Review Summary: Like a lion with no teeth - easier to approach maybe, but loses all its bite.
The Canadian progressive metal scene has always been known for having many surprises. One such forward-thinking band is Divinity
, whose two sadly overlooked albums Allegory
and The Singularity
walked on a thin line between "merely" great, forward thinking metal and plain, flat-out genius. Frantic and chaotic passages executed with surgical precision underlaid by a haunting, synth-driven futuristic atmosphere and insane, screeching vocals with an appropriate dose of clean singing amounted to spectacular effects. That was eight years ago, though. Since then the band has been struggling with financial and label-related difficulties, but enterprising fellows as they are, they found a way to keep on doing what they love. Several years after The Singularity
, a crowdfunding campaign was announced to finance the band's next project dubbed The Immortalist
, separated into three EPs with four songs each, titled Awestruck
. The campaign succeeded and two EPs were released on schedule, and now the time has finally come for the project's completion - The Immortalist
released as a full album - even before the also expected third autonomous EP, which has yet to get its turn. All the songs from the previous mini-releases were re-recorded to uniformize the sound, and the tracklist was shuffled up to reinforce the feeling of completeness and - in the band's own words - to realize the concept as it was meant to be shown in the first place. So what can be said about The Immortalist?
Divinity's greatest selling point always was their chaotic, intelligent sound full of surprises, difficult to get into and requiring time to fully take in and appreciate. They had songs such as "Plasma" or "Approaching the Singularity", which were so well-written, they would become genre classics if the band got more recognition. Things were looking up, everything seemed like the band was setting themselves up for even more success. But sadly, it's all downhill from there. The Immortalist
completely lacks any of the aforementioned qualities. While it's still essentially a good effort and truly pleasant to listen to, the flashes of brilliance from the previous two full releases are virtually absent, as is the chaos and unpredictability. The band continues the futuristic/metaphysical gimmick they've always had going on, but without their signature anarchic yet perfectly calculated sound they have devolved into nothing more than essentially a poor man's Allegaeon
. The technicality has been toned down too, in favor of slower and more melodic songs, but even these have been done better by the band in the past (just listen to the song "Methodic"). This whole release is like a lion with no teeth - easier to approach maybe, but loses all its bite. Of course there are some exceptions to this regrettable tameness, such as the song "Distorted Mesh", which is a reflection of the standards this band should be held to in all regards. Another highlight is the track "D.M.T." with none other than Björn Strid of Soilwork
singing. It might be him that makes this song so enjoyable, even though it suffers from virtually all the tameness issues I enumerated above. The final highlight is the great song "The Dead Speak From Beyond", first released on the Awestruck EP, but to be fair, this song wasn't written by the guys from Divinity - it's a cover of Pericardium
, a project by the tragically passed Rob Doherty of former Into Eternity
fame. The song is very gripping in its straightforwardness and contains some of the catchiest riffs on the release.
Vocal-wise, Divinity employ two vocalists. The original singer who's been with the band since the beginning, Sean Jenkins, primarily employs a Townsendesque scream, but can also do deeper growls and has a great singing voice. Jeff Waite joined the band after The Singularity, and seems to have relieved Jenkins of deeper growling duties to great effect, but his raspy clean singing may not be your cup of tea - it sounds rather old fashioned and makes you think of the chubby, beareded papa bear that Jeff is (his nickname "Beast" is rather appropriate). Current trends favor youthful sounding vocalists, so I really wouldn't be surprised if some accusations of being "dad metal" came the band's way because of Jeff. That said, all the vocal performances on the album are at least adequate, and any lack of appreciation would be a matter of taste rather than bad execution.
In summation, The Immortalist
is a rather pleasant if unengaging listen with several moments that'll make you stop and think "wow, this part is almost as good as what they used to be", but these unfortunately aren't that numerous. The melodies are prettier than before, the songs are simpler, less heavy, less chaotic and less surprising. It's not bad music by any stretch, but it chould have been so much more. Sad as it might be, this doesn't mean the band don't have it in them to leap back into form with their next one, which I wish them wholeheartedly. In the meantime, I'll be sticking with Allegory
and The Singularity
, and so should you.