Crusty blackened proggy deathgrind. That’s how Immortal Bird describe their sound on social media. It’s enough of a mouthful that it will surely put some folks off before they even hit play, but that would be a mistake on their part. Four years on from the release of the criminally underrated Empress/Abscess, the band have returned with maybe the only record that fits such a wordy genre description. Thrive On Neglect is a little crusty, plenty blackened, and twists deathgrind and progressive metal into something that feels remarkably like an album of the year contender.
Following on from an LP that smashed between extreme genres like a bumper car in a kids playground, Immortal Bird have continued to experiment with structures outside of the regulation fit. Breakneck tempo and time changes run amok through these seven tracks, shifting seamlessly from devastating black metal blasting into stubborn, tough as fuck hardcore grooves. “Quisquilian Company” can’t decide whether it wants to rip faces off with chunky riffs or pepper the listener with sharp, screeching pick scrapes. These shifts don’t just occur within the tracks though. Shuffle Thrive On Neglect and no matter the permutation or play order, the all-out attack of unforgiving metal still rolls on. Very few records are sequenced perfectly. Even fewer can be pulled out of their order and still hit just as hard.
This is as good a time as any to mention the numerous “fake out” endings in this record – “Vestigial Warnings” is already one of the most exciting metal tracks of the year, even before the bottom falls out and hits back twice as slow, but ten times as hard. It’s all fine and well having the chops to noodle between simplistic death metal bludgeoning and prog artistry, many do. Where Immortal Bird fly higher than the rest of the flock is in their restraint. So to speak. Fans of extreme metal endurance drumming will love every frantic snare roll, every ceaseless double bass battering, but while the percussion is almost reckless in how hard and fast it hits, the strings are often used in a far more modest manner.
Arpeggiated chords and slow, thick basslines play over the cymbal and skin artillery, sounding more like (old and still good) Opeth instead of Cattle Decapitation. “Solace In Dead Structures” pans guitar tracks cleverly in the “calm” moments, letting the drums and Rae Amitay’s guttural secretions do most of the damage. That is until the guitar and bass combine in a tornado of hornets, swarming with a kind of acidic grind that could boil water, turn the heavens black, and still leave enough of the planet left to devour afterwards. All of these parts fit under the final hand of Dave Otero on production, making sure Immortal Bird are heard loud and proud on every blast, every glorious, string-snapping riff and each of Amitay’s terrifying death rattles.
Thrive On Neglect has to be marked down as one of the year’s standout extreme metal records. At the very least. From this viewpoint, it might be one of the finest extreme releases of the decade. There is nary a wasted riff, cymbal choke, or unfathomably deep growl through its course and Immortal Bird dance so goddamn gracefully between ludicrously heavy grind and morose, progressive death metal of the highest order. Young pretenders and jaded veterans of the scene alike should all be tipping their caps and raising their spiked gauntlets to this band. Extreme metal shouldn’t be this captivating but in this instance, it is. Who doesn’t want death metal that gets you worked up into a panicked sweat? Losers. That’s who.
Thrive On Neglect is available July 5 via 20 Buck Spin.