Progressive music has long permeated every corner of the metalverse through sheer wankery and pretense, and the farther the style ventures from its vanilla form, the more I enjoy it. Just recently, Warforged rekindled my interest in progressive extreme metal in a major way, proving that fancy schmancy time signatures and rhythmic tricks can still be captivating when dedicated to crafting a smarter overarching experience. IATT—FKA I Am the Trireme, the one-time recipients of an AMG 1.0—is a band I hoped would capitalize on my renewed craving for a smarter kind of blackened death metal. Much of Nomenclature certainly qualifies as prog—and as such, scratches that particular itch—but like the best music in the style, it is great music first, progressive music second. Through theatrical songwriting and melodic grandeur, IATT has assured that their second record is a deeply captivating experience.
For IATT, blackened death metal is a bit of a misnomer, as the band most often prefers to soak their compositions in the distinct dissonance of black metal. Blisteringly quick tremolo runs, typically harmonized for melodic and technical emphasis, regularly trade blows with lackadaisical post-black chords, forming the groundwork for Nomenclature‘s strong dynamic flow. When the band does tangent into death metal territory, it’s often in delightfully unexpected ways. “Realm of Dysthmia,” for instance, caps a mournful lead riff by diving into dizzying tech death, before smartly circling back to the track’s opening riff. Elsewhere, “Molyneuxs Problem” kicks off with a gorgeous bout of melancholic doom death, later evolving into groove oriented prog-black before blossoming into a mind-meltingly complex tremolo run. Everything is underscored with a persistent, bittersweet atmosphere which permeates every last hook, making for an experience that is as satisfying melodically as it is instrumentally.
I was initially on the fence regarding IATT‘s songwriting due to its countless tangents, but as I spun and respun Nomenclature into oblivion, the subtleties of its compositional tact won me over. Rare is the idea that does not receive some sort of rework or indirect reference later down the line; the connections aren’t always immediately obvious, making repeat listens generously rewarding. As IATT always resolves their songs by reprising the opening moments of the track in question, a satisfying conclusion is almost always guaranteed. Further bolstering Nomenclature‘s density are subdued, painterly touches which lend the proceedings an almost cinematic flair. The deep brass and accordion effects near the end of “Cor Pulmonale” enhance the climactic despair of the track’s closing riffs. Later on, the methodical piano notes which underscore the creeping riffs of “Yersenia Pestis” do wonders to build dramatic tension. These nuances help to build a dense soundscape that is an outright joy to drown in; at an hour long, Nomenclature feels roughly half its length.
Guitarists Joe Cantamessa and Alec Pezzano are of course the face of IATT‘s impressive instrumental makeup, but I would be remiss not to mention the personality and diversity that drummer Paul Cole brings to the table. Cole’s skillset allows rhythms ranging from melodeath swiftness (“Realm of Dysthymia”) to stomping hard rock grooves (“Blade of Trepanation”), filling every moment in between with jazz-like flair and buckets of blastbeats. The dry drum tones make his kit sound somewhat thin, recalling the production favored in the 90s by British extreme metal bands like Bal-Sagoth or Cradle of Filth, but to me the effect is downright charming. The solid mix balancing allows bassist Jay Briscoe to regularly shine through, but it’s Briscoe’s harsh vocal work that truly shines. This guy has a helluva growl, hiding a demented death rattle within his demonic roars. His clean vocal ventures make for my only real sticking point with Nomenclature. Though rarely utilized, his cleans come across as thin and shaky, devoid of the confidence that defines his harsh vox.
Minor vocal inconsistencies aside, Nomenclature is the kind of record I want to dive back into every time I think about it. There is so much I love about what IATT has achieved here that it’s difficult to pinpoint exactly what makes the album so great, and that is because hardly any aspects of Nomenclature fall short of greatness. From Dissection to Opeth, IATT wears its influences on its sleeve, yet has handily molded these inspirations into an identity which is unmistakably its own. Between the unpredictable songwriting paths, excellent progressive performances, and strong melodic atmosphere, I cannot recommend Nomenclature enough. In other words: buy it, ya dummies.