For Fans Of
It’s been a long, grueling four years for fans of Invent Animate. Just over a year after their widely popular 2016 effort, ‘Stillworld,’ the metalcore scene was shaken up by the departure of former vocalist Ben English in January of 2018, which became a major setback in the writing and recording process for their new album. After another year and a half of empty promises and radio silence, the band finally ended that extensive wait with two pieces of good news: they had recruited a new vocalist and had new music to show, the fantastic 2019 single ‘Cloud Cascade,’ which welcomed former-Aviana vocalist Marcus Vik into their folds. This single was nothing short of phenomenal and proved that there’d be no decline in the quality of Invent Animate’s vocals after the departure of the scene-beloved English.
So when January of the new decade rolled around and we finally got an announcement for their next album, ‘Greyview,’ dwellers of r/Metalcore, Kingdom Leaks sleuths, and core aficionados on Twitter alike roared with excitement. This is truly one of modern metalcore’s most anticipated albums of the year – a big, long-awaited return – and it’s gained a steady train of hype pushing towards its release. From there, I saw one of two things happening; Invent Animate would either make a valiant return with a well-written, enjoyable comeback LP. Or they’d crack under the pressure and take a turn for the worse. Luckily, I do believe the outcome of ‘Greyview’ definitely, greatly, leans towards the former.
While ‘Greyview’ isn’t quite on the level of its exceptional predecessor, ‘Stillworld,’ it is most certainly a step in a very enjoyable direction for Invent Animate. This album takes a dark dive into the world of tragedy and grief, resting upon a foundation of beauty and solace. The pure heartbreak that pours out of a solid chunk of this album is easily perceptible, squeezing and tugging at the heartstrings. You feel the emotion-packed behind ‘Cloud Cascade’ or ‘Shapeshifter,’ the latter featuring an absolutely show-stealing guest feature from Silent Planet’s Garrett Russell, which lingers throughout the songs second act. Much of the emotion felt on ‘Greyview’ is expressed through sorrowful and soaring instrumentals, laced with an overwhelming ambiance, built brick-by-brick with subtle, reverb-soaked clean guitars and hazy pads and synths.
Particularly impressive are songs like ‘Reflection Room,’ which feature abrasive blackened tremolo picking and blast beats as well as a stunning female vocal-led bridge that drives the song into a powerful climax. It features an instrumental heaviness that is felt in waves throughout the runtime of ‘Greyview.’ In particular, ‘Monarch’ might be the heaviest song Invent Animate has ever written, with its instantly iconic intro riff and stupidly heavy, crowd-moving breakdown.
This isn’t to say that the best songs on ‘Greyview’ are all heavy, however. ‘Halcyon’ begins with an energetic chorus section, leading into a reverb-y soundscape which ends with a beautiful, clean sung breakdown. ‘Fireside’ makes for one of the most different sounding, best Invent Animate songs yet, becoming a shimmering reverb-laden, chorus-heavy ballad akin to the likes of ‘In Absence’ by Silent Planet.
Elsewhere, Invent Animate combines their down-tuned heavy chugs with otherworldly clean guitar octave overlays in songs like the meticulous, groove-filled ‘Secret Sun,’ as well as the massive, rainy world of ‘Cloud Cascade.’ While the spacey clean guitars can start to feel a little bit like a gimmick, as they open nearly every song, I must admit that this is an area where Invent Animate excel and separates themselves from the pack of other progressive metalcore bands.
The lyricism of ‘Greyview’ taps into the depressing world of death and grief, and how we as humans deal with the passing of loved ones long lost to time. ‘Fireside’ in particular is the most gut-wrenching of the bunch, showing the difficulty of still feeling the presence of someone who has left this physical plane of existence. Lines like “keep me close, my soul is fading. I hope you’re waiting for me. Violent winter, frigid weather. The heartbeat darkens where it severs” are an explosion of pain, making for an ultimately emotionally difficult listen. ‘Shapeshifter’ and ‘Nova’ also tread into this lyrical territory, with the latter featuring a heart-grasping performance from the wonderful Marcus Vik as he repeats lines like “it all felt so real,” as if he cannot tear the memory of these people out of his very dreams.
Marcus, in particular, is a big reason why the lyrics on ‘Greyview’ hit as hard as they do, giving a despair-filled and passionate delivery that never once falters or grows old. ‘Cloud Cascade’ deals with the grief of a dissolving relationship, as he bellows “your cloud hangs over me. Oceans of grey blanket the flashing light. Drawing the curtains closed, I forge a shelter yet it drenches me.” Emotionally powerful and full of dark undertones, the lyricism to this album makes is an exceptional highlight.
However, as with many albums of this genre, ‘Greyview’ does tend to grow slightly stale and repetitive towards its final act, with the exception of the closing track ‘Nova,’ which makes for one of the band’s greatest songs of all time. While ‘Secret Sun’ has grown on me throughout the course of multiple listens, songs like ‘Eden’ and ‘Brightwing’ still fail to gain any sort of traction when compared to the rest of the album. Even ‘Halcyon,’ which was released as a single, has a hard time shining like songs like ‘Hollow Light’ or ‘Monarch’ do. These songs just end up feeling like a snoozy lull in the tracklisting, only ending with the “wake-up call” that is the grand finale of ‘Nova.’
It feels like Invent Animate had some fat trimming to do on ‘Greyview,’ which they’ve oddly decided against. If the album were cut down to but eleven tracks instead of thirteen, excluding the redundant ‘Eden’ and the unremarkable ‘Brightwing,’ my rating would’ve been much higher. Another glaring issue with ‘Greyview’ is that with the long thirteen-song runtime, songs do begin to bleed together. The songs aren’t as distinguishable from one another as they were on past works, with tracks starting to blend with one another in a confusing cacophony of techy guitars and bright synths. Regardless, these songs show themselves as growers, leaving me wondering if my opinion may shift over time.
‘Greyview’ is a wonderful, sometimes remarkable comeback for Invent Animate, often featuring some of the American band’s best work. Track after track, this new album punishes the listener with the crushing, heavyweight of sorrow and depression, felt in both the gut-wrenching lyrical wordplay and the moody prog-metalcore instrumentals. While it may not be the band’s most cohesive sounding effort, (like their 2016 album, ‘Stillworld’), it nonetheless makes for a new monument in the discography of Invent Animate, cementing its place as an air-tight and very enjoyable, if not occasionally difficult listen. While there isn’t much in the way of musical progression happening over ‘Greyview,’ it is quite easy to see that Invent Animate are in a place where they are confident, calm and comfortable once again. This LP has a hint of familiarity without ever feeling too stagnant and too old, reminding me as to why I first fell in love with this band. This being said, I do hope to see some further progression to the sound of Invent Animate with future releases, and am also looking forward to whatever comes next in the now-stable world of Invent Animate. It’s good to have ’em back!
Shapeshifter (feat. Garrett Russell)
‘Greyview’ is out Friday, March 13th: