(Long Branch Records)
I’m honestly sick of having to explain the appeal of djent at this point, given how it’s either loved or (violently) despised, with very little wiggle room. Groups like Periphery, TesseracT, and Monuments (and obviously Meshuggah) set out the standard, and numerous groups moved the style in various directions, either more moody or aggressive. Danish group Ghost Iris help qualify why progressive metalcore (aka djent) has experienced a longer-than-expected shelf life, yet their sophomore record also highlights the shortcomings that detractors like to quickly point out.
Their style splits the difference between Periphery’s driving melodicism and Monuments’ marriage of low-end grumble and atmosphere, with a nice dose of soulful vocals. The album’s heaviest moments recall early Northlane in their ‘core tendencies as well. It’s all a rather winning formula for fans of the style, and highlights like “Save Yourself”, “No Way Out”, and “Detached” showcase the mix of styles well. Vocalist Jesper Vicencio does a solid job of mixing Cookie Monster growls with a more pleasing melodic style. The soulful hooks are generally solid and memorable and are undercut by solid grooves. That’s certainly an area Ghost Iris excel, as this thing will get you moving. The guitarwork, generally, is solid, though it seems to lack a bit of a unique style. It’s there, and it’s good, but it’s difficult to tell them apart from most other bands in the style.
In that vein, the songs that aren’t true standouts are quite indistinguishable. The smoothed-out production doesn’t help, either (even if it’s the industry standard). Hell, a good bit of the album feels a bit too standard issue: the riffs and melodies are pretty stock djent, and the more atmospheric moments are too chuggy to be memorable. It’s a shame and results in a record that is consistently competent without rising above the merely good. It’s a shame, but aside from three quality numbers, Ghost Iris are just another fine but forgettable djent band.