Written by: Continuous Thunder
I first got into heavy music in my mid-teens, and by “got into heavy music” I mean found music that not only appealed to me, but also bothered my parents. (What’s the point of heavy music if it doesn’t cause your parents genuine concern?) Anyway, way back in the mid-’00s, when I was just a distant rumble, the heavy music of choice for the youths of the day was screamo and metalcore. CD players and primitive iPods were full of the sounds of bands like Underoath, The Used, From First To Last, and The Devil Wears Prada. Jeans were tight, lips were pierced, and hair was long and dyed black. These genres and styles fell out of favor right around the end of the decade, but screamo has had a bit of an underground resurgence in recent years. Infant Island, in particular, are a relatively new band that may prove that the genre isn’t entirely dead.
Infant Island come from northern Virginia, an area that is crucial to the screamo scene as it was home to some of the genre’s pioneering bands in the late ‘90s. In fact, comparisons to these bands, like City of Caterpillar, are more appropriate than the bands of the ‘00s I mentioned above. Infant Island draw more from the stylistic origins of screamo than the formulas of its peak popularity, with sounds reminiscent of early ‘90s emo, post-hardcore, and even shoegaze. Sonic palettes range from quiet, introspective ambiance to harsh walls of noise, sometimes within the same track. The result is a very dynamic experience from beginning to end.
The album shows its shoegaze influence right away with the first half of the album opener, “Here We Are,” prominently featuring guitars with heavy reverb and feedback and noise creeping into the mix. The song then transitions to a passage that seems almost inspired by black metal before hitting you with the harsh wall of sound of “Signed in Blood.” Things slow down a bit again on the intro of “Content,” which could almost pass as post-rock before it unleashes its screamo fury. More swirling feedback comes later in the track before it ends in another moment of calm.
These patterns of light and shade, dissonance and melody continue throughout the rest of the album, taking you on a journey that can really only be described as emotional. It almost feels like a cop-out to say that a screamo album is emotional, but it’s ultimately a compliment. It’s the very reason that the genre, and the emo music that came before it, exists. And Beneath succeeds at being a highly emotional piece of heavy music, from its somber instrumental interludes to its most intense moments. I dare you to listen to “Stare Spells” and tell me it doesn’t make you feel something. Personally, I don’t think I’ve responded like this to a screamo or post-hardcore album since I heard bands like Norma Jean or The Chariot for the first time.
2020 has just been full of surprises for me. I probably haven’t listened to screamo in nearly ten years, and I haven’t had the highest opinion of the genre recently, either. And here I listen to one without many expectations and it easily exceeds all of them. It’s not perfect, there are some moments where the vocals go a little too hard for intensity and the vocalist ends up overestimating his ability. Along with that, the harsher moments of noise might be a little much for some listeners, but those moments do serve a purpose for the album as a whole.
Overall, I think this album is very good. Infant Island are doing their part to revive the genre by returning to its roots and reminding people what it was before MTV got their hands on it. I understand that the screamo tag might make some readers hesitant to give this one a try, but I encourage you to go in with an open mind. Maybe post-hardcore is a more appropriate description. And if you still end up hating it, it’s less than 30 minutes long, so at least you won’t have lost too much time to it.
Infant Island - Beneath was released on May 15, 2020, on Dog Knights Productions
Continuous Thunder reviews even more music both inside and outside the realm of metal on his own blog, conveniently entitled Continuous Thunder. Now that you're done reading this, you should head over there and check it out!
We provide thoughtful reviews of music that is heavy, gloomy...and loud enough to wake us from slumber. Written by a highfalutin peasantry!