Idre – Unforgiving Landscapes (Wolves and Vibrancy Records / Breathe Plastic Records, 19 May 2017)
Not to be confused with the municipality in Sweden, Idre (who insist, in a Young Frankensteinian way, that the name is pronounced to rhyme with “Hydra”) is a three-piece band from Oklahoma City, consisting of guitarist/vocalist Ryan Davis, bassist Austin Wylie, and drummer Nicholas Wojcik. My first exposure to the group was when they recently wrote to me about their second album Unforgiving Landscapes — which impressed me so much just from a compositional standpoint from the moment I hit “play” on Bandcamp, that by halfway through the first song I had already added the album to my list of things to write about, and before the whole thing was over I was pencilling it into my list of the year’s best releases so far.
Keep on reading, then check out the album for yourself, and see if you don’t feel the same way. If you do, be sure to use the social media links down at the bottom of the page to keep track of the band, since they’re currently working on setting up tour dates for later in the year …
The album consists of only two songs, but at twenty-one to twenty-two minutes apiece, they will take you on a very lengthy, very slow, and very arduous journey. The whole thing has a very dismal and gloomy atmosphere right from the start. Opening track “Gold & Crude” leads off with a droning minor-key organ chord and a soft and intricate guitar part (sounding like a series of pull-offs). This goes on for almost three minutes, whereupon the drone dies but drums and bass enter, slow but ominous (in kind of a “Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun” kind of way. As an understated feedbacky guitar part blends into a slow post-doom riff, haunting echoey harmonized vocals eventually emerge from the depths. The singing style seems very somber, while the lyrics make references to solitude and other melancholy subject matter. During long sections without vocals, the slow, wavery guitar part is still very soft and restrained (with hints of feedback); as time progresses, the overall volume swells gradually and slightly, the cymbal and tom hits get a bit more emphatic and pronounced, the bass attack is barely perceptibly more aggressive, and the guitar gets just a little bit more distorted. By the end of the track, the guitar has kicked into a just-slightly faster riff, but a considerably heavier — crunchier — tone.
The second and final song “Prison Skin” starts with a very echoey guitar sound, which to my ears very well could be running through the same kind of amp Dylan Carlson uses. We have a multi-part vocal harmony here (a guest appearance by Lacey Elaine Tackett is listed in the album credits), all of the parts sounding kind of far-off and definitely melancholy. Soon afterwards (by about the fourth minute), the guitar gets to be very heavily distorted — overdriven, crackly and crunchy, but NOT fuzzy. This track builds up, very slowly, but there is more of a crescendo (and increase in intensity) than its predecessor had. Heavy, deep, ponderous, and after a while the vocals come back to join in with the tremendously crunchy guitars. The song becomes even slower, more deliberate, the last few minutes before the end. My overall impression was that this is the sort of thing that would definitely appeal to fans of Earth — and that the style of the vocals here actually reminded me of an early-American folk tune, the sort where the singers are just trudging through a miserable existence where everything is oppressive and death is always lurking just around the corner. That’s basically Idre in a nutshell.
You can grab a digital copy of Unforgiving Landscapes here. If you’re interested in getting the album on vinyl, it’s available through the band or either of their labels, if you hit the links down below.
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