Every year in Oakland, a strange kind of festival takes place on the Summer solstice. Within the Chapel of the Chimes, a beautiful columbarium of fractal alcoves of marble and glass, dozens of new music artists are stationed seemingly at random, playing everything from electronic noise to liturgical chant to drone-doom, filling the air with strange and beautiful sounds from all directions at once. It’s both a unique musical experience, and, because of the crowds, an extraordinary chance to do some people watching. In my accounting, most visitors belonged to one of three easily distinguishable groups. First, all stages of the hippie life cycle from larval to senescent; second, the typical Oakland yuppie class; and third, diehard metalheads. Needless to say, I was there proudly repping, having recently seen Cloud Rat, Gadget, Immortal Bird, Primitive Man, and Full of Hell in the span of two days and having picked up a shirt from the coolest of those five bands.
Immortal Bird play a cankerous, grindy brand of death-thrash that’s now all but consumed by its nastier wounds. Thrive on Neglect nods its sagging neck towards late-era Revocation (“House of Anhedonia”) but its body sears and aches like the boiling pitch of Plebeian Grandstand (“Vestigial warnings”). Whatever you want to call the sound, there’s no doubt that it’s a logical continuation of sound from the band’s Empress/Abscess debut and a confirmation that the bird is at the very least not dead yet. Single “Anger Breeds Contempt” throws open the doors for an album as clever as it is cutting, counterpointing spotlighted bass and drums with bold, subtly odd phrases. Replacing Evan Berry (Wilderun, Ex- Replacire) on guitar is Nate Madden, but the riffs are as singular as ever – the trademark Bird twist on influences from brutal death metal to thrash to melodic black metal.
“Avolition” packs the best riffs of the bunch and exemplifies Immortal Bird’s songwriting strengths. After an opening that easily could have featured on Shrines of Paralysis struggles for dominance over a melodic black metal riff, the band feint towards an ending only to implode the song with a tumbling, jagged riff that completely changes their direction. Despite being the album’s longest cut, “Avolition” is its most memorable because of how well it contrasts the expected with the unexpected – not to mention how beautifully it ends. As the band fade out behind it, the riff gradually clarifies into a crystalline form of itself, ringing out in harmonics as it gradually exhales and leaves.
There’s a lot more to love on Thrive on Neglect than a clever song: Dave Otero’s production fits the material like a mold and though it’s not quite as crackling as Colin Marston’s job on Empress/Abscess, the raw energy of the band’s more blackened outbursts have impact. Rae Amitay’s vocals sound particularly excellent on this release, produced with enough reverb to add a dash of OSDM flavor without smoothing over her enunciation. As with any Otero production, it’s not a particularly dynamic master1, but the music doesn’t suffer much for it, and Neglect feels universally tight and energetic, especially given its short runtime.
Thrive on Neglect gave me exactly what I wanted from Immortal Bird: a grindy, thrashy, deathy, and overall extreme album with plenty of personality and a few great moments. It might not be a landmark release, but It’s a damn good one and has been growing on me steadily since my first listen. As a bonus, the band’s clear stance on fascism (against) and killer live show put them easily over the line of “bands that I’ll rep.” Plus this Thrive on Neglect shirt is goddamn comfy.