Debut: Immortal Bird – “Spitting Teeth”

It’s difficult to be a supporting player in a metal band. Drummers in particular have a hard time of it. Of all the stock metal-musician roles, they have both the least room for error and the least agency. Because their instrument is fundamentally unsuited to songwriting, most drummers spend their careers developing and executing other people’s ideas. And if they fuck up, everyone can tell. It’s a rough trade.

Of course, many metal drummers have both the chops and the vision to step out from behind the kit. It surprises me that more of them do not indulge in projects like Immortal Bird. This band features Thrawsunblat drummer and occasional session player Rae Amitay, whom I’ve known since our paths crossed as staffers for Last Rites (then a few years back. She handles vocals and songwriting duties in Immortal Bird, as well as studio drum work. (Novembers Doom drummer Garry Naples mans the skins live.) Akrasia is Immortal Bird’s first recording, and like many youngish bands with no track record, they use it to try on a range of stylistic hats — their press materials, straining to sum the band up, settle for “blackened death thrash.” Some hats fit better than others, but so should it be. It is good to see a promising creative voice finding room to resonate.

I suspect that most coverage of this band will play up the Thrawsunblat connection, but the two have little in common. Immortal Bird ditch the pretty pastoralism in favor of an inward-looking cosmpolitan ugliness that sometimes evokes a less-patient version of early Castevet. Opener “Spitting Teeth” delivers their melange at its best. Its ingredients: blurry, dissonant black metal fluttering; lots of nervy arpeggios; occasional stop-start trickery; dirty riffs played cleanly. Kurt Ballou’s HM2-free mix ironically spotlights guitarist Evan Berry’s performance more than Amitay’s, but it’s not such a bad thing — his versatile playing carries the band’s charge.

Stream “Spitting Teeth” below. Akrasia comes out on December 3. Preorder it here.

— Doug Moore