In Human Form - Opening of the Eye by the Death of the IIn Human Form has me trapped in a corner. In addition to being a mouthful, Opening of the Eye by the Death of the I has seen my prosaic muse torn to pieces. I doubt this current dry spell stems from a lack of comprehension, but I pray nonetheless for a moment of clarity to absolve this torment. An undertaking this ambitious and idiosyncratic surely has a story to tell, but my thoughts are born dead, the empty words of an overactive imagination. Binding this cosmic sea of individual thought patterns together as one neatly wrapped summation would be difficult even without judgment. Nailing down a numerical conclusion on IHF‘s sophomore entry may be just as hard as getting pen to paper.

“Progressive” is not a strong enough descriptor for IHF. While Obsidian Tongue, Infera Bruo, and other peers in the New England black metal circuit channeled typical outfits like Agalloch, Enslaved, and Wolves in the Throne Room, IHF draw from jazz, doom, thrash, and everything in between. WitTR and Agalloch do make an appearance, however, through IHF‘s long-form approach. Opening (OotEbtDotI?) sees its three main tracks all exceed 14 minutes. The length only increases this review’s difficulty, let alone its saxophone diversions and high-minded compositions. Sometimes the damned thing verges on exiting metal altogether. I’m reminded of Dr. A.N. Grier‘s troubles pinning down Igo(ööaaa)rrr, though Opening sounds like glam metal compared to that cacophonous monstrosity.

“All Is Occulted by Swathes of Ego” opens on a ploddy death/doom riff that morphs into post-inspired trills before a tempered carnival atmosphere tilts the track sideways. At times, the developments conjure what black metal might sound like if Chuck Schuldiner slapped some Oreo-themed face paint on his off-kilter progressions, took downers, and tried to play Between the Buried and Me at one-quarter speed. When a raucous build finally sets fire to the meandering tempo, it’s a welcome sight. IHF borrow from black metals French, frigid, and folky, nodding to traditionalists even as it incorporates its bag of tricks into the fray.

IHF‘s focus on diversity might seem like a strength at first. But in truth the directions that stand out are often more straightforward, instead relying on an interesting beat or a splash of dissonance to bolster it. For instance, those death/doom bookends from “All Is Occulted” sound more like Raise the Black than Katatonia and fall completely flat. Even on the two stronger tracks, the material runs hot and cold across the mammoth run times. At its best, the mutating collective of jazz, prog, black and melody and eccentricity finds a way to work by blending those many components into a palatable offering. When that mix sours, the constant shuffling bogs Opening down. IHF‘s brand of dartboard metal might appeal to the progressive crowd, but it makes for a disjointed listening experience in this venue.

In Human Form 2017

Thankfully the strength of IHF‘s blackened runs keeps the album afloat, breaking up the array of musical knick-knacks and baubles. These successes pockmark Opening, ranging from the aforementioned fifty shades of black to the inquisitive riffs of “Zenith Thesis, Abbadon Hypothesis.” They achieve a surprising level of harmony that holds together layers of psychotic babbling and Richard Dixon’s roiling skin battering. “Through an Obstructionist’s Eye” handles its death/doom far better than “All Is Occulted,” improving on both the riff and its length. The track is most conventionally black metal of the bunch, but that doesn’t stop Dixon from eschewing classic blasts for a wide selection of secondary choices atypical of the genre. His performance stands out as my favorite, though Nick Clark (Sign of the Goat) deserves serious recognition for crafting the expansive riff-work on the album. Clark also handled the production, and while IHF‘s flecks of aggression could use more punch, he serviced Opening‘s progressive side capably.

With Shalin Shah (Protolith) and Dave Kaminsky (Stone Healer, ex-Autolatry) joining the fray, there’s no reason to expect Opening is anywhere close to IHF‘s peak. As you might suspect from the back-and-forth nature of this review, I’m very torn on the music at hand. While I may be down on the quality of this album — at least relative to my peers — I am still bullish on In Human Form‘s prospects going forward. With I, Voidhanger scooping them up for a full release, I expect they haven’t finished bending reviewers into knots yet.

Rating: 2.5/5.0
DR: 9 | Format Reviewed: 256 kbps mp3
Label: | I, Voidhanger Records
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: June 23rd, 2017

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  • Tenebrae

    This year has been shite for metal.

