Infant Island arrive at their fourth album, Obsidian Wreath, with even more malice coating their metallic vision of screamo. The Fredricksburg, Virginia band roar into opening track “Another Cycle” and knock the wind from you, before backing off to achieve a kind of balance with a post-rock atmosphere. A band that lands on the more extreme side of screamo, their vocalist, Daniel Kost, offers a particularly visceral screaming delivery, at times leaving one to ponder if he’s actually vocalizing lyrics, or just using his voice as another abrasive layer of instrumentation.
The band lashes out in a chaotic frenzy on “Fulfilled,” a standout driven by an almost powerviolence-like abandon. The burly thud of bass from “Clawing, Still” leads into “Veil,” which is a more grounded song, possessed by a purposeful stomp. This provides the kind of dynamic shift needed to give something this unsettled to have greater melodic value, insidiously infectious with equal ambiance and tension in its dreamy brooding. For the hardcore-style gang vocal section, a chorus of heavy music’s most acidic larynxes join the fray, with members of Malevich, Undeath, Watch Dogs, Senza, and King Yosef shouting in union. “Amaranthine” starts with a delicate beauty before contorting with wretched screaming into the explosion of frantic desperation driven to the sonic violence their fans expect. They control this with a more focused metal attack than some of the more wildly flailing outbursts that litter the album.
Infant Island’s mastery of the quiet before the storm proves to be effective on Obsidian Wreath, and they’ve taken a step further here than where they ventured on their previous album, Beneath. They linger in soothing places for just long enough to create a false sense of security to jerk you back in for another soaring propulsion of tangible emotion. “With Shadow” offers the enjoyably dynamic twist of screamed vocals over really pretty music, whereas “Unrelenting” lives up to its title. Infant Island beat your eardrums raw with blast beats that most black metal bands would envy, while their guitars are picked so manically that they throttle the air from you before you are given a safe word.
The perfect balance of brutality against more soul-baring glimpses at the complex splattering of abstract emotions invoked here makes Infant Island’s guitars flagellating your eardrums worthwhile. There is not a twist to the ending of this album, as it follows the course laid out on the group’s previous albums, perfectly summing up what the band is about in 2024. The well-produced but volatile songs cohere with their body of work up to this point, albeit placing it on a darker canvas with sharper colors. This is one of those wonderful albums of heavy music that is lavish yet real; some may see this as the band’s Sunbather, but is a swath of artistic contradictions that fall into place just as the band intended. There is much grace in the bloody mess they’ve made here.
Label: Secret Voice
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