One of the may reasons Kronos is more trve than you is that he delves deep into the underground in search of the most obscure sounds in the metal world. The depths of depravity, the spine-twisting abominations that he unearths will challenge your very conception of brutality. Sometimes. Other times, Kronos‘ musically omnivorous bandmates make him grudgingly listen to a French prog/jazz/math/djent band and he really, really likes it.
Such was the case with Itzamna‘s Metnal EP, which was sold to me as sounding like a collage of Animals as Leaders and Tigran Hamasyan. And that it did, combining chunky grooves with wild piano lines, klezmer flourishes, and a host of odd instrumentation. The band seemed relentlessly creative and willing to use whatever instruments, techniques and styles were at their disposal. But despite their youth, the songs were reined in and cohesive, even when navigating multiple shifts in tempo, time, and genre. When the full-length Chascade was announced I was excited to see what the band had thought up next.
It’s something else. Waltzing in with a singular Frenchness, “Crippled Monk” begins the journey with a gentile coax forward, to which “Chascade” gingerly obliges. Its melody appears tenderly, shared by piano and guitar as if they’re just trying it out; the band sets out the melody with a sense of caution, but by the end of the song, it’s soaring atop strings and a chunky bass. When Itzamna hit a stride, they do so knowingly and with no want of forethought. Moments of peace slip between playful scrambles across the keyboard and powerful rhythmic surges; blissed-out post rock in “Chascade” and “Buakaw (Kills the Palm Tree). Things never arrive without foreshadowing, and the occasional vocals allow the performers to shine without undermining the album’s musical focus.
Though the album spills a little surprise every few steps, it’s the closing number, “Dies Veniet” that’s a real bolt from the blue. One minute it’s chapel choir chant and the next it peels off into the sunset on the back of a bronco, and the transition from Rome to dusty Madrid and back again is an ending as triumphant as it is idiosyncratic. The production, handled by Clément Belio allows for vast jumps in style to slide by without a hitch, but its very clean tones and middling dynamic range belie djent roots. I’d like to hear a bit more grit and looseness from a band with such a clear interest in jazz.
There’s a lot to sink your teeth into between the covers of Chascade, but the work as a whole isn’t as compelling as its pieces. The album feels very much like an anthology and even the “Shalam” suite in the middle of things is incohesive. Too often the band takes a step back when they could have powered forward or winks when they should have spoken. Furthermore, the album’s inclusion of the ultimate peeve – a throwaway hidden track ending – even undermines what could be the best song on the disc.
Despite its overall lack of direction, Chascade makes for an intriguing and often quite rewarding listen that almost accomplishes the mighty task of total genre agnosticism. Itzamna sound like no one else, yet their biggest challenge moving forward will be sounding more like themselves. The band need to forge a more solid identity by managing their myriad influences and outsized creativity. With a bit of fat trimming here, a few tough decisions there, and Chascade could be a great debut LP, but like many young bands, Itzamna spread themselves thin trying to squeeze everything they have to say into one work. Nonetheless, their music at its best is beautiful and detailed as anyone else’s, and for those willing to dig, Chascade has gems just beneath the surface.
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Websites: itzamna.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/itzamna
Releases Worldwide: October 14, 2016