Only a month after their splendid EP Sepulcher, the Fredericksburg screamo band Infant Island returns with their second full-length album Beneath and what an album it is!
The mood for the album is set with the doomy and super atmospheric opener “Here We Are” that has a killer feedback noise in the background. The song is big and hypnotically repetitive, creating the impression as if it’ll stretch indefinitely, resulting in the listener sitting at the edge of the seat in anticipation of when will the built tension finally let go of our throats and let us breathe. And it’s like the sky tearing when it finally does and the black metal-sounding riff finally starts, and the piercing electronics of the background come closer to the front. This results in the sensation of an overwhelming and awe-inspiring engulfment in sound that is pretty difficult to explain. Maybe it’s like the state of bliss experienced during religious conversion but I’m not sure. The only thing I’m sure of is that it simply needs to be heard and experienced.
This song sets up the tone for many things in the album, especially when it comes to the band’s influences and use of length. The band takes numerous genres from extreme and experimental music and projects them through their own screamo roots, resulting in a sound that is varied and far-reaching, yet centered with screamo at their core, as heard around the beginning of “The Garden.”
Though medium at length, the sheer emotional intensity of the songs makes them feel much longer than they actually are, more akin to journeys or epics than actual songs, creating a very interesting impression of the album not as a collection of songs but as an actual journey.
The understanding of the album as a conceptual journey makes even more sense when we look at three of the experimental interludes of the album. Listening to them and their development, we get a very strong sense of upward movement from infernal chaos and destruction of the impossibly intense and crushingly heavy harsh noise piece “Signed in Blood” through a somewhat middle ground of noisy ambient and tape hiss of “Colossal Air” to the somewhat akin to Chihei Hatakeyama organic and warm ambient of “Someplace Else” which might even contain a glimmer of hope in it. Yet, it is a doomed kind of hope as the piece decays slowly until it explodes into a pure static noise of nothingness, destroying all hopes and dreams in the meantime.
Talking about noise, the band seems to use it in all of its forms throughout the entire album. There are metallic screeches, tape hisses, impossibly high guitar feedback, static, wails, and who knows what else moving between the background and foreground. This not only adds a lot of depth to the songs in Beneath in the sense of textures but also in the emotional one, adding a feeling of an immediate and unnoticeable dread, which is super interesting and makes the album worthy of numerous listens.
With Beneath, Infant Island have managed to create an epic album that doesn’t feel even a second longer than it should be. If anything, listening to this short 26-minute album, I felt the need to be bathed in its bleak sound for much longer, possibly forever. That, to me, is a real success.