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Napalm Records

February 9

Up until last year, I hadn’t heard the name Infected Rain, but after that first introduction, I knew that I wanted their music in my life from that moment forward.

The band are massive and only getting bigger overseas, having released five albums and played some of the world’s most prestigious music festivals, but I am treating their upcoming album Time as our first point of contact, so here goes…

Opening track Because I Let You starts amid a swirl of electronics before the drums and guitar find voice and up the intensity.

It doesn’t take long for vocalist Lena Scissorhands to assert her authority with a powerful and frenetic vocal tirade that verges on intimidating.

The track throws up the first surprise around the one-minute mark as Lena withdraws, subduing the rage that enveloped her early on to reveal a softer underbelly with a calming vocal passage that offers a momentary glimpse of serenity.

But she soon tires of pleasantries, unleashing the inner rage once more before retreating even further into her shell as a piano score breaks the carnage and showcases a soothing and beautiful side to her vocals that would have seemed impossible just 40 seconds ago.

Already, it is obvious that Infected Rain are a band who love to traverse the entire sonic spectrum, using their talents to create music rather than just write songs. If that hasn’t sunk in, read it again.

Lena is like a Jekyll & Hyde character vocally, switching seamlessly between clean and harsh tones but also varying her approach – which believe me isn’t an easy thing to do.

As the opening song draws to a close, I am still unsure of what I just listened to, but I know I like it!

Dying Light is next, firing up on the back of a fuzzy guitar riff that could veer just about anywhere but chooses a more mellow approach as the drums join in rhythmically and Lena glides into the intro before tapping into fits of controlled aggression. Her vocals are layered atop each other cleverly here, adding depth and emotional resonance.

This is a strange song in the fact it almost has a techno feel in parts, even though the vocals are anything but.

It is an interesting contrast that works well, especially when coupled with the moments of levity that dominate for large periods. It could almost be a bedtime children’s story at times, except in this version Goldilocks takes no shit from the bears.

Never To Return begins with layered atmospherics as the sounds swirl on a pendulum that unwinds into a slower and more deliberate track that offers yet another side to Lena’s vocal ability. Her range and grasp of sonic emotions is amazing and provides a subplot of its own within the music.

But of course, none of that would work without the input from her bandmates, with drummer Eugene Voluta shifting between restraint and all-out attack at ease. His drum patterns dictate the musical patterns that flow through each track, allowing guitarist Vidick and bass player Alice Lane the freedom to drift in and out at their leisure, but also the opportunity to shift the focus in their direction when the time is right.

Lighthouse shines bright with the sounds of scattered voices that are difficult to translate, but they serve their purpose by ushering Lena back into the fold, this time leading into the track with softer vocals that shift focus slightly to add an opposing viewpoint.

At this stage I honestly have no idea if this track will stay on the same trajectory or veer off, but I don’t have to wait long to find out as Lena breaks free of her sonic shackles and delivers a brutal tirade that is in turn answered by the soothing, calmer tones that introduced the song.

The shift in tempo and intensity is often sharp and unrelenting, but somehow works rather than coming across as disjointed or forced. I have heard many bands try similar things over the years with varying results, but I can honestly say none have come close to nailing it like Infected Rain have.

The Answer Is You arrives with more distorted guitars and an almost whispered vocal intro before the guitars take on more of a nu-metal chugg which in turn encourages Lena’s aggressive side into the open.

The shift between out-and-out hostility and almost naive innocence is alarming and flawless, bordering on schizophrenic, but I shall say it again.

It fucken works.

This song ebbs and flows from blissful ignorance to violent intent more times than I care to count, but then why bother? Who the fuck brings Math up when listening to music?

I don’t even know what a Vivarium is, but it’s up next and judging by the techno-style intro it could be some form of party trick. Musically, it introduces an imposing and repetitive guitar riff that falls short of being hypnotic – but only because Lena jumps in, possibly to protect her own state of being as well.

