[Self-released, 2014]


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The first time I heard “Degloving Injury,” the lead track from IRREVERSIBLE’s majestic new album, Surface, I kept waiting for the hammer to drop. It’s not that the ambient metal explorers haven’t displayed a penchant for starry-eyed atmospheric passages in the past, but rarely have they displayed such patience, such a willingness to allow simplicity and elegance to own the day. For five enthralling minutes guitars glitter and dance across the cosmos, puncturing holes into the black fabric of space that coagulate into tiny constellations of color and light. When the band finally does break into the first of many titanic riffs, it feels calm and deliberate. Even the vocals, booming with thick-throated resonance, sound remarkably resolute. And while there are a good many things that the band does well on Surface, it’s this sense of determination, the willingness to see their considerable ambitions through, that makes the album special.

With each of it’s three tracks stretching well over over 10 minutes, Surface could easily have been a cluttered and disjointed affair, or, at worst, a plodding mess. Instead, the pacing is nearly perfect. “Side Effects of Living” paints in broad cinematic strokes, contrasting the brutal and the beautiful in a manner that resonates with an aura of bold, probing ambiance. It’s long, labyrinthine, cerebral music that sweeps you from one passage to the next, all the while radiating an unsettling energy that feels ominous and otherworldly. Guitarist Jacob Franklin is a revelation, shifting effortlessly between crushing doom metal, hypnotic post-rock, apocalyptic hardcore and about a half-dozen other genres from hard blues to experimental drones without distracting from the song’s core essence. Keyboardist William Henis interjects his electronics sparingly, but when he takes the lead such as in the soaring mid section, the band suddenly becomes the heaviest prog band on the planet.

Closer “(Husk) Corpse Pose” is no less impressive; it’s a sprawling beast of a song that initially feels dense and impenetrable. But as it climbs and stretches forward, that density begins to wear away until everything is wide open and spacious. The last thing you might expect from these burly rockers is a full-blown, emotive guitar solo, but there it is in all its unabashed glory. No longer does the band rely on huge crescendos or thunderous blasts of distortion to create catharsis or a sense of movement. Instead, there’s a wealth of textures, big tempo shifts and dynamic turns. There’s imaginative arrangements and compositional ebb and flows that lead to you to unexpected places. Like the rest of the record, the song sounds great blaring out the open window of your car, but it’s even better when you can listen in solitude with headphones on.

On the whole, Surface is defined by a conscious turn towards cinematic grandeur where rewards come with repeated listens. These are songs flooded with big ideas distilled into so many minute details — a spiraling lead melody here, a voracious fill from drummer Zach Richards there — all combining to create something monumental and transportive. It’s heavy, sometimes oppressively so, but it’s also epic and swirling in a way the group has only hinted at the past. Bands mature and make advancements all the time, but leaps of this magnitude are rare. IRREVERSIBLE have pushed themselves to their limits and the results are clear: Surface is a triumph.

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