It’s hard to stick out in the melodic/progressive death corner of this thing we call metal. So many bands are cramming so many notes into so many songs it’s easy to get lost in the shuffle. So knowing what you want out of music is essential to picking through the noise and static. And Iapetus seem acutely tuned into what I’m looking for in a standout album: The Body Cosmic revels in intricate riff construction that refuses to bow to soulless technicality, instead focusing on melody and song craft to create an epic aural journey that’s a standout for the year.
Based in New York, Iapetus is the creation of Matthew Cerami and Jordan Navarro, who since 2012 have been exploring and refining epic length melodeath that reaches for the cosmic. All the bones that make The Body Cosmic the massive listen it is are readily apparent in the band’s first EP Eviscerate Divine. The strength in the melodies and the way the vocals mix between different styles are right there on “Lachrymae Rerum.” The tinny production aside (perfectly fine for an independent recording) you can already hear the themes and structures that would be greatly expanded by the time of debut full-length The Long Road Home, which not only boasts a much fuller, robust version of the aforementioned song but stretches its wings creatively, interspersing atmospheric interludes that connect and entwine the longer songs.
This structure is firmed up and blown to the heavens on The Body Cosmic. Coming only two years after The Long Road Home and featuring the drumming of Dan Presland from Ne Obliviscaris, there’s an immediate leap in sound, not to mention scope. It takes a certain amount of chutzpah to kick off your album with a 10 minute (mostly) instrumental, but damn if the opening title track doesn’t hook you by the mouth and refuse to let go for the entire album’s duration. Technical and flawless as the execution is, what really drew me to both the song and the album as a whole is just how much Cerami and Navarro hone in on really strong melodic lines to carry through the barrage of riffs and changes that move through the song.
It’s also where we get our first introduction to one of The Body Cosmic‘s secret weapons, and that’s the voice of Emi Pellegrino. “Weapon” is the key word here, because Iapetus wield her with a surgical precision in the songs. Mixed together with Cerami’s death vocals her voice blends to create a dramatic and dynamic tension on the longer tracks, particularly “For Creatures Such As We” which sits as perhaps my favorite track on the album. It propels forward, changing up between expansive open chord moments and frenetic muted riffs and weaves in and out of strange syncopations. But – and this is where it strikes home for me – there’s never a moment where it simply feels like the band had a riff and just stuck it in there. There’s a throughline to everything, and it provides the momentum for all the tracks, whether it’s the smaller, atmospheric pieces like “Hadean Heart” and “Moonwatcher” or the driving heaviness of “I Contain Multitudes” or the gargantuan closer of “The Star of Collapse.”
If there’s a message to be found in the otherworldly exploits of Iapetus and The Body Cosmic, it’s that the independent spirit is alive and well and well worth seeking out amidst the noise and glut of a million bands vying for your attention. And that there’s still room in melodeath for the “melodic” portion of things, and it only makes the “death” portion that much better. Look between the cracks and find the music that takes you to the edge of the universe, and beyond.