She attacks this tune with renewed vigor, giving the sense that this song might be more personal to her. I’m probably wrong, but you never know…

Her voice is akin to an extra musical instrument within Infected Rain, dictating pace and proceedings with a nod to the beautiful side of life or a swipe at the extremities. I suddenly realise I haven’t fully understood much of what has been sung aggressively, which shows the music is having the desired effect.

I feel like I know what’s going on, but in reality have no idea!

Pandemonium is more of a rock number, given life by a cool guitar riff before electronics take over and unceremoniously boot us off the rock train and into calmer waters.

Briefly. And then Lena rediscovers her inner torment, barking threats and demands at an unseen adversity that is seemingly shielded by an inner beauty that loathes confrontation. It’s almost as if there is a personal war of attrition being fought within the one vessel, with neither managing to fully assert their dominance.

Which is great for us listening.

Enimity is up next, and again I have no idea what that even means. But Lena does, and it sounds like it pisses her off more than a little.

She launches straight into this one, unrelenting in her pursuit of sonic justice that is offset only sporadically by her calming nature. This is the first track that hasn’t embraced large amounts of cleanliness in the singing and is also a possible example of why.

When Infected Rain ramp up the intensity it is hard to avoid, a bludgeoning statement of sinister innuendo that is difficult to resist and therefore difficult to comprehend. The moments of levity actually allow breathing space and your temperature to subside briefly, which I’m guessing also helps with blood pressure and general well-being.

So thanks are also in order to Infected Rain. It’s nice to come across a band that cares!

Unpredictable just about sums up the album thus far and of course lives up to its name as a Middle Eastern-style intro gives way to more urgency and vocal disparity.

A well-placed vocal breakdown offers just the right amount of dark and shade before Lena reignites her running internal battle, forcing her point across before offering an opposing view that eventually succumbs to the darkness and rage.

A touch more Middle Eastern sensibilities breaks things up and throws a calming blanket over things as Lena once more searches for answers in opposing forces of sonic nature. This track is both beautiful and confronting. Everything metal should be!

Game Of Blame sees us three songs from the end and this one starts as though it is nearing the finish line, the tender strains of piano (I think) offering a sense of ambiance that transfers to the vocals which are pleasant and soothing.

Which, of course, doesn’t last long as Lena feels the urge to throw out some scolding vibes that are soon drowned out by the general feeling of hope and tranquillity. There are not many metal bands out there that could pull off a song like this amidst an ocean of aggression, but Infected Rain feel like they could write songs like this in their sleep.

Until this one turns into a nightmare as the feeling of contentment is swept under a torrent of oppression once more. Which, once again, doesn’t last long as the powers of good overcome evil and carry the track to a close.

Paura is next, and I’m not even going to say I have no idea what that is. But I don’t.

Whispered voices amid a sea of background activity wash over the opening passages of Paura, and it seems as if they aren’t going anywhere in a hurry.

This sounds like a foreign spoken word piece that has no meaning other than to those at the core of it, but it also makes for an interesting tune.

There’s minimal musicianship here, just a myriad of voices and emotions that speak a language all of their own. As much as I want to write this track off, I find myself unable to do so, hanging in until Lena finds a spark of hostility that finds voice around the three-minute mark. Still, the instruments are kept to a minimum, offering a differing point of view to the spoken tale that suggests all is not as it seems.

Different, but also impossible to resist.

A Second Or A Thousand Years closes the chapter on this musical book, with a dark and ominous score reverberating through the distance, increasing in intensity as it draws nearer.

Both haunting and seductive, this song accentuates the words used in the title, without uttering one syllable. Which is an art form in itself.

I’m reminded briefly of the musical score for Peter And The Wolf – fuck knows why – but it definitely has an old-school fable feel to it.

And then it fades into the distance, leaving a lingering taste of fragility in the air that has underscored almost every song on the album.

Now to start on the back catalogue…

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