Irist introduced us to their blend of progressive sludge metal with 2020’s debut, Order of the Mind. With band members from the US, Brazil, Chile and Argentina, they call Atlanta their home base, but you’d think they grew up together in the same small town with nothing to do but learn musical instruments. Like the oppressive setting of a provincial town, the rage in their music is a restless one born of frustration and unfulfilled needs. Their new EP reflects the despair of living a repetitive and monotonous life with no reason to be optimistic.
On an artistic level, Irist draw from the same well as Conjurer for sustenance. Both are on Nuclear Blast Records, and both take the flaming-white aggression of Neurosis and the guitar tone of Crowbar as their foundation tools. The opening title-track could easily share a stage with a modern hardcore band, yet you cannot ignore the complexity of the guitar work. Adam Mitchell and Pablo Davila leave nothing to spontaneity in their approach, instead focusing on different ways to fret the most grating of chord shapes to intensify the metallic crunch. Vocalist, Rodrigo Carvalho, sounds like somebody woke him up during his nightshift sleeping schedule with Katy Perry’s ‘I Kissed a Girl’ on repeat at maximum volume levels. You can feel his flecks of spittle on your forehead. The mathcore chaos at one minute and fifty-two seconds gives you another reason to stand back and away from the firing line.
Perhaps one way to look at Irist is like Neurosis with groove metal riffs. ‘Heal’ pulsates with the raw masculinity and ferocity of the Oakland legends, but Celeste are the nearest comparison in the way they write their riffs and structure their sharp dynamics. Again, the guitarists aim to utilise all six strings of their instruments in their chord choices. These resonate like live electronic appliances plunged into water. It’s a surprise to hear a conventional wah-wah solo when you’re expecting unhinged post-rock passages to keep you in a permanent state of paranoia. And yet melody is not anathema to Irist – why would it be? ‘Surging Ablaze’ subsists on careful arpeggio progressions and ethereal lead guitar phrasings. The colour palette here is crimson red blemished by greyish white. Listen to the intrusion of palm-muted rhythms among this blood spillage – can you feel the pain as Carvalho tests his belting technique to the limits of projection with his repeated refrain of “Lost in the space/ Drifting away”?
Closing track, ‘Watchful Eye’, promises something different. The guitar tone is fuzzier, but that’s because they start this one with a layer of arpeggiated synth bass. There’s a real pathos and sense of loss in the emotional wreckage of this song, like the late hours of a funeral wake when the mourners have had time to sink alcohol and ruminate on their regrets. Yet even here the aggression has purpose. The aim is to rid the body of negative energy and expel the sorrows of the mind. Of course, the mindset is an ugly one at the beginning of this process, but the flickers of melody suggest that the light is not too far in the distance.
Irist might regret parcelling these songs onto an EP if their sophomore album fails to match the intensity on display here. They’ve set high standards with Gloria. Those of you intimidated by the longform duration of post-metal can use this as your entry point into the genre.
Release Date: 16/09/2022
Record Label: Nuclear Blast
Standout tracks: Heal, Surging Ablaze
Suggested Further Listening: Conjurer – Pathos (2022), Neurosis – Enemy of the Sun (1993), Celeste – Assassine(s) (2022)