(Our friend Leperkahn wrote this review of the new album by Ireland’s Ilenkus.)
If you remember the ancient days of roughly a year ago, you may remember a post by the name “Random Discoveries in Dublin”. Cringe-worthy title aside, I wrote of a chance encounter with two Irish bands, Gacys Threads and Ilenkus, at Fibber Magee’s in Dublin, while on a vacation to visit family. This was both my first post for any site, my misguided step into the world of metal journalism that I still pretend to be a part of, and my introduction to the mercurial post-metal of Ilenkus. Back then, they were playing shows on the strength of their first full-length, Rule By Thieves. A year past, they now return to the fray with a new full-length, The Crossing, a disc that further expands on the Dillinger Escape Plan-meets-The Ocean sound they had used to breath new life into post-metal.
First song “Devourer” does quiet a bit to continue injecting new life into post-metal. Unlike so many hordes of their colleagues, Ilenkus choose to open the album not with a soft, ethereal melody or intro, but with a damn-near grind-y explosion of sound, acting as a slap in the face to the tranquility you might be expecting. These first moments prove to be the first of many times the band defies the listener’s expectations on this album. Just as quickly as Ilenkus start with “Devourer”s firestarter of an intro, they move just as suddenly into a softer, foreboding sense of ominous calm, then escalate back to cacophony with the ferocious bellows of guitarist/vocalist Chris Brennan and the propulsive riffs of guitarist Sam Ellis (I’m taking a random guess here, it could be any of the three guitarist/vocalists in the band – Ellis, Brennan, or Josh Guyett), establishing an ebb and flow of catharsis and despondence that runs like a thread throughout all of The Crossing.
The title track opens with an air of pained melancholy very much reminiscent of Tool’s softer moments, before escalating to a beautiful climax a few minutes in, which soon morphs into tailspins of rage, almost like the pattern of a drug addiction. Another period of calm appears and then transitions to beautiful fury, combining the epic quality of the initial climax with the ferocity that followed to reach a powerful conclusion.
“Be A Weapon” was the second song to premiere in advance of the album’s release, and the virally infectious riff that hits a few minutes in is a big reason why, warranting some inspired headbanging no matter where you’re jamming this album. The title seems to encourage fans to “be a weapon” in the pit, with its juggernaut rhythms and the relatively shorter amount of time allotted to more ambient passages.
However, the best riff on the album by far opens up the next song, “Over The Fire, Under The Smoke”. If there’s any song that’s gonna stick with you like a beef & Guinness pie, it’s this one, its grooves instigating physical responses and its vocal lines begging to be yelled back at harmful volume (as Brennan did in the brilliant music video for this song). All in all, its majestic crescendos and impassioned delivery make this the best song the lads have put out to date.
The record closes with “Goodbye Denial”, the band astutely opting to open in a more reserved manner after the bludgeoning assault of the two previous tracks, so that the ravaging aggression to come almost sneaks up on you if you don’t pay attention. It cycles through periods of Sturm und Drang throughout its ten minutes, proving to be an effective summation of and conclusion to what came before it.
The Crossing sees Ilenkus employing the sound it concocted on Rule By Thieves in a much more unpredictable and original manner, thus proving to be a large step forward for them. I can only hope that this step forward in musicianship and songwriting will be matched by equal gains in popularity, as this band truly deserve a far larger profile than they currently have (and I don’t say that only because they inadvertently kickstarted my hobby of metal writing). As you can probably tell, this album is also really hard to describe, since so many disparate elements are mixed so seamlessly on this record; this is why it’s fortuitous that the record just began streaming in full on their Bandcamp page, and is now available for download.
Give this one a spin if you’re a fan of Tool, The Dillinger Escape Plan, The Ocean, or Mastodon, and give the music video below at least a once-through regardless of your musical preferences – it’s truly one of the most engaging I’ve seen all year. If nothing else, give this album a listen in thanks for the stupendous cover art by James Sheridan.
Further proof that when it comes to music videos, simpler is better. That was simultaneous amusing and oddly compelling.
Thank you for bringing this group to my attention. At first listen this is really excellent.
If only I could have happened upon the filming of the music video. Abbath faces would have abounded.
I don’t think any amount of bizarre photo-bombing would have gotten through to Chris Brennan. He was so far in the zone.