Review Summary: Death is all we have
True to its cover art, Flaw
is the kind of record that bears the intensity of a dark, cold ocean. The sludgy riff introducing album opener ‘Shamed’ instantly signals this change of pace for Iress; the bouncy, hazy indie rock from their 2015 debut Prey
has made way for something heavier, something much more sinister. Self-describing their brand of music as ‘doom-gaze’, the Californian band presents a sound not dissimilar to the likes of Chelsea Wolfe and Emma Ruth Rundle, yet succeeds in separating itself from the pack due to an enthralling combination of impeccable musicianship, Michelle Malley’s demanding voice, and, while allowing Flaw
enough space to breathe, preventing the record from overstaying its welcome.
While the peppy choruses from the band’s previous output may be gone, Iress has not sacrificed a drop of memorability here. Early highlight ‘Nest’ confidently works its way to a huge, soaring chorus, with Malley lamenting “Come undone with me / Death is all we have” brilliantly capturing the gloomy atmosphere of Flaw
. Yet, as bleak of an affair as it may be, it’s a highly catchy moment, with many similarly captivating lyrical moments showing up throughout the record. Similarly, every single note is as heartfelt as it is carefully constructing and adding depth to Iress’ world of dreary beauty. Whether it’s the cymbal-heavy drumming in the aforementioned ‘Shamed’ or the quiet, delicate acoustic guitars that form the framework of ‘Dark Love’, not a second feels out of place. Accentuated by Sarah Tudzin’s immaculate production job, Malley’s voice drifts especially pleasantly in this particular song, gently guiding the song into its blissful dusk.
As incredible of a track as ‘Dark Love’ is, it can primarily be seen as functioning as the perfect prelude to ‘Shallow’ in the context of the full album. Clocking in at seven minutes, the album’s centerpiece is absolutely massive. Commanded by simplistic, hypnotising drums and reverb-drenched guitars, the song masterfully builds tension before erupting into a cathartic explosion of sound, only to deconstruct itself and do it all over again for a colossal finale. The final two minutes see guitars crashing like waves against a distorted bassline, and, most prominently, Malley manages to strain her vocal chords into a stunning, goosebump-inducing shriek. It’s a finale filled with such raw emotion that truly shows off Flaw
’s unique ability to amaze with grandiosity, while remaining firmly rooted in sheer, unfiltered humanity.
Even if there is no need for Iress to continue proving themselves after the monumental ‘Shallow’, the band throws in another handful of crushing, distorted numbers for good measure. ‘Hand Tremor’, the closing track, however, is an entirely different beast. Rather, it’s a quiet, restrained track, signaling Flaw
has said all it wanted and needed to say, allowing space for Malley’s gentle whispers and muted acoustic guitars to have the final word. Still, in spite of the album closing on such a delicately high note, fully self aware of when it’s time to dismantle itself, it leaves you wishing for more. It’s a record grounded in darkness, yet mystifyingly captivating due to this very gloom. Flaw
is fully worth diving into, even though its shallowness may be highly, wonderfully deceptive.