index finger on your chin.

‘Infected Rain need to beef up their guitar tone and fatten their riffs to avoid falling into the trap of overreliance on their vocalist,’ said Scream Blast Repeat in 2022. They find the correction on ‘Dying Light’, which contains the best riff on the album. This is how you play a hook in drop tuning and make the most of the lower frequency range. As Rick Beato stated, many artists found it difficult to capture the true power of guitar distortion in the 1990s – there’s no such problem here. The growling guitars are like Veil of Maya at their heaviest, while Lena uses her raspy voice for most of this song leading up to the chorus. How imaginative is the analogue synth effect that the band use to re-energise the song after the second chorus? You can feel the drop-G vibrations in your chest when they go back into the chorus at the end.

Side A is supreme, but Side B is more of a struggle. This is a problem for a band with a toe in the prog metal camp. ‘Never to Return’ and ‘Lighthouse’ hit hard when they find their momentum. The former is a homage to Björk in the opening verse of mystical vocal projections and sampled dulcimers before the syncopated riffing wanders into Meshuggah’s nest. On the latter, you can hear a band that want to be as cinematic as possible in their music without sacrificing their chorus rituals and hip-swaying metal riffs. Lena’s singing voice is sensational in this song, like Cristina Scabbia of Lacuna Coil. You could imagine Courtney La Plante working through these haunting vocal melodies on the next Spiritbox album. Lena now has a distinctive identity to her harsher voice abrasions, thanks to the genius of Melissa Cross as her vocalist coach. Anyone who wonders if we should distinguish between male and female in metal when dishing out accolades might reconsider when they hear her mellifluous melodies here – few males could reach such a beautiful resonance.

The flirtation with nu metal is now a full-blooded relationship. We hear the first sign of an industrial symmetry like Korn in the early 2000s on ‘The Answer is You’, except with heavier guitars and double-kick drum accents. Fortunately, the axe never loses its presence in the mix. Here, Lena alternates between a broken heart (crooning) and a broken spirit (screaming) as easily as water flows into a drainage system. ‘Vivarium’ is morbid in mood and texture. Your body wants to mirror the riffs with squirming choreography. A twinkle of sparkling keyboard hides in the background like protective stars.

Ambition should always be praised when it comes from a good heart. Infected Rain have belief in what they do, and they hope that you will as well. There’s no sign of this album slowing down at ‘Enmity’ after the upbeat groove metal of ‘Pandemonium’. But you start to question if the band need to extend beyond ten songs. ‘Unpredictable’ feels like the place where the record should experience its natural end. The open string pulls-offs from Vidick give flow to his singer, and her confident use of falsetto in the chorus would be even better if the vocal line was not so rigid. You feel like you’re on the wrong end of a sparring session when they enhance the heavier parts of this song. If only the prospect of the finishing line did not preoccupy one’s thoughts at this stage of the LP. ‘Game Of Blame’ comes too late in the running order to have the impact it deserves. To be fair, paradigmatic synths sparkle here with the promise of an enchanting world beyond the gate. Lena has no trouble filling the gaps with the melodic warmth of her voice. Note how her switch from melancholy to aggression feels natural rather than forced. Infected Rain have learned how to respect keyboards as part of the songwriting process rather than as a de rigeur inclusion to freshen up their nu metalcore sound.

Time is not the masterpiece Infected Rain continue to chase like all good bands. They can glimpse what it looks like and can measure the road they will need to surmount to reach the promised land. The guitars are heavier, the vocals as dazzling as ever, and the melodies as generous as the space given to the keyboards on this record. But a few too many compositions limp over the line in the second half and undo the brilliance of Side A. This is a good album, but not the great one we hoped to hear.

JVB


Verdict


Release Date: 09/02/2024

Record Label: Napalm Records

Standout tracks: Dying Light, Lighthouse, Pandemonium

Suggested Further Listening: Otep – Sevas Tra (2002), Ignea – The Realms of Fire and Death (2020), Spiritbox – The Fear of Fear EP (2023)