Invent Animate – Heavener


Texas quartet, Invent Animate, are the name on everybody’s lips in the progressive metalcore scene. They finished a short UK tour with Erra two weeks ago and now release their fourth record via UNFD. Clearly, the camp is one of self-belief and empowering growth, not least in the lyrical themes, where the group confront the bottled-up anxieties of the past with a new maturity. They feel ready for a new chapter in their decade-long career, but do they have the songs to match the new-found energy and reinvigoration?

The intrusion of melodic post-hardcore into the metalcore soundscape is one of the most unfortunate aberrations to befall the genre over the last twenty years. There’s a reason why people with heavier tastes dismiss this music as oversaturated and sterile. Breakdowns and monstrous tunings do not mix with emo angst and pre-adolescent vocal phrasings. Invent Animate do their best to avoid this trap by drawing on their Deftones influences to balance the inevitable Periphery/Monuments riffing that defines their rhythmic approach. Opener, ‘Absence Persistent’, starts with the melancholy atmospherics of Loathe and launches into a violent burst of staccato Meshuggah guitars like it’s 2010 all over again. The guitar tone is more powerful than Putin’s grip on the Russian media; the drums could shake the foundations of the JPMorgan Chase Tower in Houston.

Marcus Vik’s alternation between visceral hardcore roaring and ethereal chorus melodies shows a good understanding of emotional catharsis throughout this record. But he cannot resist the urge to slip into the Pierce the Veil angst on ‘False Meridian’ and ‘Purity Weeps’ when you’re ready to applaud them for keeping their distance from all that reduces metalcore to a teenage sub-culture. This is not a problem on ‘Shade Astray’, where they embrace the predictable good cop-bad cop technique with Shadows Fall in their sights. They try to make the introspective vocal lines the focus of their song writing on ‘Without a Whisper’ and ‘Emberglow’, but these meander rather than mesmerise. You need the vocal range and ambition of Periphery’s Spencer Sotelo or Underoath’s Spencer Chamberlain to master this approach.

Despite these flaws, Heavener has some genuine moments of triumph. Current single, ‘Immolation of Night’, charges through the drop-tuned down-picking riffs and chaotic guitar fills like Alpha Wolf under the spell of The Tony Danza Tapdance Extravaganza. Here, Invent Animate give you a chance to forget the sauntering ghost harmonies of the first six songs with three minutes and fifty seconds of lethal force mayhem. ‘Void Surfacing’ follows in quick succession with the same technical djent frenzy.

On further analysis, one question remains at the back of your mind. How much of this is progressive? The songs average four minutes in length; the structures anchor to the chorus as their main objective; the band rely on breakdowns rather than solos to ford from one section to another; and most compositions find their identity in verse and bridge repeats. Take out the innovative use of sentient keyboard atmospherics, and you have a standard metalcore toolkit to wrestle with over forty-six minutes. The creativity of the music often wilts underneath the heavy exterior of the drop-tuned guitars, but you can feel it trying to break through.

Invent Animate are miles away from the standard of the last Erra album in execution of ideas but not in the ambition behind these ideas. Heavener is too predictable to enjoy on repeat listens, but this new chapter of their career could be their road-to-Damascus moment. The challenge in the future is how to translate their new maturity into melody while maintaining the metallic edge and purpose that made them a hot prospect in the first place.

JVB


Verdict


Release Date: 17/03/2023

Record Label: UNFD

Standout tracks: Absence Persistent; Immolation of Night; Void Surfacing

Suggested Further Listening: Loathe – I Let It in and It Took Everything (2020), Alpha Wolf – A Quiet Place to Die (2020), Defocus – In the Eye of Death We Are All the Same (2021)