Artist: Infected Rain
Album Title: Time
Label: Napalm Records
Date of Release: 9 February 2024
After the glut of releases that confronted us at the end of January, early February has seen things go in almost the other direction. The plus side is that I have a little more time available to check out some albums that perhaps I’d not otherwise have the opportunity to hear. Today, I bring you one of these in the form of Infected Rain’s new album, ‘Time’. Firmly believing that honesty is the best policy, I will declare early on that, up until now, I have never been a fan of Infected Rain.
Metalcore, djent, screamo, and modern embellishments have all combined to create the Infected Rain sound, one that has been popular with many since their formation in 2008 and the release of their debut album, ‘Asylum’ in 2011. Blessed with an incredibly charismatic vocalist in the form of Lena Scissorhands (Elena Cataraga), the Moldovan quartet’s ascent has been pretty steady over the years. Joined by principal songwriter and guitarist Vadim ‘Vidick’ Ojog, drummer Eugen Voluta and new bassist Alice Lane, Infected Rain show no signs of slowing down, either. Indeed, ‘Time’ is their sixth studio album since their inception.
I suspect the history lesson and background detail will be well-known and entirely pointless fluff for most readers of this review, instead wanting to know exactly what a self-confessed cynic and general agnostic towards modern metal and metalcore thinks of this disc. Well, wait no longer…
It all starts off so badly for me, with the modern nu-metal, metalcore stylings of the music blending with modern electronic embellishments. There’s no faulting the energy and the voracious display right out of the gate by Lena Scissorhands behind the mic, not to mention the rest of the band. However, this chugging, screaming combination is not really my thing, especially with the ‘scratching’ effect audible. But then…then…erm…well, I wasn’t expecting what comes next. After the unapologetic groove and caustic aggression, everything drops away to leave a minimalist electronic soundscape upon which Lena sings. And I mean, she sings. Quietly, delicately, beautifully. And in comes a surprisingly poignant melody too. Things get heavier again, but the melody remains with Lena belting out a heartfelt scream, followed by a powerful, equally raw clean vocal. “Cut me open, and see the shades of blue, a reflection of the pain I’ve been through”, followed by “it feels so good, it hurts so bad”. I don’t like this song, do I? Hell. To. The. Yes.
“It can’t continue, though, right?” whispers the cynic in my mind. ‘Dying Light’ replies immediately with a ‘hold my beer’ bravado, muscular down tuned, churning, djenty riffs kicking things off in ominous fashion. There remains a dark, dystopian undercurrent as heard within the opener, but it’s more pronounced here. The blend of harsh and clean vocals juxtaposed between the aggression and captivating melody, alongside peaks of extremity and troughs of minimalism, is too much for me to resist and all of a sudden, I need to hear more.
Over the course of twelve individual tracks, Infected Rain oblige, taking me on a journey that’s partly uncomfortable – I don’t think I’ll ever 100% give myself over to the more overtly metalcore and nu-metal elements – but partly absolutely mesmerising, hypnotic, and utterly compelling. I never thought I’d be delivering this kind of review for an album like this, but that’s testament to the quality of the songwriting, and the performances here. Plus, there’s a surprising amount of variety to be heard across ‘Time’, with seemingly no idea off the table. Whisper it quietly, but in the respect that Infected Rain are testing themselves, trying different ideas, and pulling it altogether in this fashion, there’s an argument to use the ‘prog’ word, perhaps.
But more than that, it’s the passion and genuine emotion that’s carved into the music that means that ‘Time’ avoids feeling contrived or fake; these guys mean it, they feel it, and they give everything.
To try to describe each of the twelve tracks on offer would be an utterly futile exercise and, if I’m honest, there are a couple of songs that don’t hit me quite so hard. But, when Infected Rain get it right, they get it very right indeed. Standout moments for me, aside from the aforementioned opening duo of songs, include ‘Vivarium’ and ‘Pandemonium’, a really strong pair at the heart of ‘Time’. The former displays one of the more angular, cyclical Meshuggah-ish type djent riffs on the album, before unleashing an arresting melodic chorus, complete with bold synths creating a vaguely modern symphonic edge. The latter is a more immediate track, charging from the blocks with a strong melodic intent, before dabbling in bold electronic beats and synthwave elements that might be more at home in a dance club. But the clean vocals in the chorus coupled with a powerful, driving rhythm, mean that it all works really well together, even the introduction of a gratuitous break down in the middle of the song. I also love the ethereal vocals that flit in and out of the more savage gruff growls.
Elsewhere, ‘Never To Return’ experiments with some intriguing Eastern instrumentation, which peppers a song that again uses electronic trip-hop beats and sounds to accent what is more of a ponderous, lumbering beast of a track, featuring some of the meatiest riffs on the album. A slower track, but also a slow burner for me, albeit now an essential composition within the album’s framework. Courtesy of ‘Game Of Blame’, we’re treated to some 80s style electronic drum sounds that come out of nowhere whilst ‘Paura’ sees Lena singing in Italian as well as English, and to close things out, ‘A Second Or A Thousand Years’ is a beautiful ambient piece to soothe your fevered brow.
As I’ve said before, I don’t like everything to be heard on ‘Time’. However, what started off as a vaguely disinterested toe-dip into the album made possible by a little extra time on my hands, has turned into a hugely enjoyable and interesting experience. I love it when this happens, as it forces me to one again challenge my musical prejudices and consider different ideas and styles of music. It’s big, it’s bold, it’s energetic, and it is point blank unafraid to musically go wherever it wants to. And I rather like it because of all these facets. Put very simply, with ‘Time’, Infected Rain have surprised me in a very good way and turned me into a little bit of a fan in the process. I didn’t see that coming, I can tell you.
The Score of Much Metal: 88%