ALBUM REVIEW: Igorrr corrals its bizarre extremity on ‘Spirituality and Distortion’

igorrr, Spirituality and Distortion

One does not simply ask what genre Igorrr plays. Multi-instrumentalist Gautier Serre transformed his breakcore and avant-metal project into one France’s weirdest exports. Everything from Balkan music to industrial dance found its place on 2017’s full-length album Savage Sinusoid. While faultless in execution, Igorrr’s approach has a natural tendency toward overindulgence. Jumping from waltzing chamber music to industrial death metal is a fun ride, but staying power comes from compelling songs, not genre mash-ups. Perhaps the best aspect of Spiritual Distortion is its appeal beyond mind-boggling weirdness, corralling its bizarre extremity with catchy songwriting.

Spirituality and Distortion
Metal Blade Records, March 27

Watch the video for lead single “Very Noise” and try not to lose your mind. Memetic madness aside, the song sounds like Aphex Twin sampling Dillinger Escape Plan. The song is a bit of a return to Igorrr’s roots of drum and bass music, while “Parpaing” contrasts relatively straightforward prog-metal with 8-Bit music. The song thrusts Cannibal Corpse screamer George “Corpsegrinder” Fisher—embodying extreme metal 101—into the least metal context imaginable. The video reflects this juxtaposition with a jarring transition from studio footage to recreating gameplay from the arcade game Rampage.

Though clearly a rollercoaster, Spirituality and Distortion leaves a lot more room for atmosphere and hooks. Mehdi Haddab’s acoustic oud melodies give opener “Downgrade Desert” a haunting soundscape. The subsequent addition of Laure Le Prunenec’s virtuosic opera singing, Sylvain Bouvie’s punchy drumming and some seriously beefy riffs prove both intoxicating and eclectic.

Middle-Eastern dubstep jam “Camel Dancefloor” might juggle eerie strings, blistering riffs and what sounds like tummy-slapping, but its central melodic motif remains undeniable. All of the aforementioned elements turn up in the dynamic epic “Overweight Poesy,” traversing passages of classical bombast, harrowing black metal, romantic acoustics and hard-hitting electronica. The sounds at play remain distinct and meticulous, but not at the expense of emotional space. 

“Nervous Waltz” and “Musette Maximum” bring the album back to its delightful absurdity. It’s hard not to chuckle when Timba Harris’ regal violin dances over detuned, dubstep-like breakdown riffs, or when Serre screams bloody murder over Mike Leon’s slap bass and Pierre Mussi’s shredding accordion. And yet, the harmonious string arrangements at the start of “Barocco Satani” perfectly foil the following groove metal slug-fest. Igorrr’s singular musicality provides safe passage from robust opera to battering blast beats. It’s easy to forget how alien it is and become engulfed by the incredible performances. 

Harpsichordist Benjamin Bardiaux lays down a choppy foundation for “Hollow Tree,” punctuated by Bouvier’s syncopated drumming and Le Prunenec’s insane singing range. Whether it’s intensely rhythmic or swells with melody, the production level remains airtight—and that’s without mentioning the homemade instrument. The steel tongue drum weaved into the bludgeoning double bass and tremolo picking of “Himalaya Massive Ritual” was fashioned from an industrial gas cylinder. Igorrr adorns a symphonic death metal track with lush acoustic guitars and over-the-top opera, but still chooses to incorporate hand-crafted instruments. Such disregard for convention is matched only by adaptable musicianship.

Perhaps the most remarkable element of Spirituality and Distortion is Igorrr’s balance of electronic and acoustic sounds. It’s no use distinguishing where wobble bass and piano chords begin during “Lost in Introspection.” It all builds to the same electro-acoustic barrage, seamlessly transitioning between sterile techno to jagged metal riffs. “Paranoid Bulldozer Italiano” starts with demolishing dub beats and ends with blast-beats over nimble violin lines—and that’s totally fine. You’ll throw down to the half-time mosh riffs, don your powdered wig for the staccato harpsichord and shake your booty to the underground techno.

Against all odds, Igorrr retains a head-bangable throughline. The hard-grooving guitars and drums of “Polyphonic Rust” are just as engaging as the immaculate vocal vibrato. The riffs could stand on their own but the other elements become indispensable. In that sense, the overwhelming “Kung-Fu Chèvre” is the ultimate parting statement. The closing cut literally combining every element introduced beforehand, supercharged with gleeful goofery. From oddball funk to absurdist Balcan jazz, the band fires on all cylinders and laughs their way to the end.

While it’s often more fun to watch someone else react to Igorrr, Spirituality and Distortion sports a more natural quality that Savage Sinusoid lacked. The album provides memorable ideas and palpable head spaces in addition to ear-bending genre crossovers. Igorrr has made an album for vibing as well as rocking, making it a true achievement of avant-garde music.

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