Back in 2017, Savage Sinusoid was without a doubt a landmark album, surprising the metal community and boasting the next level of experimental heavy music. While French multi-instrumentalist mastermind behind the project Gautier Serre had previously put out a couple releases, it was that 2017 LP put out through Metal Blade Records that placed Igorrr's name on the map.
Igorrr boldly challenged the fundamentals of both experimental music and metal and indisputably broke down boundaries (heck, we gave Savage Sinusoid a perfect score review for such reasons). With that being said, his music may be unique, but not exactly the easiest listen. Warped and abrasive electronics combatting blood-curdling, abstract screams was eye-opening on the innovation level, yet sometimes comparable to staring into the sun on one's eardrums. I absolutely applaud the offbeat approach that Igorrr displayed on Savage Sinusoid and was intrigued to discover if such abrasiveness would continue or would this radical musical project take a different turn on the follow-up.
Cutting to the chase, Spirituality and Distortion shows Igorrr exploring new stylistic and songwriting realms, yet also staying true to his unorthodox and sometimes jarring identity. The mesmerizing hodge-podge within this latest record is conjured up all through the help of some of Gautier's friends including violinist Timba Harris, bassist Mike Leon, pianist Matt Lebofsky, Oud player Mehdi Haddab, accordion player Pierre Mussi, Kanoun player Fotini Kokkala, and harpsichordist Benjamin Bardiaux as well as the prominent vocalists Laure Le Prunenec and Laurent Lunoir, known for their operatic and unclean deliveries respectively.
Considering that Savage Sinusoid was his claim to fame release, this review will focus on what new routes that Igorrr has confidently sauntered down and alternatively, which aspects still remain true to his previous material. The first notable aspect on this LP was the increase in heaviness. In the past, Igorrr’s heaviness was derived from rabid vocalizations and distorted electronics on top of neck-break speed riffing and blast beats. While these elements carry over to this new record, the inclusion of more straightforward guitar riffs become the driving force behind what makes these tracks so hard-hitting. The heaviest and most guitar-driven moments can be found in "Nervous Waltz," "Himalaya Massive Ritual," and the latter half of "Overweight Poesy." But I'd be daft if I didn't point out "Parpaing," both heavy musically and vocally with Cannibal Corpse's George 'Corpsegrinder' Fisher on the mic.
Secondly, Spirituality and Distortion is all in all more ambitious regarding musical diversity. Granted, Igorrr had already established a reputation for fusing a variety of styles such as death/black metal, baroque, folk, and electronica, but this new material expands the reach further. The most notable musical path explored would be the Eastern musicalities showcased on a multitude of tracks like "Camel Dancefloor," "Downgrade Desert," and "Himalaya Massive Ritual." As you can tell, the tracks titles on this album are humorously accurate to what the song sounds like. Other examples of this being the overly caffeinated ballroom score "Nervous Waltz," the zany and hefty "Paranoid Bulldozer Italiano," or the aforementioned "Himalaya Massive Ritual," which is both immense in its seven-minute length and sonic breadth.
Although, the Eastern stylization was mostly a new frontier for Igorrr, we still find tracks in more familiar territory. "Very Noise" is still an envelope-pushing composition holding abrasive breakbeat electronica alike Aphex Twin, but still within the usual Igorrr wheelhouse. Similarly, "Lost in Introspection" follows a more trip hop formula through the first half, with a piano-driven melody and beat in the vein of Moby or RJD2, before launching back into Igorrr’s signature metallic baroque fusion.
On the topic of baroque fusion, head to "Hollow Tree," "Paranoid Bulldozer Italiano," "Nervous Waltz," "Overweight Poesy," "Barocco Satani," and to an extent "Polyphonic Rust" for your fix of Igorrr's signature style. Furthermore, "Musette Maximum" comes off as a sequel to the accordian-driven "Cheval" with funky zydeco closer "Kung-Fu Chèvre" finishing off the accordion trilogy. You could argue that these songs would easily have snugly fit into the explosive and experimental atmosphere of Savage Sinusoid, however I feel that songwriting-wise, these compositions are far more refined.
Of all the fourteen tracks within this album, a broad spectrum of styles is expressed ranging from metal, electronic, baroque, and European and Eastern regional music. Despite this variety, the entire bundle is not only a dynamic and cohesive package, Igorrr also expertly balances the absurdity of avant garde melodies and rhythms with a sense of solid song-writing. I found immense relief in that the compositions on Spirituality and Distortion focused less on the goal of pushing the envelope sonically and structurally, but instead shining a light on the diverse stylistic variety as well as actually including hooks.
Overall, Spirituality and Distortion rounds up to be the ideal follow-up to Savage Sinusoid. For those new to Igorrr, the unorthodox nature may be surprising, but with an open mind, Spirituality and Distortion is definitely his easiest pill to swallow and furthermore a perfect beginner’s gateway to experimental metal and music. And lastly, for those already fans of Igorrr's music, this record will be a delight as this album showcases him successfully expanding his musical palette while also strengthening his compositional abilities. In the end, I found myself constantly drawn back to listen to the full album in entirety as nearly every moment is a highlight.