Man, technical/progressive death metal’s really been having somewhat of a boom at the moment, huh? Rivers of Nihil, Obscura, Alkaloid, Monotheist, and Augury have all put out great albums this year, and 2017 saw some landmark drops as well with the likes of Archspire, NYN, Artificial Brain, and Cytotoxin. And as much as I enjoy name-checking bands to remind everyone how much sterling metal is out there right now, I’m also doing it to remind everyone how diverse and robust the tech/prog death metal scene is at the moment: none of the groups that I’ve mentioned sound anything like each other. I’d say that far from just having a lot of releases, what really makes a time special for a genre is the variety of sound among them, and in that factor it’s easy to see that this death metal subsector is flourishing.
Irreversible Mechanism is also throwing their name in as a contender for this year’s tech/prog death top dog (try saying that five times fast) with their second LP, Immersion. To be 100% honest up front, I wasn’t a big fan of their last album: as I said in my review of it way the hell back in 2015, it was simultaneously too little and too much. Too many ideas were thrown in haphazardly to see what would stick, not enough was really developed adequately, and although they clearly had developed the raw talent needed to craft their music, they hadn’t yet learned exactly how to shape it into anything meaningful. It was a textbook immature album.
I remained hopeful, though, that the band would improve yet; my hopes have been met and exceeded on Immersion. Moving away from the vaguely deathcore-inspired sound a la Planetary Duality-era The Faceless they employed on their first outing to a more dreamy, quasi-psychedelic territory that brings to mind obvious comparisons to Fallujah and VIRVUM, what they’ve perhaps lost in their more unique style, they’ve gained in terms of confidence and songwriting knowhow, making up the difference more than enough. The diptych suite that opens the album, “Existence,” starts with swells of lush keyboards and clean guitar tones drenched in reverb; the song builds and builds to around the five-minute mark before exploding outwards in its second half with a flurry of furious riffs and impassioned solos.
The Flesh Prevails and Dreamless are undeniably huge influences for Immersion‘s sound, but Irreversible Mechanism come off as substantially less tethered to the stylistic choices that those albums make. That is to say, it’s not afraid to sacrifice the lithe grace with which Fallujah handles its songwriting – that knife’s-edge balance between the sublime and the ugly – to occasionally drop a train on the listener. Case in point, the riff that makes up the brunt of third track “Abolution” is stupid heavy, and the album neither apologizes for its unwavering heaviness nor suggests that it even should. Even as it starts to slide into that more transcendental, ethereal sound, it never stops being death metal first and foremost. It’s also not afraid to go completely in the opposite direction: immediately following “Abolution” comes “Simulacra”, an almost-equally-long ambient track defined by lilting clean guitars and stabs of synthesizers. That is to all to say, then, where Fallujah balances between the ethereal and the ugly, the light and the heavy, Irreversible Mechanism feels more committed on Immersion to exploring the extremes of both ends and superimposing these on top of each other on the same album.
Even at a relatively monolithic 52 minutes long, it’s hard to say that Immersion ever really overstays its welcome. While it can be hard to listen to in full in one sitting given its length, it stays a strong experience throughout, and its diverse sound is certainly one that lends itself nicely to longer albums. Some fat could have been trimmed here and there, sure, but what’s progressive metal without some self-indulgence? Either way, Immersion isn’t only a major step up for Irreversible Mechanism, it’s a good album in its own context. In a standout year for technical/progressive death metal, Irreversible Mechanism shows here that they have what it takes to rise among the ranks and climb their way into a pantheon of great releases that only gets more and more impressive as the year goes on. This is an excellent addition to 2018’s already stellar output.
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Immersion drops September 14th through Blood Music. It’ll be available then on Bandcamp and various streaming platforms. You can preorder the record on vinyl or CD at Blood Music’s online store.