Iress’ new album Flaw is out on September 18th.
Earlier this year Hum clawed their way out from the graveyard to release Inlet, an album that rekindled the overlapping aesthetics of heavy metal and shoegaze. It had big riffs with big atmosphere creating a big sound. Three years ago Chelsea Wolfe completed her journey down to the bottom of a coffin to release Hiss Spun, an album that saw Wolfe’s flirtations with metal culminate in a committed doom metal approach. It had big riffs with big atmosphere creating a big sound.
L.A. based quartet Iress’ new album Flaw is the neatly assembled adopted child of both of these works, filling a particular hole in each that may not have been fully realized. “It’s like Inlet but gloomier,” or “It’s like Hiss Spun but with stronger vocals,” are both viable ways to sell the Los Angeles group’s newest release. Yet there is one itch Iress don’t scratch so much as tickle with a feather duster – the commitment to push beyond their influences into new territory as opposed to teetering over the edge.
Heavy is the atmosphere draping over Flaw. Reverb-soaked drums propel the album with the momentum of rolling a boulder up a mountain. The opening riff of ‘Shamed’ sets the pace for the record being simultaneously dour, methodical and tinged with doom. Vocalist Michelle Malley carries much of the grief with her near-operatic vocals. For how large the drums and guitars are in the mix it’s telling that Malley is the highlight of nearly every track. Her howling in the closing minutes of ‘Underneath’ implies a burdensome weight on her shoulders.
‘Shallow’ is a patient crawl that captivates by adding more layers as the track progresses. Stepping away from the metal influences, Flaw’s strongest track is the mid-album folk piece ‘Dark Love’. Devoid are the crushing drums and riffs that mark the other songs. Instead, Iress illustrate a different facet of desolation with ethereal vocal harmonies and violin. It is indebted to Chelsea Wolfe’s earlier neo-folk pieces but the variation is gratefully welcomed.
Unfortunately, there’s a missing bite to Flaw that Iress could’ve provided with their own fangs. Hanging over Flaw’s head is untapped potential. Only in the final seconds of ‘Wolves’ and a too-short cathartic swell on ‘Shallow’ does Malley push her vocals into uncharted waters, imbuing a vitality that’d benefit the rest of the album’s consistent gloom. As intriguing as the guitar layering is on ‘Thieves’ it’s lacking a bit too much grit. It restrains itself when a little more violence would’ve sold the solo that rounds out the track.
Flaw is desolation without danger. Iress stand on the precipice of a great album but have to commit to the plunge. Had the guitars developed a bit more dirt under their nails, had the vocals explored their range more consistently, had ‘Dark Love’ trodden as far down the rabbit hole as it could’ve, Iress would’ve soared after diving into the abyss.
Buy Flaw via Bandcamp.