In the past couple of decades, metal has generated extremity along both rhythmic and harmonic paths, but the two have been largely insulated from another. Meshuggah and The Dillinger Escape Plan meticulously machined immensely complex rhythms, while Deathspell Omega and Ulcerate twisted strings to wring out sickening chords and chilling melodies. And while accusing Meshuggah or Dillinger of harmonic simplicity would be as absurd as dismissing Ulcerate or Deathspell‘s considerable rhythmic weight, the approaches of the two schools are rarely invoked at once. That’s where Noise Trail Immersion come in.
Like an eight-stringed compression of Plebeian Grandstand albums, Noise Trail Immersion chug, skronk, and barrel their way through mathy and dissonant songs that refuse easy categorization. Three records into their career, Symbology of Shelter is the band’s most ambitious and successful recording yet, a forty-three-minute composition split into seven parts, each one integral but unique. “Repulsion and Escapism” I and II feed off of each other’s energy while exploring connected melodies that claw outward with hideous kinetics. The other song suite, “The Empty Earth,” gratingly heaves forward at a torturous pace with similar cohesion. Separating these songs, the Dodecahedron-goes hardcore “Acrimonious” provides a frenzied centerpiece.
Highlights aren’t hard to point out in Symbology of Shelter. Nearly every riff in the “Repulsion and Escapism” duo does what the band claim on the tin, melding chunky groove with the alluring dissonance of Deathspell Omega. But the band work outside of this paradigm as well, finding different methods by which to split eardrums. A groove riff that spills harmonics presages the title track’s final dissolution, a screaming, gurgling pit of dissonance that properly dispatches the album.
Yet the opposite is true as well — the album has a distinct quality trough. When the band slow down to the doomy tempos of “The Empty Earth,” their usual riffing can’t make up for the songs’ lethargy. While at their most assaultive and obscene, Noise Trail Immersion shine with a glinting and vitreous darkness. That luster dulls considerably when the band explores these slower tempos, and though they might serve to add some breathing room to the album, the “Empty Earth” song duo can be a chore to endure for nearly twenty minutes, and a poor decision to play before the equally stately tempos of the final track.
Symbology largely succeeds in sounding like one continuous composition, and the progression and distance from its chaotic beginning through morose sludge to a fractured conclusion rings true. As a conceptual arc, this progression is both musically clear and thematically easy to grasp — even if that morose sludge wanders through half of the album. But this sense of drama at times undermines the band’s rhythmic intensity; the guitar lines can feel a bit too composed and the sense of immediate danger and volatility that made Plebeian Grandstand‘s How Hate is Hard to Define such a fantastic exemplar in the field of blackened hardcore is gone here, as the foreboding writing cuts much closer to Lowgazers. Despite the band’s hardcore affinities, Symbology feels more like a sludgy black metal album than the fusion of genres that Noise Trail Immersion seem to aim for.
Even if they don’t quite get the proportions right, Noise Trail Immersion are cooking with gas and there’s enough squealing, breakneck goodness in their recipe to weather a few missteps in preparation. Symbology of Shelter largely succeeds in its compositional ambitions; the question of its quality largely comes down to whether those ambitions outweighed the potential for the band to do more with their sound. Noise Trail Immersion seem to be circling around a really good record with each release, and perhaps the next one will finally push them over the precipice and into the pit. But make no mistake; what the Italian quintet have achieved here is no small feat and will surely appeal to fans of many of the bands so ruthlessly name-dropped here, plus many others. This twisted and cinematic record deserves both attention and praise.
DR: 5 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Moment of Collapse Records
Websites: noisetrailimmersion.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/noisetrailimmersion
Releases Worldwide: November 2nd, 2018