Album – Spirituality and Distortion
So, I think it’s time for a weird one, don’t you? Igorrr is a French musician that draws from all manner of different influences for his music, from black metal to extreme metal to trip hop. Since 2017 Igorrr has been joined by another three musicians to make the project a full band affair instead of a solo venture. Spirituality and Distortion was released last year and is the man’s 4th studio album, though the first with a lot of the musicians credited. While not especially new or grassroots (in terms of streaming numbers in total) I’ve loved a couple of the songs I’ve heard since I discovered them a couple of months ago and couldn’t wait to get round to checking out the rest for the first time for a review!
Downgrade Desert opens on some awesome strings (my ear is not good enough to distinguish between a sitar, qanun and a harpsichord so all of these, as well as the actual strings, are just strings in here!) work, it sounding pretty clearly inspired by ancient Egyptian music and sets a perfect tone for the album. About a minute in the heaviness kicks in, playing a similar riff but on distorted, detuned guitars and bases and back by a huge sounding, slow drumbeat. There is a part where the guitar and bass play the exact same Egyptian scale as the opening riff and the base drums follow almost the exact same beat. It sounds incredible and super heavy. The distorted guitars suddenly drop out out of nowhere after that short riff and the female vocals come in, powerful and pretty high, adding to the dramatic, Egyptian style of it all. It’s not long before the heavy instrumentation is added back in below the vocals again and, with it, some low, growled male vocals, sounding awesome and quite frankly evil. It all adds even more depth and epicness to the proceedings. We get another brief crushing riff before the harsh, low male vocals come back on their own. I also loved when everything but the one guitar and the male vocals cut out, leaving it sounding like some sort of ritual being chanted. The heaviness is built back in yet again to close out the song and there are so many dynamics here that it’s nuts. I loved this song, but this is going to be a damn long review!
Nervous Waltz opens on some beautiful violin work, changing the mood to something more akin to an early European orchestra. It doesn’t take long for the huge sounding drums to kick in over the top, providing an interesting, unexpected beat behind them. It is at this point already that I have to point out how impressive the mixing on this album is, the drums sound both huge and crisp and so far, nothing has cancelled each other out, an impressive feat when working with this many parts. Some choir vocals briefly lend their voices before a massively heavy, awesome guitar riff comes in over the top of it all. It doesn’t last long before dropping out again to the violin, keeping the bass but this time adding some insanely good electronic drum samples in the back too. It eventually reaches the climax point where all instruments and the choir are going at the same time, an awesome wall of sound and melodies. Then, just like before, it all drops out, leaving just a piano. Some more ritualistic/chanting vocals come in over the top alongside some occasional drums and violins, it again building up so perfectly ab epicly and beautiful, it not being long before we’re slapped in the face by another huge, heavy riff from the guitars. It again doesn’t last long before changing again into some awesome almost dubstep levels of electronica noise and violins and base and just all manor of other crazy instruments to end. These guys are so experimental and creative but it all lands perfectly, an awesome song!
Very Noise keeps up the dubstep style drumbeats, sounding like something off of Korn’s Path of Totality album. It doesn’t take long for some subtle distorted guitar and bass to join in with the beat before it drops out to just bass for an awesome solo, soon accompanied by drums again. Thankfully this one is a little more basic than the last couple of songs, just the guitars and bass following along to the electronic drumbeat. That doesn’t mean it isn’t still awesome, though. Also, future Joe here as he uploads this to the site…. have fun with this TERRIFYING video!
Hollow Tree opens on a frankly odd piano riff, soon accompanied by drums and bass before the high female vocals join in over the top. It sounds weird but again oddly great. This was the first so far to follow a simpler song structure, with pretty defined verses and choruses and again less jumping around between riffs. It was nice to hear a simpler one after the first two more complex one, but I feel like the best/worst is yet to come!
Camel Dancefloor is the most recent single and one of the two songs I’d heard before this review. It opens on another great strings riff much like opening song and is soon accompanied by some incredible electronic drumbeats. This riff has been stuck in my head for weeks at this point on and off and I had only just been able to get it out again before this review… now I fear it shall never leave! The bass that kicks in and follows the strings is insane, too, sounding awesome in both the playing and the tone. This one get’s a lot subtly heavier, too, introducing the distorted guitar as more of a background instrument for a bit before it drops back out again. This is another wholly instrumental track again, but the instrumentation is more than enough to keep people interested for its 3-minute runtime. Playlisted!
