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Raw, Simple and Intense - 85%

SlayerDeath666, November 13th, 2017
Written based on this version: 2017, Digital, Independent

The best metal often comes from the most unlikely places, as anyone who has heavily explored underground bands knows. Virginia is not exactly known for its metal scene outside of Municipal Waste and their offshoots. That does not stop progressive metal trio Iris Divine from making and releasing great music though. Their last album, Karma Sown, was very highly regarded in underground metal circles and rightly so as it is a great album. Three years later, they have come back with their third full-length The Static and the Noise. So what does Iris Divine have in store for us this time around?

The riffs on this album are pretty solid and often really heavy. Iris Divine clearly goes for powerful riffs over speedy ones and they infuse plenty of melody into those powerful riffs. There are a few riffs that stand out like the one at the 3:30 mark of “Fractures.” “Echoes, Effigies” also contains a number of standout riffs that have some serious meat to them. Most of the time though, these songs focus on the superb and intricate melodies Iris Divine have a knack for creating. They weave them beautifully into the overall sound to create interesting and complex compositions that hook you from the first note. The best example of this is “The Acolyte,” which has good riffs but the way Iris Divine weaves the melodies into those riffs is unique and very compelling. Some of the song structures like the middle of “We All Dissolve,” feel a bit too stereotypical of progressive music but the band turn it around quickly with a great solo and a killer staccato riff sequence.

Kris’ drumming on this record is not spectacular or super flashy like some of his peers. His fills are always on point, whether they are simple or complex. They are often hard-hitting to accent Navid’s heavy riffs but he also lays down some awesome beats with the cymbals. Kris keeps time exceptionally well and his ability to vary his tempo really complements Iris Divine’s sound. He varies the tempo fairly often over the course of the album and usually takes the opportunity to have a brief moment of creativity, like playing a round on the toms. “The Acolyte” features some decent double-kick drumming for something different but Kris clearly thrives on creativity so double-kick is not well-suited to his style. “We All Dissolve” has some exceptionally good fills and even a touch of rim drumming for good measure. The part where he is grooving with alternating beats is really something special too. It is one of those pocket grooves that just rules.

Navid’s vocals on this album are very good, especially on the incredibly heavy and energetic “Taking Back the Fall.” This track has great riffs, a driving back beat with some special touches, and a burst of energy that does not let up for the entire almost six minutes. However, Navid’s passionate, energetic delivery is what makes it the album’s best track. Like many progressive metal bands, Iris Divine’s lyrics contain pretty heavy subject matter. Navid delivers the lyrics with total conviction and a voice that really stands out. His vocals sit comfortably in the mid-range but he brings an intensity to the table that not many of his peers can match. He does possess the softness to pull off the quieter moments on this album, like the middle of “The Static and the Noise,” but the intensity he brings to each song is his true strength. His delivery at the beginning of that track sounds a bit like the late Layne Staley and the song starts out a tad grungy in that vein. Navid also shows off the top end of his range toward the end of the track to give listeners something else to think about. All in all, his vocals are a huge strength for Iris Divine and oh by the way, so are Brian’s bass lines! The man really knows how to lay down some funky bass lines and they are so high in the mix that you have to pay attention.

When all is said and done, Iris Divine have made a very heavy and very good album here. It does not progress as much as some other albums in the genre. It does not contain a 10+ minute epic to close the album out. It does not indulge in a bunch of overly technical guitar theatrics that come off as pretentious. It does however contain an element of raw intensity and simplicity that is lacking in a lot of progressive metal. That alone is highly commendable but combined with the album’s other strengths, The Static and the Noise is an album that deserves your full attention.

- originally written for The Metal Observer