Sometimes an album reaches my desk that immediately grabs me by the throat. This happened when Iris Divine's debut album was handed to me. Normally when albums arrive; several at a time, I start listening to one song of every album that was handed to review. The first impression is very important to me; sometimes it sets immediately, sometimes albums have to grow on me to hear the whole picture, sometimes you just want to skip and move on. With Karma Sown, I started listening to one song, but in a way I was unable to remove the CD from my player to move forward to the next album. I had found something special that has to be played in its entirety. Gathering information I found out that Iris Divine is a trio consisting of vocalist and guitar player Navid Rashid, bass player Brian Dobbs and drummer, keyboard player and programmer Kris Combs.
Ok, so what makes this special, you might ask yourself. Iris Divine plays a combination of progressive metal and alternative metal. Where normally a band of at least five members is responsible for the music, few trio's manage to create a sound like this. Good old and my all-time favourites Rush are the exception here. Not that Iris Divine sounds any like the Canadian super band, the US trio are diverse, sometimes you hear influences of Alice In Chains, one minute later you hear Dream Theater chops passing by. During the instrumental song In Spirals, the drums sound like a fusion between, -OK some Rush influences- Neil Peart and Tool's Danny Carey. When you start listening to the album, The Everlasting Sea's riffs overwhelm you in its power, when the vocals kick in you will be taken back in time when Geoff Tate still was a synonym for Queenryche's majestic vocals and a guy like Ray Alder was the voice he used to be with Fates Warning. A strong point during this song and basically during the whole album is the way the bass is used. In a trio the bass needs to be a rhythm guitarist, percussive and a counterpart to the guitar, I guess Brian manages this all ... and more! When the power continues, Fire Of The Unknown definitely takes the attention, subtle vocals go hand in hand with walking bass lines, delicate riffs and an amazing sound. And still Iris Divine sounds incredibly accessible. “There is no escaping from myself” is the spoken word that leads to A Suicide Aware; pounding drums and stunning bass lay down the base for staccato riffs and Navid's great vocals, like he is the incarnation of the two aforementioned vocalists. Keyboards are used here to enhance the sphere and work as a counterpart for the heaviness of the stringed instruments. When the title Mother's Prayer passes by you might suspect something sensitive and laid back, this is not the case on Karma Sown, here the sound is rough and dirty. Special attention for the middle section; spoken words, funky bass and vocals that tend towards James Hatfield, this time. Definitely a special composition. After a slightly theatrical intro Prisms, first decreases a bit of speed, some resemblance with Redemption; also with Ray Alder, comes to mind, but to be honest I prefer Iris Divine for its power and compositions. The aforementioned instrumental In Spirals is the perfect showcase for the trio to show what they are capable of, this is an amazing composition, where drums, bass and guitar challenge each other to the max; the use of the smooth keyboards underneath just gives the song something extra, so does the of Geddy Lee !! -more Rush influences- reminding bass part at the end. In the basics Apathy Rains could have been a sweet and gentle song; opening with keyboards and smooth vocals, but during this point of relaxation, powerful outbursts make sure you don't get too relaxed. Screams and spoken words are used in this more alternative than progressive metal song, with a nasty and crunchy guitar sound. I love it. The final composition is the eight minutes long In The Wake Of Martyrs, where all the aspects that make this band so interesting are fully used to create the album's epic masterpiece. Keyboards, vocals that take you from a whisper to the higher pitched notes, drums that keep on sounding perfect, a bass that kind of leads its own life and guitars that vary from smooth to incredibly heavy. Listen to the instrumental part after the mid-section and be amazed by this band.
Like I wrote above, sometimes an album grabs me after just a few notes. Iris Divine did grab me and did not let go, I was impressed from the minute I pressed “play”. Karma Sown is THE debut album you would like to present to the world; perfection in fifty minutes.
***** Pedro Bekkers (edited by Astrid de Ronde)
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