Genre: Stoner Rock, Sludge Metal
Release date: 24th of May, 2019
Released via: Small Stone Records
Cover artwork © Small Stone Records 2019
Before I dive into this review, I would like to look back on three albums that really hit me unexpectedly back then and introduced me to three great bands, which are still on heavy rotation on my beloved vinyl player.
In 2007 Baroness released the Red Album, the first in a line of records with chromatically themed titles and artworks. The band really won me over with their Sludge and Doom rooted Rock, played with the right passion and sensitivity for catchy melodies and straight heaviness.
Two years later in 2009 the mighty Mastodon released their gigantic concept album Crack the Skye. I heard and read about the band before, but somehow their songs never made it into my playlist (what a disgrace!). What made the record so special to me was the wide stylistic diversity with which the band puts out their passionate compositions. This definetly is no easy listening, but if you’re willing to give it a shot, most likely it will not let you go anymore.
Last but not least I want to mention Wildlights‘ self-titled debut LP released in 2015 which has this cool Desert Rock vibe paired with unique vocals by Jason Shi whom you might know from his main band ASG.
A lot more bands hailing from the Southeast of the United States have deep roots within Sludge and Doom Metal, but also fuze their sound with different elements of Progressive, Alternative or Post Rock, just to name a few. Irata from Greensboro, North Carolina, is one of these bands and their recent release Tower perfectly stands in line with my aformentioned picks.
After their first self-titled full lenght from 2007 and Sweet Loris from 2015, Tower marks Irata’s third album and is released via Small Stone Records. I think at this point I can already say that this album marks the band’s most catchy but also most complex output up to date. Their sonic blend of riff-based Rock with a splash of Sludge heaviness and Stoner groove surprises with well-arranged song structures and progressive elements which blend in nicely with the compositions.
The record starts off with “Tower”, a sludgy and powerful slap of snarling riffs and stomping drum grooves. It’s short, it’s punchy, it’s heavy and at this point I did not expect at all in which direction the record would evolve over the full playing time.
Thus, the following “Waking Eye” surprised me with more progressive and dynamic soundscapes compared to the straightforward opening track. I really liked about the song that the guitars stay out of the limelight during the verses, giving more space to the weighty bass lines and the playful drumming.
The next track “Weightless” immediately reminded me of the feel-good Stoner Rock of bands such as Torche. Especially the catchy chorus on top of the heavy weight riffing creates a quite bright and shiny vibe and I guess this song definitely will ensure singalongs and movement within the crowd. And why the heck is the playing time at 4:20…?
The more psychedelic “Innocent Murmur” is characterized by the sweet clean guitars in the verse that are a marked by contrast to the more heavy and fuzzy riffing during the choruses and all in all a more melancholic and pensive athmosphere is carried out wheras “Leviathan” even goes a step further with it’s dynamic instrumentation. Not only the title of the song is indicating a lyrical maritime theme, it is primarily the music with it’s ups and downs and highs and lows visualizing the swell of the rough sea. To me it feels as if the whole album is interwoven with this pelagic influence, even the great cover artwork with the mysterious tower in the middle and the clashing palmate waves contribute to this picture as a whole.
The slowed-down “Crawl to Corners” scores with an astonishingly melancholic trumpet interlude, decent breakes and some accenting synths. In my opinion this is the song which stands out the most from the other tracks and somehow serves as the listeners usher to the last chapter of Tower.
After the next to last song “Golden Tongue”, the album ends with “Constellations” and to me it feels like finally reaching the highest point of the tower, musically and metaphorically as well. The song builds up a quite epic athmosphere and is outlined by alternate hearty riffing and wonderful clean guitar passages. This definently is my favorite track on Tower and a perfect closing for this stunning record.
With Tower Irata created a truly outstanding album that has won me over with it’s great progressive and intelligent songcraft never leaving the focus aside for tasty riffs and catchy vocal lines. The biggest plus to me is the fact, that the record’s flow is continiously in motion and as a result generates an exceptional musical depth. Yes, the record definetly rewards repeated playing sessions. In addition to that, the band effortlessly achieves to implement a variety of stylistic elements out of multiple genres of heavy music into their unique compositions. Everthing sounds as if casted from one mould.
I would love to see Irata play some European shows or festivals, for example the Keep it Low Festival in Munich or the Desert Fest in Berlin would be a perfect spot in my opinion. Their music is made for being experienced live with a cold brew!
★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
As usual, we added the two favorite tracks to our Transcended Review Playlist.