    • Reese Burns

      Immolation, Dying Fetus, Loss, Artificial Brain, Full of Hell, Suffocation, Vanum, Decapitated, Warbringer, Al-Namrood, Tombs, Wode, Shadow of Intent, Ulsect, Ruins of Berevast, Cover of Night, Walpyrgus…. it’s been an excellent year for metal.

      • Monsterth Goatom

        Looking forward to the Decapitated release. Over at NCS Andy writes: “Anticult marks yet another major step forwards in Decapitated’s quest to become the quintessential Metal band of the 21st century.

      • Gage

        ehhhh I still think it is weaker than 2016. By this point last year I already had 5 or so albums that I absolutely loved. Right now I have 2…

        • Reese Burns

          I would agree it’s not quite on the level of 2016, but I do believe it’s far from being a shit (or shite) year, though.

          • WhamBamSam

            I’ve heard a lot of things that I’ve quite liked, maybe even more than in years past, but less that I’ve really loved. There are a few things that I still need to give more listens to, but I don’t think I’ve come across anything yet from 2017 that would have been above 5th on my list in either of the past two years.

      • Oscar Albretsen

        Except that all of thaose are awful…

        • Reese Burns

          Well, you can always listen to Anathema, right?

          • Oscar Albretsen

            You can always listen to whatever you want. You like that stuff, I think it’s bad. Guess I should have added “in my opinion” so you wouldn’t get as pissed that I hate it.

          • [not a Dr]

            Your ability to read between the single line must be vastly superior to my autistic-grade skill level.
            I wouldn’t have guessed that Burnsey was pissed from that comment…

      • You wot m8?

        Dodecahedron, Gloson, Hexis, Havukruunu, Immolation, Oceanwake, and The Devil and the Almighty Blues.

        This year has been great, and it’s only June.

    • Name’s Dalton

      Lol. There’s always one clown bemoaning the state of metal.

  • David D.

    Fucking what were those Death references in the first paragraph. That was so good.

    • Dr. Wvrm

      :D How many did you get?

      • WhamBamSam

        Counting the band name itself, 12.

        • Dr. Wvrm

          So close. Band name makes it 13.

          • WhamBamSam

            Ahh. I missed “Together As One.”

          • Drew Music

            I couldn’t be more proud of you if I tried.

          • Strapping Old Fart

            You didn’t cut yourself on those words, against dreams, made of steel, I hope. Great job.

      • Bryan Barkman

        I believe there are an even ten, not counting the band name itself.

  • WhamBamSam

    All those Death references in the first paragraph and you missed the chance to open with “people of the everywhere!”

    Even if it doesn’t quite stick the landing, I pretty much have to give this a full listen after reading that review.

    • Zach Ward

      I think the lyrics are “People of the earth beware”. Which could’ve made sense still if the album was complete garbage. But it ain’t too bad.

      • WhamBamSam

        That makes more sense and lyrics pages online seem to agree with you, though I have to say I’ve grown somewhat attached to my misheard version.

        “People of the earth beware” could also work for a particularly brutal or otherwise challenging album as well. This is at least a pretty weird record, so I think it could work.

  • rumour

    “that cacophonous monstrosity” — and a new metal band name is born.

  • Apple Tree

    Man, i love prog. Surprisingly, its not my favorite genre, but every other genre i love most when combined with prog. So when i see something like this get a 2.5, it really breaks my heart.

  • Oscar Albretsen

    “Opening the eye by the death of the I.” Wow. Move over Walt Whitman.

    • You wot m8?

      Honestly, it’s pretty clever.

  • Reese Burns

    I would counter that by saying “you’re wrong and you smell!”

    • Thatguy

      Always the appropriate reply.

  • Thatguy

    Even just the embedded song is the definition of ‘mixed’ in both content and quality. Still I may check this out so thanks.

    And it’s been a great year for metal. Every year is great year.

    • Name’s Dalton

      Thank you.

  • Chris

    While this band doesn’t do much for me, your review made me aware of Igorrr.

    My earholes cannot thank you enough for that wonderful discovery.

  • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

    I really like how the production on this sounds really organic. It actually sounds like some guys playing real instruments and being recorded on tape, as opposed to getting recorded into a computer and having the drum hits replaced and quantized.
    Besides, you can clearly hear the bass most of the time, which is always a plus in Metal.

  • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

    I really loathe to discuss scores, but I think this deserves more than 2.5

  • miradautasvras

    That album cover gave me Leprosy vibes!