When a band takes over five years between albums, expectations can and should run wild, especially if your previous album stunned critics with its idiosyncratic style and unrestrained creativity, yet at the same time remained criminally unnoticed. Do you return with updates to your formula and double-down on your artistic approach or do you dilute the complexity of said formula to achieve a flavor more palatable to the masses? With Immoto, Nero di Marte tackle this dilemma decisively with mesmerizing results that reverberate hauntingly.
Immoto continues on the path Nero di Marte paved with their magnificent 2014 release Derivae, channeling an outré death metal dissonance inspired by the likes of Gorguts and Ulcerate that is coupled with post-metal’s dramatic expansiveness and the subterranean rumble of atmospheric sludge. This time, the musical output is even more mutable than before and at times increasingly abstract and seemingly free-form. The music embodies the aesthetics of dark jazz and avant-garde and often appears almost improvisatory in its fluidity and structure, with moments of dusky wistfulness and somber reflection as well as passages of evaporating ambient and dissipating fury.
At the same time, Nero di Marte thoroughly reshape Immoto’s genre constituents. The album’s take on dissonance emits inviting warmth, rather than the bleak coldness of the band’s aforementioned sonic relatives, with seductive labyrinthine riffs that spin with wild yet controlled abandon and interlace to form magnificent layers with vivid texture. In a deviant manner, the band jettison post-metal’s playbook and make the tense anticipation of everything crashing down in a brutal breakdown linger to a nearly intolerable degree, yet they always succeed in skirting the risk of disappointment and deflation of tension. The title track serves as a prime example of this approach, starting off with a surprisingly Deftones-like charm and building up deceivingly with patient meandering for a full 11 minutes (an eternity for the average attention span) before erupting. This is immediately followed by “Semicerchi” and its dreamlike Bohren-esque first half which swells in intensity until it suddenly culminates in a well-placed dissolution that pulls the rug from under the feet of expectations by refusing to submit to the easy allure of a crescendo most listeners are conditioned to expect. Similarly, “Irradia” resists facile assumptions in its refusal to blow up in ways dictated by the often-immutable laws of post-metal. In essence, Nero di Marte impressively ignore hackneyed methods of riding peaks and valleys, and display inventive ways to harness the ebb and flow that surges throughout the album.
Across the album, the group also display a sense of subtle nuance and utilize silence and space to enrich the contemplative dimensions of their music, a measure that is inherently risky and likely to be felt by many as sapping momentum. For those fearing a lack of pummeling force and with a thirst for ferocity, there’s plenty to be impressed by. The gradually increasing vice grip and bursts of boiling fury of “L’Arca” recall the dark, driving aggression of Derivae at its best and the song epitomizes how Nero di Marte’s cerebral, poetic and feral strengths and tendencies come together in a thrilling manner with spectacular results. Is also showcases the group’s remarkable musicianship and songwriting skills, where individual performances coalesce beautifully into a cohesive flow and lockstep performance, even amidst the most frantic and seemingly chaotic moments that are always grounded in the rough soulfulness of Sean Worrell’s idiosyncratic crooning, wailing and bellowing.
Although not the highest in terms of dynamic range, Riccardo Pasini’s excellent production augments both the most meditative passages, layered intersections and pavement-cracking points of culminating intensity, with special kudos for the enormously impactful rhythm section, where the rumble of Andrea Burgio’s bass makes tectonic plates quaver and meets Giulio Galati’s (also of Hideous Divinity and Onryō) tight drumming replete with bursts of fierce fills and towering tom rolls, the delivery of which projects equally the wide-ranging expressiveness of free jazz and the relentless fervor of death metal.
An early highlight of 2020, Immoto is testament to how expressive metal can be in terms of songwriting and execution. By defying expectations and eschewing both convention and genre pigeonholes, Nero di Marte have delivered a superlative album, an enthralling experience that contains multitudes. It is a demanding journey that demands and rewards patience, as it keeps on growing and revealing new layers and depths of creative excellence.