Engrossed in the profound paleontological implications of the most ancient phylum arthropoda, Northeastern Italian death metal quintet Inverted Matter once again concerned themselves with science fictive treatment of the wild speciation of the trilobite on their second full-length album. Though they are definitely not referencing the antagonistic sentient warship from the latter two thirds of the Mass Effect trilogy with its title, ‘Harbinger‘ nonetheless feels indebted to the tradition of sci-fi media presenting earliest dated specimens as entirely alien lifeforms, imagining a great unknown within a lighter grey spot in human knowledge. Curiosity piquing as all of that’ll be to some, most folks will show up for this finely crafted sophomore release for its notably surreal yet still fully readable form of tangentially ‘old school’ influenced yet brutally delivered progressive death metal.

Inverted Matter would likely prefer we treat the past forms of their project as exactly that, passed-along stages which featured different folks in pursuit of different goals beyond a blanket consideration for abnormal death metal ideas. Yes, it all adds up to the greater consciousness served and all of it relevant to death metal but their demo as Cyanide Christ and two full-lengths as Inverted are only somewhat relevant to their station today. It doesn’t bode well that I couldn’t find the first LP from Inverted for reference but hey, that’ll have to be the most clear sign that the artist would rather move along and show their best face within more recent works. The most relevant point of evolutionary linkage between past and present to be found lands within the brutal blackened death swings of ‘The Age of Harvest‘ (2015) wherein guitarist Andrea Tocchetto‘s future work was well-prophesied in its strangely accented swerving. Otherwise, fossil records are inconclusive thus far.

The reinvigoration, evolution and re-branding that Inverted Matter proposed back in 2017 with their debut full-length ‘Detach‘ wasn’t immediately noticed or all that different from the previous record, similarly loud and brash in presentation but certainly leaning into dreary psychedelic and progressive death metal waft in a successful way. The featured session work from ex-Suffocation drummer Mike Smith was eventually a strong enough selling point when I’d caught wind of that debut as it was reissued (with far better visual presentation) in 2019; Despite my efforts to find precedence and meaningful continuity between the past and present day vision of Inverted Matter my expedition would bear an unusually null result. I’d generally recommend the reissue of ‘Detach‘ in preparatory contrast with its superior follow-up but the value of context in this case is moderate if you are instead better prepared to recognize the species we are dealing with.

Harbinger‘ is one part brutally mechanical turn of the millennium-bound ‘old school’ death metal pulse and another part moderne psyched-out and moderately progressive death metal with a certain reasonable standard of creative drift employed. No, I don’t mean to suggest that this record sounds like Mithras in any direct sense but that it will appeal to folks interested in similar extremes of atmosphere alongside occasionally performative brutality. They’ve not developed the cushy, confident sway of bands like Cadaveric Fumes but rather something a bit closer to certain releases from Execration with deeper turns taken into dissonant and brutal influences a la certain Cosmic Putrefaction and Ulcerate releases. The effect of the full listen is fairly straight forward at a glance yet the exaggerative coloration given to a few key pieces ultimately convinces they’re onto a somewhat unique extrapolation of both classic and modern avant-garde/technical death metal ideals herein. There are many layers to reveal within the excitable, often mad-paced and jumbled energy of the listening experience but all of it worthwhile for those seeking a brutal hand applied to weirding death metal.

The death-thrashing kickstart to opener “RAD” energizes up front without giving up too many hints of the layers of revelation to be experienced deeper within ‘Harbinger‘, doing a fine job of hitting the electricity with punched-up movement while still implying this one’ll be a little bit out of this world. It isn’t the most ideal first point of induction but one that’ll speak to fans of records like ‘Morbid Dimensions‘ indirectly before we fall head first into the portal on “Scenario” one step beyond. From this point Inverted Matter‘s guitarists become far more adventurous within longer stretches of textural, wandering riffcraft that yet sustains the dramatic brutal yet progressive impulse. As far as I can tell drummer Bestia (Defacement, Earth and Pillars) plays on this album and whomever it is impresses from the start, most notably kicking into gear on “Limulus Amebocite Lysate” but finding a most technical, performative edge on the “Hopeless“, a well-chosen preview track which gives a wide-open window into what ‘Harbinger‘ develops at its hottest core nearby the middle of the album. At this point in the full listen we’ve stepped through several portals yet we continue to hit upon new textures, new sounds, and progressions which do not appear so wrought in repetition as previous works from these folks have been.

“Ecdysis” is the peak of the greater statement ‘Harbinger‘ makes and Inverted Matter finish the thought and the narrative within two more pieces, though the stamp is essentially left by the time that sixth song has fired-off. Though the whole experience lands in less than 35 minutes it feels like a ~45 minute record per the density and pacing of the full run, there is a satisfying enough tunneling-forth quality to the record though there’ll be zero reprieve for folks who like a bit more air, space to pause within demanding death metal records. I’ve no such requirement and, all things considered’ found the full listen well-balanced between thoughtful diversions and directive classic death metal rhythmic nodes, keeping it unreal but always rooted in contained and somewhat memorable pieces.

The complete ‘Harbinger‘ experience likely won’t strike upon the temples of the average death metal fan with a eureka moment up front, wherein everything lines up beautifully for a perfectly surrealistic vision, but it will no doubt present compelling enough reasons to continue listening well beyond discovery. The listener prone to take the odd route, to lean into imaginative standing rather than too-familiar death metal sounds should find themselves well-sated within the eerie oft brutal flow of Inverted Matter‘s direction. In this sense I’d say they’ve outdone their previous work on all counts, managing to keep me engaged with their gig far more than expected. A moderately high recommendation.

Moderately high recommendation. (78/100)

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.
LABEL(S):Unorthodox Emanations,
Avantgarde Music
RELEASE DATE:November 11th, 2022

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