The inclusion of George ‘Corpsegrinder’ Fisher from Cannable Corpse instantly makes Parpaing the heaviest on the album, even before hearing it. The fact that it opens immediately into his low growled vocals confirms that immediately. The instrumental work beneath it is insane, this being very much a death/thrash metal song. It does still take a dip into weirdness in the middle though when George is left to growl a verse over what I can only describe as 80s videogame soundtrack-type music. It was awesome and different but definitely weird. The rest of the song soon goes back to normal again, too. Considering I myself am not the biggest CC fan, I surprisingly loved this, another great track.
Musette Maximum plays up to Igorrr’s heritage, opening on an accordion and sounding very, very French. The drums soon kick in over the top to add a great beat (and some insanely fast bass pedal work) behind it before the bass and drums get dripped in every so often over the top to heavy it up and there’s even the odd scream or two too to add even more to this crazy mess of awesomeness. This was very similar in structure and concept to Very Noise, taking one riff and concept on one instrument and adding bits in every so often just to keep things interesting for a couple of minutes. It sounds like it shouldn’t work or be good, but it very much is.
Himalaya Massive Ritual opens on some light percussion until the heaviness explodes in with the guitar, drums and bass and the band proceed to keep piling awesome riff after awesome riff onto the listener over and over for the first two minutes or so. Things get stripped back after that as we finally get the high female vocals back after a few songs’ absence, singing over some more strings. It sounds even more incredible when the male choir vocals come in behind it too, adding multiple vocal layers on top of very little else and it sounds insane. We get some brief acoustic guitar(?) work before it gets heavy again, the distorted guitar adding even more layers behind the massive vocals. Each time the acoustic guitar is on its own with the vocals it is truly beautiful, but the rest of the band add so much of an epic feel to things that I cannot decide which I like more. Thankfully this song is seven minutes long so there is plenty of both. This was awesome, and I really didn’t feel the length at all. Another one that made the playlist.
Now, I am going to have to push a few of these together at some point or y’all will be reading a massively long review and no one wants that! Lost in Introspection is a good, piano driven song that is very plodding and brooding, adding in some awesome bass and some strings in throughout too, but not kicking into that super heavy gear that some others have on this album. It was damn good! Overweight Poesy, on the other hand was a lot more acoustic guitar and string lead, but had the same sort of feeling for me, outside of the fact that it does get a bit heavier towards the middle. Both, however, were MASSIVE showcases of Laure Le Prunenec’s incredible vocals and range. She was the highlight of both of these songs and one of the major highlights of the album as a whole, she’s up there with some of the great melodic metal singers ever I think, and she could even give some opera singers a run for their money, she is that damn good.
Paranoid Bulldozer Italiano is good, but feels a little more needlessly messy than a lot of its predecessors, jumping about between the high female vocals and low growled male ones throughout as well as trying to mash together about every style that had been before in the album in this one 4-minute song. Strings, heaviness, electronic/dubstep style drums and the different vocals have all worked before, but this felt a little too much. I would argue the same is the case for the next song, Barocco Satani, too. Both are good songs, but the crazy mesh of styles has been done better earlier on in the album, so these two don’t stand out quite as much.
Unfortunately, Polyphonic Rust gave off much of the same feeling of ‘been there done that’ as the last couple of songs have. It’s not that it isn’t good because it is a damn good song, but simply that I think this album may be a little too bloated. 14 tracks is a lot of any album, even when a couple of them are shorter instrumental tracks, but 55 minutes is a DAMN long album. I know I’d have struggled to cut it down too because, as I said, every song is great, but a more concise 10 track album may have landed the band in the upper echelons of ‘incredible albums of the decade’ very early on in said period. As it stands it is still a very good album, but just a little too long and cluttered.
However, after all that negativity over the last couple of paragraphs, the final song, Kung-Fu Chevre makes me eat my own words by providing one of the messiest, craziest yet satisfying songs on the whole album. Whether it’s the almost polka-style beat and accordion in the verse, the crazy heaviness that precedes it, both styles of vocals again, the insane jazz-funk bassline to close it out or the actual goat noise just thrown in there for good measure, this song had everything and turned it up to 11. And it was amazing. A weird but great and fitting way to finish a weird and great album, and another that made the playlist.
Overall: this was incredible. Between the heaviness and the operatic voices and the various orchestral instruments this had a truly epic feel to it while there was so much experimentation with the electronica and the accordion to keep the listener on their toes. If you are a musician or a music fan at all I would sorely recommend checking this album out, the talent and song writing is off the charts. I cannot wait to see what Igorrr and his band come up with next and I honestly cannot believe they are not already bigger than they are. If it wasn’t already published and a pain to change, I’d add this to my favourite albums of 2020 list, as it would easily make the top 3!
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The review by musician, blogger & author – Joe Griffiths