IATT – Magnum Opus Review

The title of IATT’s third LP is not as ballsy as you might think. “Magnum opus” is one of those phrases that tends to be carelessly tossed around in art criticism without really meaning anything, so let’s break it down: literally, the phrase means “The great work,” specifically referring to the alchemical process of creating the immortality-granting philosopher’s stone. While some use the phrase as a placeholder for “masterpiece,” IATT is here wielding it with its proper connotation, as evidenced by much of the record’s subject matter. Taken this way, the title also serves as a metaphor in the context of IATT’s career. While not quite a masterpiece, Magnum Opus is wondrously adventurous and experimental, a “great work” that further cements IATT’s legacy as one of the most intriguing progressive black metal acts in the scene.

Where IATT’s 2019 sophomore effort Nomenclature felt tragic and intimate, Magnum Opus exudes an atmosphere of cosmic wonder. As a result, the record does feel more detached than its predecessor, at least at first. Its opening few tracks feel more firmly rooted in traditional black metal than the band’s prior works, largely eschewing Nomenclature’s melodic death metal influence. Magnum Opus’ second half, then, is where the band lets loose in gloriously chaotic fashion. IATT shows no reservations in pivoting from dour goth rock to quirky, keyboard-centric prog (“Exculpate, Exonerate”), or in splicing a power metal solo into a track that simultaneously worships Tribulation, Dissection, and Enslaved (“Seven Wandering Stars”). The compositional choices don’t always make sense, but with Nomenclature’s songwriting being as tight as it was, IATT deserves a victory lap of unrestrained artistic exploration.

Of course, there is that aforementioned “warm up” period to contend with. Magnum Opus’ first half is mostly compelling, and IATT’s idiosyncratic songwriting still finds opportunities to shine (see: the freewheeling saxophone solo in “Ouroboros”). Yet the band’s strengths are ultimately dampened in these tracks, in favor of more straightforward black metal excursions. While I prefer IATT operating at their most creative and unpredictable, this cold start does grant Magnum Opus a strong feeling of growth when observed as a whole. To chart the album’s trajectory of quality and originality over its runtime would be to draw a straight line upwards, as it only grows more enjoyable and surprising over time. By the time the record ends, I’m always eager to give it another spin, encouraged further by its single LP-friendly runtime.

From an engineering standpoint, Magnum Opus is an improvement over its bass-deficient predecessor, if at times imbalanced. There are intriguing bits like the violin tremolo passage in “Servitude, Subjugate” (courtesy of Ben Karas from Windfaerer and Thank You Scientist) that I didn’t hear for several listens for being so subdued in the mix, and it’s not hard to imagine a version of this record that sounds more lush and dynamic. The performances are excellent as ever though, with vocalist Jay Briscoe, in particular, having sharpened his chops between releases. His black metal mode has been honed to a vicious sheen, which bolsters the record in its blackest moments. Meanwhile, drummer Paul Cole has sought out new ways to diversify his toolkit, sprinkling traditional rock grooves across the album in deliciously entertaining detours. This guy is a drummer’s drummer who clearly endeavors to find the best possible pattern in every scenario, and greatly contributes to making IATT such a lively act.

If I’m disappointed at all in Magnum Opus, it’s only because I know that IATT has the brains and the talent to craft an all-time classic of progressive black metal, a feat they have now scraped against for two albums in a row without quite breaching masterpiece territory. Ultimately, that’s okay, because the band is so damned ambitious in their craft that even their missteps are something to marvel at. IATT is quickly establishing themselves as one of the most distinct modern extreme metal acts, and Magnum Opus is their most distinct artistic statement to date. Not everyone will love its eccentric nature, but those who give it time will find a wealth of exploration and discovery in areas most black metal acts would never dream of treading.

Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: PCM
Label: Black Lion Records | Bandcamp
Websites: iamthetrireme.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/iamthetrireme
Releases Worldwide: May 27th, 2022

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