Artist: Iris Divine
Album Title: The Static And The Noise
Label: Independent Release
Release date: 6 October 2017
A three-piece progressive rock/metal band from North America? Nah, that’ll never work. If I remember rightly, some band called Rush tried it many years ago and as far as I can recall, it didn’t go too well for them did it? So I’m not holding out a lot of hope for Iris Divine, a Virginia-based trio that professes to dabble in progressive rock/metal with a firm emphasis on metal.
Naturally I am being ridiculous; I recall being rather impressed with ‘Karma Sown’, Iris Divine’s debut full-length album when it was released in 2015. Therefore, when it came to my attention that the band was due to return with their third album, ‘The Static And The Noise’, I had to hunt it down and cast an appraising ear over it.
My final verdict has been tough to reach but I think I am finally there, having been back and forth a few times over the past couple of weeks.
The reason for my wavering opinion is hard to pinpoint and, on reflection, I don’t think there is just one thing that has caused it. I initially had a few reservations of Navid Rashid’s vocals and I wasn’t convinced by the consistency throughout the record. However, having let the album marinade for a while, I am of the opinion that I was just being too harsh. ‘The Static And The Noise’ is ultimately a very good album indeed and I shall now go on to delve into some of the many positives that lead me to this conclusion.
First off, ‘The Static And The Noise’ represents a big step up in just about every area from previous material. It is also packed full of superb riffs from Rashid. One might even refer to the album as a ‘riff-fest’ and I’d not stand in the way of anyone who proclaims such a thing. But that’s not all – the riffs are generally very interesting, often complex in their construction, delivered expertly and have a wonderfully satisfying crunch. They provide the majority of the grunt that ultimately confirms that this record sits more firmly in the metal camp in terms of style and tone.
Great riffs alone are never going to be enough and kudos has to go to bassist Brian Dobbs and drummer Kris Combs for providing much more than simply a solid platform upon which the guitars can shine. I love the fact that you can hear the bass guitar so clearly. Not only is Dobbs’ delivery full of power, it is deceivingly intricate too, accenting the riffs brilliantly throughout with a deep tone that’s a joy. Meanwhile, Combs’ drumming is an exercise in blending technicality and robustness with flair and panache. Some of the beats and fills add an extra dimension that benefits the material greatly.
I have grown to really love the energy and swagger that permeates a lot of the material. Iris Divine are most certainly progressive because there are just too many time and tempo changes alongside the general instrumental complexity for it to be anything else. But the trio never forget how to write music that sticks in the mind and that’s fun to listen to.
There is definitely a touch of 90s alt rock to be heard too. Just check out the opening moments of the superb standout track ‘Taking Back The Fall’ with its enormous chunky, churning groove as the perfect example of what I’m getting at. Rashid’s vocals do have that vaguely grungy quality as well to underline my point. What makes this song one of my favourites is the technicality which blends so well with the groove and the funky bass work, not to mention the clever variation in terms of light and shade as well as arguably the strongest, most hook-laden chorus anywhere on this album. The energy within the song is utterly infectious too, bordering on hardcore aggression later on in the piece.
Speaking of energy, things don’t get much more energetic than on the frantic opener ‘Catalyst’. It literally leaps out of the speakers with barely-contained enthusiasm. The guitar riffs and bass work brilliantly in tandem to create a deliciously meaty racket, whilst the lead guitar work that overlays some bold synths and restrained rhythm section is short-lived but thoroughly engrossing. Again, the chorus is a real grower, seeking to merge the old and the new together into something their own.
I’d not go so far as to say that Iris Divine are totally unique; they wear a few of their influences too obviously on their sleeves to achieve true originality. Accents from bands like Kings X and Dream Theater amongst others are noticeable here and there for example. However, compared to their previous material, they are clearly improving and moving in the right direction for this to not be out of the question further down the line.
But in the here and now, I have to mention a couple more of the highlights of this hugely enjoyable romp of a record. The chugging bass and guitar combo within ‘Echoes/ Effigies’ certainly catches my ear, particularly as it is embellished so nicely with some well-placed keys and modern, vaguely industrial-like sounds. The vocals of Rashid soar across the chorus to good effect and in so doing, helped to convince me that my initial misgivings were well wide of the mark. Sorry Navid!
