Iblis

Menthell

01. White Claudia
02. 12 Sycamores
03. Menthell
04. Poison In Your Food
05. Don’t Eat My Legs
06. Origin
07. Bill Skins Fifth

[03/10/12]
[D.T.M. Productions]

Iblis are a Polish avant-garde/psychedelic death metal band. What does that mean? Remember the feeling of weirdness you got the first time you listened to Atheist? Take that, and amplify it to the level of crazy that !T.O.O.H! pull off. That’s what Iblis sound like. If those words don’t make sense to you, then just think old school progressive death metal on drugs. Menthell is Iblis’s debut album, and it’s quite ambitious. It tries to take on a niche that is very closed to newcomers due to it being defined very strictly by brilliant albums about 20 years ago. When the stakes are so high, Menthell could either fail miserably or take a firm step towards the hall of fame. But which one will it be?

So, what does Menthell really sound like? Before the songwriting and instrumentation, the mix bears mentioning. The bass is quite audible at all times, which always makes for an enjoyable listening when it comes to progressive metal. The guitars sit at the right spot between distorted and clean, allowing for heaviness while still retaining definition and character. The drums are also very audible and non-abrasive (though it would have been more enjoyable if they were acoustically recorded and not sample-replaced/electronic). Everything comes together in a way where each instrument gets to sit in their own region of the sound while slightly interacting. This gives the band a very clear sound that lets the listener appreciate each instrument individually. It’s a similar mix to the progressive death metal of old, like Atheist and Death. Iblis clearly know what they’re aiming for, and they’re good at getting the sound they want. But the homage doesn’t end there. The vocals are quite dynamic, ranging from pained melodic spoken word to growls, yet again in the vein of oldschool prog death. The good thing about Menthell is that they take this sound and make it crisp enough that modern listeners can appreciate it while still retaining the nostalgic quality.

As for the songs, they’re quite intriguing. There’s a mild jazz fusion influence to the songwriting, but it’s done in a way that’s not overbearing. Instead, the focus is weird avant-garde elements. The band takes a progressive death metal framework and builds upon it with very offbeat vocals that invoke the mindset of experimental bands like !TOOH! (not in sound but in philosophy: be unsettling and unique). Then they just make it more and more psychedelic by adding sections that are deliberate in pacing and atonality. These sections build up to explosive moments where the band goes all out with blast beats and straight up blackened death metal. They’re constantly switching gears and bringing something new and weird into the equation. Yes, the comparison is tired by now, but it’s reminiscent of the glory days of Atheist. Don’t let the constant mentioning of the pioneers of the genre let you think that Menthell is a derivative record. It’s just that there are so few bands that do this sound well, and they’re all mostly obscure so they’re not good reference points. If you must, imagine a more chilled and weird Gnostic, a less jazzy but more chaotic Spiral Architect. Bottom line is, Iblis are catering to a very specific subgenre, and they’re good at it.

Overall, Menthell is a very strong debut. Iblis are clearly very talented, and have managed to craft a unique sound for themselves despite being in a very tight genre. Given time and recognition, it’s likely that they will be mentioned among the greats of their niche. Regardless of labeling, they have a solid understanding of songwriting and musical texture and hopefully they’ll go a long way.

Iblis – Menthell gets…

4/5

– NT