Deafheaven Down Under.
Illyria’s self-titled debut is a record that's impressive as donkey balls. When I was given this album to review, I was told they were an Australian Deafheaven clone, more or less, and that got me pretty darn excited seeing as I dick-ride Deafheaven so hard that I have anal lesions.
But upon giving Illyria’s new record a few spins I realised that although the Deafheaven comparison is sort of true, the band also have a lot more going on for them than mere imitation. But let’s start with the hipster, black metal side of things first, shall we?
The Perth band emulates the melodic black metal style pretty freaking well. It's basically spacious ambience interwoven with distorted, droney guitars chucked over some zoopa-doopa fast drum grooves that interchange between dark, heavier sections along with more dynamic moments. It fits the mould very well and it’s sound that I can fuck with really hard. Opener ‘Cold Summer’ does a great job of utilising this style and formula. The song is well constructed with a good mixture of hopeful ambition and vapid dread as guttural screams cry out in both melodic and discordant parts. It’s shortly followed by ‘Temptation’ which features a rather atypical black metal sound and a good old melancholic ending.
At this point, I’m pretty happy with the release. I know what I’m getting myself into. Kind of like a drug deal with a bunch of really nice guys, you know? I know how this shit’s gonna pan out as I’ve seen it before but I’m happy to be doing it with these dudes by my side/in my ears.
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Yet, ‘Sarim’ threw me through the loop with a motherfucking Latin-inspired acoustic guitar intro. Yeah! This was followed up by a huge stadium rock instrumental that seems sounds like it could've been taken straight from a You Me At Six or Young Guns album. The song then takes it back down with some sensual clean singing, and I’m just sitting there thinking, ‘waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat?!' But man, there is one big grin on my face! The song blisters up into another monolithic chorus before rolling off into a more normie-metal outro. I’m quite taken aback by all this. I was expecting repeats of the first two songs, but this track came out of left field and took me fully by surprise and it didn’t stick out in a bad way.
The boys in Illyria expertly synthesise stadium rock anthems and dreary, melancholic black metal, amalgamating the two into their very own style and flavour. ‘Wonder’ even features those devilish screams over a massive chorus that The Script wish they could write. There’s an incredible amount of emotion and passion in these moments that helps makes the songs so goddamn special and ear-catching. The closing tracks do find themselves more aligned with the black metal side of the yard, yet the band have that sound down pat, so no complaints on my end.
My only real complaint here is that I genuinely believe more time should have been spent on those drums tones. There’s just too many times where they feel so programmed and synthetic – I mean, probably because they are. They sound exactly like the EZDrummer 2 samples that I use in my own work. And this isn’t me shaming programmed drums in anyway shape or form. No, no, no. They have great benefits if you can’t afford the mics, space or time to record the drums or if you've have had complications with a drummer and need this shit done. Or maybe if you just have an absolutely shit sounding kit.
However, I just personally think that if you are going to choose to go down the programmed drum route, you need to place it into the mix as best as you fucking can. You need to work on EQing and blending in that shit until you get some premium, quality tones. This record, for the most part, is powerful, honest and I’m about to commit the cardinal sin of music review writing here by saying that it's also raw. So much so that it almost kills the entire vibe and takes me out of the moment when I’m hearing the plastic beating of programmed double kicks all at the same identical fucking velocities. This doesn’t diminish from the record a whole lot, as there are some amazing songs here, but it is something that needs to be addressed for any future material.
With their self-titled album, Illyria has shown themselves as a band that isn't just trend hopping the post-black metal phase on Tumblr right now. They interweave huge choruses, clean vocals, harsh screams, and even latin-inspired acoustic interludes, and more, into a grand motley crew of styles and sounds.