Review Summary: My skin crawls. My chest heaves. Punish me.
After releasing its well-received 2015 album Hail Mary, novelty-band-turned-serious-act Iwrestledabearonce broke up, but from its ashes a phoenix has risen in the form of Courtney LaPlante and Michael Stringer's new collaboration, Spiritbox.
If you liked the more melodic tracks on IWABO’s swan song like Trips and Your God Is Too Small, you’re in luck. Spiritbox is a negative of its sister band, all the elements are still present, they’ve just been inverted; The spastic guitars and glitchy breakdowns of Hail Mary have been greatly toned down, while the elusive melodic moments of that record are the focus here.
The real meat of the EP is the four-part epic The Mara Effect. It picks up where Doomed To Fall from Hail Mary left off, weaving a tapestry of electronic instrumentation layered over massive walls of post-rock guitars and djent rhythms while LaPlante’s siren-like vocals soar over them, her singular hooks seeping into your psyche and through your skin. The last 2 tracks though, Aphids and The Beauty Of Suffering really bring back that nasty IWABO heaviness. The latter track in particular leaves some scorch marks as Courtney spews utter venom and screams ‘Leave my body in peace, no need to pacify me’ as the band locks into a disgusting mechanical breakdown, one of very few on the record.
While Spiritbox is basically Iwrestledabearonce 3.0, this is a welcome step towards an even more mature direction. If Hail Mary perfected the absolute unhinged heaviness the band had been known for, then Spiritbox has perfected the amazing melodic side of the band that has sometimes gone a bit neglected. Spiritbox is like a troubled old friend you lost touch with, only to get reacquainted with a few years down the road to find out that despite tribulations, everything turned out okay for them in the end.