Judging by the rhythmically complex riffs on “Old Smoker,” the first track on new EP Vultures, North Carolina’s Irata might come across as mathematical prog-rock wizards. Yet on “Deluge,” a track that comes just a few minutes later, one’s first impression of the band could just as easily be that of a flashy, dramatic alt-metal act such as Jane’s Addiction. The truth fits somewhere comfortably in between the two, however. The band, a duo which expands to a trio live, has been through their share of metamorphoses, starting off as an instrumental psych-rock group before adding and shedding a few members, adding vocals and ultimately settling into the dynamic machine heard on Vultures, produced by fellow psych-metal Southerner Philip Cope, frontman of Savannah’s Kylesa.
On a textural level, Vultures shares a lot in common with recent records by Kylesa, Irata’s psychedelic, sometimes spacey approach giving way to dense and muscular crunch in its most powerful moments. But it’s also easy to see where the band might have once excelled as an instrumental act. The relatively brief “Old Smoker” is one of those moments, opening as a complex spiral staircase of riffs and rhythmic jerks. It doesn’t take long before Jon Case’s vocals come in, however, turning what would have been sufficiently kickass math-metal into an even more fierce attack.
For as well as Irata tackle material with more technical dazzle, there’s a broad display of stylistic variance on Vultures, and no two songs are all that similar. “Keeper’s Maker” is a more atmospheric psychedelic dirge that balances weightless riff clouds and hypnotic cycles of bass, only to reach the occasional storm of thunderous sludge. “Deluge” is far more straightforward, however, taking on the Jane’s Addiction influence more directly both musically and vocally, Case’s delivery uncannily like that of Perry Farrell as he sings, “I talk to the animals!” And “Miser,” easily one of the EP’s strongest tracks, balances the trippy stoner rock vibes of Kyuss with an Alice In Chains-style grunginess that’s not only perfectly complementary, but sounds pretty awesome in practice.
While Irata’s evolutionary stages preceding Vultures, including their time focusing on being instrumental, have only produced one prior record to date, the stage they’re at now is a highly promising one. These five songs are a satisfying sample platter of their strengths and versatility, and more importantly, bode well for the main course to come.
Stream: Irata – “Miser”