IATT – Magnum Opus – Album Review

Artist: IATT

Album Title: Magnum Opus

Label: Black Lion Records

Date of Release: 27 May 2022

This is my first experience of IATT, and I’m listening to ‘Magnum Opus’, their third album, having read some positive reviews elsewhere of previous records. I’m also taking the plunge because the band find themselves on Black Lion Records, a label that has released some very good albums in the last couple of years. Billed as simply ‘extreme metal’ in the press release, but it doesn’t take long to realise that this is a gross over-simplification. Within the music found on ‘Magnum Opus’ you can hear elements of black, death, and progressive metal, as well as plenty more besides. It is quite a daunting listen initially, as there’s a lot to get your head around, but once you get to grips with it, ‘Magnum Opus’ is definitely very rewarding. Except for one element, that is, that threatens to ruin the entire thing for me personally.

The Philadelphia-based quartet is comprised of vocalist/bassist Jay Briscoe, guitarists Joe Cantamessa and Alec Pezzano (who also handles the orchestrations), and drummer Paul Cole. Based on the content of this album, they are undoubtedly a talented bunch of musicians. However, on this ‘Magnum Opus’, they have enlisted the talents of a number of notable guest artists to further expand and flesh out their musical vision. These guests include Ben Karas of Windfaerer and Thank You Scientists fame who adds his violin to a handful of songs, Jake Superchi of Uada, who adds vocals to one song, and a guitar solo from Daryl Baker. So far so good.

And then it all goes a bit wrong. Jorgen Munkeby (Shining, Emperor) and Burial In The Sky’s Zach Strouse are enlisted as guest saxophonists on no less than three songs. And they are not small guest appearances either, as the sax is used extensively in each, either as an extended solo, or as frequent embellishments. No. No, and thrice no. I will readily admit that they are both highly talented individuals, and their contributions reflect this. And I also concede that it is purely my own taste that means I have a problem with the inclusion of the saxophone. But to me, the songs are made worse by their inclusion. I have tried, I really have. But I just don’t want to hear that instrument in the heavy metal. The odd song, I can stomach, but not three, and not this widespread and potent, I’m sorry. Yes, it’s my issue, but I have to be honest. I also want to be fair, so I will award two scores below – one for me, and one for everyone else.

It’s a real shame too, because I like an awful lot of the music on this record, and I hate the fact that the overall experience is compromised by the choices made. But if I’m reviewing an album, I can’t just ignore large swathes of it and pretend they don’t exist.

‘Magnum Opus’ begins in fine fashion too, with ‘Servitude, Subjugate’ exploding into life after an interesting violin-led intro. Throughout the course of the five minutes, we’re hit with savage blackened death metal led by fast-paced drumming, staccato riffs, and dry, rasping growls. But this is cleverly interspersed with moments of quieter reflection, or with out-and-out progressive experimentation, complete with strange sounds and textures woven into the sonic tapestry.

‘Ouroboros’ begins promisingly too, with a noticeable increase in the melodic offering. The vocals flit between the higher-pitched rasps and something deeper. But as we near the two-minute mark, in comes the saxophone of Jorgen Munkeby and I just lose all interest. Delivering both melodic passages as well as deliberately off-kilter sounds, it is present without pause for over a minute and then returns later. Not even the quiet, clean-guitar-led atmospheric section, which is beautiful by the way, can appease me, I’m that disappointed.

‘Prima Materia’ does its best to pull me back to the fold, and to some extent, it succeeds. The overtly Gothic synths that give the song a vague Cradle Of Filth feel are a nice touch, but not overdone, whilst the guitar riffs and blastbeat drumming push the track into greater black metal territory than anything else. What I didn’t expect was the mid-song shift into beautiful but dark melodic opulence that has me grinning from ear to ear. And then, for the love of God, more blasted sax, this time courtesy of Jach Strouse. Seriously? The only saving grace is that it is well played, but isn’t present for too long. And when the guest solo from guitarist Daryl Baker hits, it just emphasises how much better this instrument fits the music than the saxophone.

Tracks such as ‘Elixir Of Immortality’ and ‘Demiurgos (Architect Of Disaster)’ are well-crafted affairs that bring much positivity to proceedings. The former is a slower, more atmospheric track for much of the time, but isn’t shy of mixing up the pace at points, as well as increasing the intricacy when required. The latter is much more aggressive, and faster in tempo, as well as a touch more avant-garde with an odd but satisfying mid-section that features an incredibly bold synth solo amongst other things.

One of my favourite tracks however, has to be the delightful ‘Exculpate, Exonerate’ which features a wonderful cameo from violinist Ben Karas, but which is also one of the most immediate compositions on ‘Magnum Opus’ thanks to arguably the strongest and most overt melodic sensibilities on the entire record. Even when it veers into more progressive climes, the melody remains, which I find very impressive.

‘Planes Of Our Existence’ would be another great composition if it wasn’t for…well you know the rest. At the half-way mark, there’s a marked increase in atmospheric, epic melody which catches my ear only for my excitement to be deflated by another couple of minutes of intermittent saxophone embellishment. ‘Seven Wandering Stars’ by contrast is awash with dextrous, wonderful lead guitar work that only makes me wish that more of the solos could have been guitar-led.

