AN NCS ALBUM PREMIERE (AND A REVIEW): I AM — “LIFE THROUGH TORMENT”
“No games, no bullshit, just straight in your face heavy metal. We wanted this to show who we are and what’s next. A direct reflection on each of our personal lives and what we see. This is Life Through Torment. We hope you enjoy.”
That is the invitation presented to you on a blood-encrusted platter by the hard-knuckled hands of I AM from north Texas, offering their new album to your ears. We have a full stream of the album down below, in advance of its release on February 10, preceded by these mangled thoughts about the music.
Thomas Hobbes famously described the state of nature, in which justice and injustice have no place and force and fraud are the cardinal virtues, as a world in which the life of man is “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short”. All around us today there’s plenty of evidence that life has suddenly become nastier and more brutish, in a rising tide of force and fraud. We’ll find out if it’s also going to become poorer, shorter, and more solitary.
I AM’s new album seems to suit this new Nasty Age in which we find ourselves. It’s a vehicle for exorcising — or exercising — the more brutish and violent impulses that passions may ignite. It’s a stripped-down, murderously purposeful piece of relentless bludgeoning.
There’s more than a few hallmarks now associated with deathcore in this brand of vicious death and bleak hardcore. The clanging, near-atonal riffs, the gut-punching drum beats, the gravel-throated bass notes, the hollow, harrowing roars — they call to mind that genre label, which has become a dirty word in certain circles. But the music also isn’t exactly what that label might suggest. It’s more of a throwdown at the feet of bands like Xibalba and Dying Fetus, with some other twists and turns in the mix.
Birdsong begins and ends the album, and that’s about the only sign of happiness you’ll find here. The pattern is set in the opener, which is also the title track. The bass drum slugs you in the belly as a prelude to a grim, slow riff, and then the band accelerate to mauling pace, with the rhythm punctured by rapid jabs and a snakelike lead guitar. Eventually the pace slows, delivering a methodically bludgeoning and bone-grinding experience… and it becomes slower… and slower… as if the life has been effectively beaten out of the victim, or the killer is running out of gas.
“Face of Death” is even uglier and more vicious. Like every song on the album, it delivers head-hammering grooves, with frenzied soloing over the industrial-strength clobbering, and a drum fusillade that sounds like ranks of mortars firing in rapid sequence.
Speed isn’t the name of this game — it’s more mid-paced stomping and pile-driving than anything else — but I AM do frequently and quickly shift gears in their pacing, and they do hit bursts of red-eyed frenzy in songs like “C.O.S.L.” and “Morality Hangs”, and the closer “Forgive Me” really starts to rampage in a fury before it’s over.
The music isn’t melody-free either, but the melodies that are to be found are queasy and dismal. And the band throw some curveballs as well, especially in “Entomb Me”, which opens with a spectral voice, acoustic picking, and a buzzing ambient backdrop, leading to a staggering lurch. It’s as bleak and bombed-out as the wreckage of a city that has become a cemetery of unmarked graves.
If you’re in the mood to find some peace, some human warmth, and perhaps some faith in the decency of your fellow beings in a perilous time, Life Through Torment isn’t the refuge you’re looking for. But if you want to let out a building tumor of rage, or just revel in a savage metallic beatdown, give this a shot.
Life Through Torment was recorded, produced, and mixed by Ryan Harvey at Red Oak Collective and mastered by Jacob Pouttu. The cover art was created by Grayson Altom, with design by Benjamin Hoagland. The band is releasing the album on CD and digitally, and it’s available here:
For those in the vicinity of Dallas, the band also have an album release show on February 11 at The Prophet Bar with Salt, Unity, Truetemper, and more. A two-week US tour is in the works for late February and early March. To learn more, check this link:
I’m in Dallas, never heard of these guys. Thanks for the heads up!