Immortal Bird - Empress or Abscess 01Anyone passingly familiar with the Chicago metal scene in the past few years will have at some point encountered Immortal Bird. In Dr. Fisting and my neck of the woods, they’re one of the better groups to grace the dingy ex-speakeasies and frostbitten holes-in-the-wall. Their tight live performances do their sludgy, blackened death metal great justice and a full-length release has been awaited for a while in la casa de Kronos. Empress/Abscess, the group’s first full-length LP starts off on the right foot and runs forward on prosthetics. As crusty, greasy and incredibly appealing as a bucket of Harold’s chicken, Empress/Abscess is the closest anyone is going to come to dethroning the new Trials LP as the second city’s best metal export in 2015.

Immortal Bird are billed as a deathgrind band, but their influences extend far beyond Dying Fetus or Aborted. “Neoplastic” opens with a rhythmically bewildering sludge interpretation of Meshuggah before diving into more typical deathgrind blast beats, but recovers the opening theme at a faster tempo for the bridge. The verse of “Saprophyte” sounds like a fuzzed-out Leprous riff, plodding and droning uncomfortably underneath faraway black metal leads. As the album progresses, things get ever darker and more experimental. “A Watery Grave” opens with a simple blackened riff and plummets through blast beats and breakneck grindcore, showing off some of the album’s best performances all around, especially in the case of the drums. It also packs a surprise piano interlude which really hits the spot about 3/4 of the way through a deathgrind album.

The album isn’t free of missteps; while quite memorable, the mid-album “The Sycophant” seems a bit out of place among the decidedly less melodic and less punk-influenced songs surrounding it. Incongruous, maybe, but it’s a kick-ass song in its own right, adding a bit of levity to the disc before the much heavier second half, which caps the record with the 10-minute “And Send Fire.” The song, crediting a one Mr. Marston for ‘additional fire,’ finishes Empress/Abscess on a high note, combining heavy drones with grind riffing to great effect before fading into atmospheric noise and feedback in its last moments.

Immortal Bird - Empress or Abscess 03

At five tracks and just over half an hour, Empress/Abscess is snappy and awash in character. The band has employed Colin Marston’s mixing and mastering talents with sterling results; every instrument is accounted for and grimy as hell. Evan Berry’s sludgy, blackened riffs sound menacing and Rae Amitay’s growls and screams nest themselves perfectly within the rancid gutter between the lead and rhythm guitars. My only complaint on the album’s production stems from the drums, which occasionally feel a bit lacking in body. Apart from that minor quibble, Immortal Bird‘s debut sounds excellent, and is texturally similar to the debut Epistasis EP, Light Through Dead Glass.

Empress/Abscess might flaunt its influences, but those influences’ sheer variety ensures an interesting listen. The album’s length and nuanced sound makes it easy to hit repeat after “And Send Fire,” and it’s five for five on the songs front. A debut to be proud of, for sure, and quite appropriately paired with some deep dish and frostbite. Ya done good.

Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Broken Limbs Recordings
Release Dates: Worldwide 07.14.2015

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  • El_Cuervo

    You can tell from the section at 3:37 of Neoplastic that this is the same guy as from Wilderun. He’s on a fucking roll this year.

    • They seem to be using a shock and awe campaign to dominate the lists this year, Wilderun and Immortal Bird aside, Colin has been his usual workaholic self but I remember reading he’s working something for Dysrythmia that I hope gets out this year (Adding that to the Pyramids album that was also impressive). And Rae also has the new Thrawsunblath incoming. I’m a fan of the Bay Area and Northwestern scenes but the musical promiscuity of Chicago, NY and Canada is quickly winning me over these last years.

  • Kryopsis

    If you showed me this band picture and asked me to describe the music, I would’ve assumed that Immortal Bird were a ‘Metric’ tribute band or something. It’s always nice when a Metal band eschews the traditional iconography and just lets the music speak for itself (which is certainly does here). I’ll definitely keep an eye on this album.

    • That or they have day jobs! Facepaint doesn’t exactly work too well in the office. Though with AMG, I wonder…hmmm….

      • Kronos

        We’re not allowed to take it off.

      • Its OK, as long as you are a goth in a BBC comedy! :)

        • Óðinn

          Richmond. Nice.

          • Goths. We’re just like you really, except we listen to Cradle of Filth.

  • DaveDeath

    this band fucking rips and rae and evan are powerhouse musicians. a band with both of them is a match made in (not heaven cuz heaven isn’t metal) but you know what I mean. love this band.

  • Luke_22

    This band is packed with potential and if they continue to grow and hone their sound and song-writing chops there’s no telling how good they could become. Cool to see Evan Berry double up with something really nasty sounding on the back of the brilliant Wilderun.

    • Kronos

      The songwriting is pretty much spot on, from my point of view, but of course there’s always places to go. If they keep pulling this kind of music together, I’ll keep being excited about it.

      • Luke_22

        Yeah I agree the songwriting is top notch already and I’ve really enjoyed what they’ve done so far, but I get the feeling they’ll get even better.

  • Carlos Marrickvillian

    Taster track is very tasty!

  • Innit Bartender

    The cover is by the Baroness guy?

    • Catalyst

      No, the art is not by John Baizley aka A Perfect Monster, though it does seem to have some of his influence. It was done by Kikyz1313.

    • Jukka Alanen

      Ummm, that cover looks like nothing I’ve seen by John Baizley. Quick search in Google also confirms this.

      • Kronos

        However it does conform to Baizley’s goose/woman obsession.

      • Innit Bartender

        Woman with big lips + her face covered by bodily fluids + bird nearby. No, nothing like Baizley at all.

    • Óðinn

      Baroness guy? Wouldn’t he be a Baron? ;)

      Bad joke, I know.

  • Óðinn

    Yes. Immortal Bird, great band. Their 2013 EP Akrasia was some tasty Metal. I’m excited about the release of Empress/Abscess. Thanks Kronos.

  • M Morgan

    Damn good album. Im surprised the guitar was up so high in the mix. Especially since Amitay played drums for this bands recordings.

  • Name’s Dalton

    Very Chicago. I can hear the gnarled ghosts of Big’n and Big Black in their sound. Even some Tar in the guitar. This is really, really good.