By now, you are no doubt bored of me and my personal soapbox, so I will conclude this review by saying that if certain instruments don’t put you off, you will find a great deal on this latest album from IATT to entertain and intrigue you. Blending a multitude of ideas together as they do is not easy, but by and large IATT are successful with their endeavours. I just wish they’d not made a couple of the choices that they have here. Oh well, I’ll just have to wait until the next album to see what IATT come up with next.

The Score of Much Metal: 68% (85% for everyone else)

Check out my other 2022 reviews here:

Iris Divine – Mercurial

Decapitated – Cancer Culture

Bekmørk – The Path Nocturnal

Septic Flesh – Modern Primitive

Blut Aus Nord – Disharmonium – Undreamable Abysses

Drift Into Black – Earthtorn

Spheric Universe Experience – Back Home

Outshine – The Awakening

Cosmic Putrefaction – Crepuscular Dirge For The Blessed Ones

Zero Hour – Agenda 21

Scitalis – Doomed Before Time

Morgue Supplier – Inevitability

Visions Of Atlantis – Pirates

Evergrey – A Heartless Portrait (The Orphean Testament)

OU – One

Haunter – Discarnate Ails

Aara – Triade II: Hemera

Pure Reason Revolution – Above Cirrus

Demonical – Mass Destroyer

I Am The Night – While The Gods Are Sleeping

Haunted By Silhouettes – No Man Isle

Delvoid – Swarmlife

LionSoul – A Pledge To Darkness

Watain – The Agony And Ecstasy Of Watain

Dischordia – Triptych

Dragonbreed – Necrohedron

Audrey Horne – Devil’s Bell

Vanum – Legend

Stone Broken – Revelation

Radiant – Written By Life

Skull Fist – Paid In Full

Hurakan – Via Aeturna

Incandescence – Le Coeur De L’Homme

Imminent Sonic Destruction – The Sun Will Always Set

Monuments – In Stasis

Soledad – XIII

Viande – L’abime dévore les âmes

Credic – Vermillion Oceans

Postcards From New Zealand – Burn, Witch, Burn

Darkher – The Buried Storm

Treat – The Endgame

Bjørn Riis – Everything To Everyone

Destruction – Diabolical

Et Moriemur – Tamashii No Yama

Angel Nation – Antares

Wolf – Shadowland

Denali – Denali EP

Centinex – The Pestilence EP

Meshuggah – Immutable

Chapter Of Hate – Bloodsoaked Decadence EP

Ancient Settlers – Our Last Eclipse

Tranzat – Ouh La La

Playgrounded – The Death Of Death

Father Befouled – Crowned In Veneficum

Abbath – Dread Reaver

PreHistoric Animals – The Magical Mystery Machine (Chapter 2)

Kvaen – The Great Below

Michael Romeo – War Of The Worlds, Part 2

Dark Funeral – We Are The Apocalypse

Carmeria – Advenae

Agathodaimon – The Seven

Moonlight Haze – Animus

Hellbore – Panopticon

Konvent – Call Down The Sun

Idol Of Fear – Trespasser

The Midgard Project – The Great Divide

Threads Of Fate – The Cold Embrace Of The Light

Arkaik – Labyrinth Of Hungry Ghosts

New Horizon – Gate Of The Gods

Cailleach Calling – Dreams Of Fragmentation

Tundra – A Darkening Sky

Sylvaine – Nova

Hath – All That Was Promised

Sabaton – The War To End All Wars

Kuolemanlaakso – Kuusumu

Oh Hiroshima – Myriad

Godless Truth – Godless Truth

Shape Of Despair – Return To The Void

Eight Bells – Legacy Of Ruin

Embryonic Devourment – Heresy Of The Highest Order

Serious Black – Vengeance Is Mine

Allegaeon – Damnum

HammerFall – Hammer Of Dawn

Immolation – Acts Of God

Veonity – Elements Of Power

Nightrage – Abyss Rising

Arjen Anthony Lucassen’s Star One – Revel In Time

Pure Wrath – Hymn To The Woeful Hearts

Dagoba – By Night

The Last Of Lucy – Moksha

Arð – Take Up My Bones

Embryonic Autopsy – Prophecies Of The Conjoined

The Devils Of Loudun – Escaping Eternity

Cult Of Luna – The Long Road North

WAIT – The End Of Noise

Abysmal Dawn – Nightmare Frontier

Amorphis – Halo

Nordic Giants – Sybiosis

Persefone – Metanoia

Vorga – Striving Toward Oblivion

Mystic Circle – Mystic Circle

Nasson – Scars

Burned In Effigy – Rex Mortem

Silent Skies – Nectar

Celeste – Assassine(s)

Abyssus – Death Revival

SOM – The Shape Of Everything

Ashes Of Ares – Emperors And Fools

Beriedir – AQVA

Lalu – Paint The Sky

Nocturna – Daughters Of The Night

Battle Beast – Circus Of Doom

Lee McKinney – In The Light Of Knowledge

Descent – Order Of Chaos

Aethereus – Leiden

Toundra – Hex

Ilium – Quantum Evolution Event EP

Power Paladin – With The Magic Of Windfyre Steel

Necrophagous – In Chaos Ascend

Infected Rain – Ecdysis

Wilderun – Epigone

You can also check out my other reviews from previous years right here:

2021 reviews

2020 reviews

2019 reviews
2018 reviews
2017 reviews
2016 reviews
2015 reviews

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