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The Twisted Plumage of Corpse Garden’s “IAO 269″

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On their previous album, 2015’s Entheogen, Costa Rica’s Corpse Garden were the personification of unrealized potential. All talented musicians, most notably fretless bassist Carlos Venegas Shing, are overflowing with novel ideas, but not all with a sense of what to do with them.

Entheogen was fun, but it felt like a series of creative drills, like the band was learning which sequences worked next to each other rather than building cohesive songs whose elements interrelated in more complex and satisfying ways. Most encouraging, though, was their willingness to get a tad bit weird: suddenly, a riff would plane up chromatically for one repetition longer than you’d expect, or the band would interrupt a mosh riff with burbling sound effects. That tendency — to push their music into the strange and uncanny — has become their sole focus on IAO 269, an exclusive full stream of which is below ahead of its Friday release date.

This hard turn comes at the cost of some of their more overtly “fun” moments. Shing has toned down his melodic playing to make room for queasy slides, and the band have sacrificed some of their sharpness for a more natural sound courtesy of Colin Marston’s engineering. What they’ve gained in return is more than worth the loss. By picking a direction and sticking with it — in this case, halfway between death metal’s Gorguts wing and its psychedelic side — Corpse Garden are able to combine their prodigious instrumental talent for a single cause.

IAO 269 benefits from this concentrated effort. Songs are shorter on average. While the band are still daring enough to throw a six-minute psych rock digression smack dab in the middle of the record, but they understand that you have to establish sanity before you can strip it away. Early on, the tears in the fabric of reality pass so quickly that you can’t fully register them. As the record slows down, Corpse Garden start picking at those tears like scabs, letting the pus of the surreal ooze freely.

From their promising start, Corpse Garden could have become any number of death metal bands. They could have picked up the pace and tried to compete with Archspire and numerous soundalikes, or gone full 1990s Death worship. Pour one out for those potential bands’ loss if you want, but your time would be better spent watering the hideous fruit this band is growing now.

IAO 286 is out on November 24th via Godz Ov War. Follow Corpse Garden on Facebook and Bandcamp.

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