Label: Godz Ov War Productions
Generally speaking, progressive and technical death metal often comes across as lacking something. Whilst it may be a style full of virtuoso performances and peerless instrumental talent, it can feel as if the songs are simply soulless collections of riffs and movements rather than coherent wholes, that move with purpose beyond displaying the performer’s individual talents. So, an album like IAO 269 can feel like a gift from beyond, given the way that Corpse Garden combine their impressive technical prowess with deft song-craft and passion, making this an album as physically crushing as it is intellectually impressive.
A large part of the success of IAO 269 comes down to the way the band balance the best aspects of progressive death metal with its more straight-forward, violent cousins. Each of these songs might feature dizzying movements, complex arrangements and technical performances that the majority of us can only dream of emulating; but they also know when to strip things back and pummel the listener with (relatively) simple riffs that aren’t far removed from what you might find on an Autopsy or Cannibal Corpse record, rather than something Cynic or later-day Death would have come up with. It’s an effective combination, and means acts to the benefit of both aspects of Corpse Garden’s sound; the technical aspects keep things consistently interesting, whilst the more direct parts ensure there is plenty of energy and forward momentum at all times.
Not that this might be apparent on initial listens. As the above might imply, there is a vast array of ideas on display throughout IAO 269, can it can be difficult initially to make sense of everything that is being presented. The bass plays a large part in this, given that it will often go on highly technical, maze-like runs and is given quite a prominent position in the mix. This plays a large part in ensuring that the album, even at its most direct, never feels too comfortable, as if at any moment everything could slip out of place, revealing some vast horror lurking beneath the surface.
You might notice that I’ve not referred to any individual tracks or moments in this review. That’s because picking out individual highlights feels as if it would run contrary to what IAO 269 is seeking to achieve, and the way that it works best – as a cohesive whole, considered in a single uninterrupted sitting. Drawing attention to certain tracks would, ultimately, do the album a disservice. This is the kind of album to really lose yourself within, exploring its dark, shifting depths, to be astounded by the treasures and terrors that await there.