The title track has grown on me like you’d not believe. It drives forth with real power and intensity, and there’s a genuine dramatic tension that’s built as the song marches towards the chorus. Those alt-rock influences come to the fore a little more but the chorus is where the magic happens. Initially I was less than enamoured with it but with time and patience, it has blossomed into a cracking, memorable chorus, full of melody and style.
And a nod has to go to ‘Like Glass’, which manages to sound immediate whilst being one of the most overtly progressive tracks. The chorus has a touch of AOR about it, or radio-friendly arena rock at least, but this is dovetailed smoothly with some excellently flamboyant and dextrous individual performances all-round. And whilst we’re at it, ‘The Acolyte’ goes toe-to-toe with ‘Taking Back The Fall’ for the accolade of ‘best chorus’.
In true prog style, ‘The Static And The Noise’ has taken its time to wheedle itself into my affections. I initially felt that the album was fraught with inconsistencies. However, that’s clearly not the case. With the benefit of time and repeated spins, I’m now hard pushed to identify any of the eight tracks as being weak; some just work their magic quicker than others and manifests themselves in different ways. Out of nowhere, Iris Divine have made a real impact on the progressive music landscape in 2017. I expect ‘The Static And The Noise’ to ruffle some feathers and feature strongly in many prog fans’ affections. Deservedly so, too.
The Score Of Much Metal: 8.75
If you’ve enjoyed this review, you can check out my others from previous years and for 2017 right here:
Daniel Cavanagh – Monochrome
White Moth Black Butterfly – Atone
Jag Panzer – The Deviant Chord
Vulture Industries – Stranger Times
Anubis Gate – Covered In Black
Protean Collective – Collapse
Cradle Of Filth – Cryproriana – The Seductiveness of Decay
TDW & Dreamwalkers Inc. – The Antithetic Affiliation
Caligula’s Horse – In Contact
Nocturnal Rites – Phoenix
Arch Enemy – Will To Power
Threshold – Legends Of The Shires
H.E.A.T – Into The Great Unknown
Dyscarnate – With All Their Might
Subterranean Masquerade – Vagabond
Adagio – Life
Paradise Lost – Medusa
The Haunted – Strength In Numbers
Serious Black – Magic
Leprous – Malina
The Lurking Fear – Out of the Voiceless Grave
Prospekt – The Illuminated Sky
Wintersun – The Forest Seasons
Witherfall – Nocturnes And Requiems
Tuesday The Sky – Drift
Anthriel – Transcendence
Decapitated – Anticult
Cosmograf – The Hay-Man Dreams
Orden Ogan – Gunmen
Iced Earth – Incorruptible
Anathema – The Optimist
Solstafir – Berdreyminn
Dream Evil – Six
Avatarium – Hurricanes And Halos
Ayreon – The Source
Until Rain – Inure
MindMaze – Resolve
God Dethroned – The World Ablaze
Bjorn Riis – Forever Comes To An End
Voyager – Ghost Mile
Big Big Train – Grimspound
Lonely Robot – The Big Dream
Firespawn – The Reprobate
Pyramaze – Contingent
Shores Of Null – Black Drapes For Tomorrow
Asira – Efference
Hologram Earth – Black Cell Program
Damnations Day – A World Awakens
Memoriam – For The Fallen
Pallbearer – Heartless
Sleepmakeswaves – Made of Breath Only
Ghost Ship Octavius – Ghost Ship Octavius
Vangough – Warpaint
Telepathy – Tempest
Obituary – Obituary
Fen – Winter
Havok – Conformicide
Wolfheart – Tyhjyys
Svart Crown – Abreaction
Nova Collective – The Further Side
Immolation – Atonement
The Mute Gods – Tardigrades Will Inherit The Earth
Ex Deo – The Immortal Wars
Pyogenesis – A Kingdom To Disappear
My Soliloquy – Engines of Gravity
Nailed To Obscurity – King Delusion
Helion Prime – Helion Prime
Battle Beast – Bringer Of Pain
Persefone – Aathma
Soen – Lykaia
Exquirla – Para Quienes Aun Viven
Odd Logic – Effigy
Mors Principium Est – Embers Of A Dying World
Firewind – Immortals
Slyde – Back Again EP
Sepultura – Machine Messiah
Deserted Fear – Dead Shores Rising
Kreator – Gods Of Violence
Borealis – World of Silence MMXVII
Pain of Salvation – In The Passing Light of Day