Every once in a while, a band comes along that truly pushes the boundaries of what defines a genre of music. This happens in all genres of music—pop, jazz, hip-hop, rock—but within the metal genre and its countless subgenres, these paradigm shifts are often quite dramatic and set a precedent for other metal bands to follow. Enter Chicago's Immortal Bird. Perhaps it's irresponsible or too premature to say so, but this savage quartet has struck gold with their second full-length album, Thrive On Neglect. Indeed, this record could mark one of these fabled paradigm shifts within the genre of extreme metal.
It's not that they've invented a new subgenre, though admittedly, there aren't many bands out there that describe themselves as "crusty blackened proggy deathgrind," be it a sardonic take on how their music has been described. No, it's that Immortal Bird takes an existing framework for extreme music, one laid by bands like Gorguts, Krallice, Converge and The Dillinger Escape Plan, and craft a cacophony of sonic violence that takes elements of all the aforementioned bands and turns it into something compelling, coherent and uniquely theirs. "Anger Breeds Contempt," the album's opening track, is a mutant composition that basically Frankensteins black metal, grindcore and death metal into a creature all its own—that creature persists throughout Thrive On Neglect.
Dave Otero's rich production style is a perfect fit for the twists and turns each of these songs contain. As one of extreme metal's most sought after producers, it's apparent he was able to get the best performances out of each member of the band and pushed them to craft the most deranged yet tight songs they possibly could. Thrive On Neglect marks Immortal Bird's first record with new guitarist Nate Madden, whose schizophrenic riffs are a cathartic release for the vast spectrum of human rage, complemented by Rae Amitay's possessed growls. There is an undeniable element of danger that the band is able to capture, almost as if they themselves don't know what's coming next, whether it be a violent tempo change, a burst of dissonance or a hardcore-infused transition into a blackened dirge.
"Vestigial Warnings" begins with an icy, almost Emperor-esque riff before descending into a bulldozing grind riff that could smash through a concrete wall, the vicious cycle of which continues throughout the song's duration. And it works. This is but one example, and is where Immortal Bird's adeptness of extreme metal lies; many bands attempt to mix subgenres, but few succeed. Immortal Bird does it right, and they're not pretentious about it. They've pushed the boundaries of extreme metal even further with Thrive On Neglect – no small task considering the competition. Call it avant-garde, call it progressive, but labeling it does a disservice to what's really going on. Just call it Immortal Bird.