Artist: Infected Rain
Album Title: Ecdysis
Label: Napalm Records
Date of Release: 7 January 2022
Coming into this review, I knew nothing about Infected Rain. It was during one of my late-night promo trawls that I came across their new album, ‘Ecdysis’ nestled neatly in my inbox. With a press release that referenced them as ‘modern progressive metal’, I shrugged my shoulders and took a listen. It transpires that the press release is just a little misleading because, within moments, it was clear that Infected Rain are not a prog metal band, certainly not in the traditional sense. The word ‘modern’ is a bit of a clue, but I wasn’t expecting to hear what I did.
I could have hit ‘stop’ and walked away at that point. But it’s 2022, a new year, and anyway, something stopped me from completely abandoning this album…
Before I explain my reasoning further, I ought to take a moment to take care of the housekeeping. For those who are as unfamiliar with Infected Rain as I am, they are a Moldovan metal band from Chișinău that formed back in 2008. They are spearheaded by the striking figure of Elena Cataraga, otherwise known as Lena Scissorhands. Ridiculous alter-ego moniker aside, it is fair to say that Lena is a rather formidable presence behind the miocrophone, delivering growls, shrieks, and clean vocals at will. Alongside her are founding member Vadim ‘Vidik’ Ojog who shares guitar duties with Sergey Babici, as well as bassist Vladimir Babici, and drummer Eugene Voluta.
‘Ecdysis’ is the quintet’s fifth album release over a near fourteen-year career and, despite feeling misled and hearing some things I’m not overly keen on here, as I alluded to earlier, I wasn’t able to walk away entirely. And that’s down to a combination of factors. Firstly, there are some really stunning melodies littered throughout the record that genuinely intrigue me and actually stop me in my tracks. I also really like the use of the synths that offer some of the songs the opportunity to breathe, provide respite, and assist with those excellent melodic sensibilities. And there’s the clean delivery of Lena. So smooth and soothing are her gentle tones, that they really captivate me and I sit, properly listening to her voice.
That said, there’s a lot that I really don’t like too. For a start, as good as her clean delivery is, I can’t really get to grips with Lena’s screams at all, because they are just so piercing and actually, for once, I think that they are not entirely necessary. Personally, I’d use the clean delivery an awful lot more.
I also don’t really warm to the all-too-modern chug, chug, chug of the down-tuned guitars. At times, they can provide some interesting moments, but for the most part, it feels a little too paint-by-numbers, just providing that dense, heavy backdrop upon which the magic happens elsewhere. It was always, for me, the curse of nu-metal and more ‘modern metal’ bands and it looms large here too unfortunately. The rhythm section is proficient and tight but again, lacks a little of the adventure that I prefer to hear. It’s all a bit too samey and slick, without truly wowing us with something genuinely interesting or unique. It makes me question the ‘progressive’ tag a little more closely as I listen.
But leaving those negatives to one side, let’s turn to those aforementioned positives in a little more detail. On that score, opener ‘Postmortem Pt 1’ provides an excellent example of just about everything that Infected Rain can do well. The intro is dark, moody, and atmospheric, the synths alone creating a beautifully melodic beginning to the album. Even the introduction of Lena’s harsh screams don’t fully kill the mood, as the melodies continue beneath and around her. And then, as the track develops, in come her lovely clean tones to accentuate another really catchy melody. Those chugging guitars do feature, but when juxtaposed with the more ethereal sounds, they work better, sounding less gratuitous in the process.
Initially less enamoured with the follow-up, ‘Fighter’, a lumbering, heavy affair, it suddenly introduces a more delicate melody as the guitar riffs die away in favour of a greater emphasis on the synths. The heaviness is reintroduced cleverly within the melody and it ensures that the song ends in a stronger, more interesting fashion than it began.
Other highlights on the album don’t include ‘The Realm Of Chaos’ which features a guest appearance from Heidi Shepherd from the Butcher Babies. I want more of Lena’s clean tones, not more growls and screams, and definitely not two together.
But ‘Everlasting Lethargy’ is a highlight. For once, I enjoy the thunderous guitars and rhythms as they offer a nice groove. And then it all gives way to a period of ethereal atmospheric excellence. Lena sounds simply angelic atop the spacey, minimalist soundscape that open up a little to provide a gorgeous melody. ‘Showers’ by contrast, is an electronic-heavy track with striking sounds permeating, but is a cracking heavy melodic track, a little melodeath in tone and delivery.
I should hate ‘November’, as it starts off like an 80s electronic, synthwave track, but it’s infectious nature and melodious intent means that I like it in spite of myself. I love it when a band forces me to re-evaluate and that’s what this track does. The chorus is truly excellent too, showing how Lena’s clean voice can be used alongside her harsher delivery for perfect results. The more I listen to this song, the more I like it.
And then there’s ‘Nine, Ten’ which is a full-on electronic affair. And it’s gorgeous, it really is. Bold electronic beats sit at the heart of the composition, with swathes of synths creating a rich and sumptuous soundscape. And then Lena comes into her own with the time and space to beguile with her words. She does dabble a little with some harsher sounds, but for the vast majority of the time, she simply gets me all hot and bothered with her delicate, angelic delivery.
When all is said and done, Infected Rain have created a really rather good record here, far better after repeated listens than I expected when I first pressed play. I really enjoy their choice of melodies, their use of synths and electronics is impressive for the most part, and I adore Lena Scissorhand’s softer, clean voice. If there was a bit more use of this, as well as greater invention with the guitars in particular, I could see Infected Rain becoming a real force to be reckoned with. But even as it is, ‘Ecdysis’ is an interesting and enjoyable experience. If you’ve not given Infected Rain your attention before, the time is now.
The Score of Much Metal: 80%
Check out my other 2022 reviews here:
You can also check out my other reviews from previous years right here: