Release Date: November 1, 2012
1. Old Smoker
2. Keepers Maker
Jason Ward – drums, synths and vocals
Jon Case – bass, vocals
Cheryl Hall – guitar
Although there have been several lineup changes since the Greensboro, NC-based Irata formed in 2006, a few things have been fairly consistent – the band’s founding duo of Jon Case (bass) and Jason Ward (drums), and the band’s reputation over the last couple of years for a sound that’s dense and mathematically precise, possessing an inventive, challenging bit of genre mashing that resisted easy pigeonholing – all while being remarkably accessible.
Quietly released, without tons of fanfare by Silber Records the other day, much like their self-titled release, Irata’s Vultures is the first release from the band in over two years. And interestingly, the album reveals a band that has not only gone through a series of lineup changes, and other changes but a band that’s endlessly restless. Guitarist Jason Duff, who played an integral role on Irata has been replaced by Cheryl Hall. Whereas Duff played with a great sense of subtlety and a mathematical sort of precision, Hall’s work on Vultures adds a punishingly loud, aggressive and insistent muscle to the proceedings – the sort of power that hadn’t been there before. But just as interesting was the first single off the effort, “Old Smoker,” which has the band replacing saxophones with the screaming, howling vocals of both Case and Ward. Also, Vultures is the first effort where the band has an outside producer, Phillip Cope of Kylesa. On a certain level, Vultures is a move towards greater simplicity, and in that simplicity there can often be a counterintuitive sense of freedom.
Interestingly, a few elements of the band’s prog rock days still remain, even if they’re on the fringes. Album opener, “Old Smoker,” has an introductory section that sounds a bit like a metronome, and in some way as though it were a continuation of their self-titled album – before being taken over with thrashing, heavy metal, powerr chords. Lyrically, the song alludes to an old, chain smoking man – but it could also allude to an old, rusty hulk of a car. “Deluge,” is a bit reminiscent of the staggered chords of “Stop,” one of my favorite Jane’s Addiction songs off of Habitual De Lo Ritual. “Miser,” with its thundering drums, sounds a bit like an angry and hungry dinosaur stomping about, as Ward and Case sing that they “won’t be trampled on” during the song’s chorus.
Will Irata’s new direction turn off some of the fans they won over with their debut? Yeah, I think it may, but the artist has to follow where their muse directs them – sometimes with great risk. Vultures shows that Irata is more than ready to take a great risk for the sake of their art, and that’s in itself is quite impressive but at the same time, the album feels a bit beholden to it’s influences – to the point that it sounds as though it could have easily come out in 1993 as it could have come out last week. Still, the band sounds as though they’re ready to kick ass and take several names, and it’ll be interesting to see how their sound develops next, and how they go about it.