Sometimes it takes a seemingly unrelated source to explain why an album is so damn good, and that’s certainly the case with I Shall Devour’s debut full-length, The Misanthropist. This record is the death metal album by a newcomer to beat in 2013, at least in the sub-genre’s more technical and venturesome sphere. Admittedly, that might seem debatable, especially as Illuminance, the latest release from similarly adventurous death metallers Virvum, is a masterful display of technical finesse and ferocity. However, there’s a very good reason why I Shall Devour’s album edges ahead, and the reason is provided by the world of evolutionary biology.
It’s not surprising that a scientific theory could help explain why The Misanthropist is such a commanding album, and why I Shall Devour is such a fascinating band; after all, you could write a doctoral thesis on this band’s complex musicality.
Based in Brisbane, Australia, I Shall Devour has been able to craft music isolated from the main branch of death metal. That’s not to say Australia lacks other death metal bands. However, Australia’s geographic remoteness, and the nation’s idiosyncratic and driven creative culture, has allowed I Shall Devour to bring something fresh and unorthodox to the death metal underground. The band has developed a truly distinctive voice, one that was first heard by the majority of the international death metal community on 2013’s Manipunation. That EP certainly put I Shall Devour on the map, but it was a mere appetizer compared with what’s served on The Misanthropist. Both these releases are unquestionably intense and impressive displays of technicality and originality, seeing I Shall Devour garner increasingly more attention and acclaim in the global metal scene.
I Shall Devour has continually refined its sound over the years, bringing more artful sculpturing to its downtuned dissonance, and setting that against a backdrop of often kind of experimental textures. The band’s work has evolved to become steadily more nerve-shredding and formidable, with the usual riff-based shreds of death metal mutilated into a seething and polychromatic canvas of avant-garde atmospherics.
The crushingly heavy technicality on the eleven-song release will either be wholly attractive and hypnotic, or simply bewildering. There are no doubt a few metal fans who appreciate where I Shall Devour are heading in theory, but are left scratching their heads trying to find an entry point into the band’s works. The cryptic and claustrophobic vortex of The Misanthropist won’t make that quandary any easier, and if you felt I Shall Devour’s sonic template was a maelstrom of inaccessibility before, nothing has changed in that regard.
Still, challenging music is the point here, and if there’s one thing I Shall Devour demands, it’s full commitment to its releases. Guitars provide deluges of malformed riffs and piercing notes plucked from the depths of the cosmos. The slow hypothermic intro of “Wilful Ignorance”, and mid-album instrumental “Interlude,” show how effective and chilling the band can be when pared down to bare industrial bones. However, it’s the multifaceted and atmospheric turbulence of “VI” and “Spiteful Nature” that exhibit the band’s prowess at splicing anti-harmonic insanity with maestro dexterity, to hammer the inhospitably home.
The Misanthropist is a challenging album, and also electrifying. It’s unconventional, and it transforms death metal into something transfixing and novel. It certainly fits into the wider ordo of death metal, resides in the familia of technical death metal, and you could rightly situate it in the genus of progressive technical death metal too. Still, it’s the species that’s most interesting. There’s imaginative (and murderous) musicality here that would easily occupy space in the avant-garde metal realms. Ultimately, the fact that it’s necessary to debate how to best to describe I Shall Devour proves just how innovative is the band’s approach to death metal.
The Misanthropist is a forward-thinking album to savor over time. Repeated listening reveals more layers and buried detail, and there’s abundant wrathful dynamics and density to luxuriate in.
That’s why The Misanthropist is one of the very best death metal albums you’ll hear in 2016.