Optic – Iris In
Optic – Iris In (2013)
Reviewed by Daniel Millard
The crossover point between melodic death metal and power metal is often debated, especially for how little genuine carryover actually seems to occur. As a point of particular interest for me, I’ve always wished that this territory was explored a bit more, but with the added edge of complexity that I so often crave in my power metal. Enter Optic, a Long Island, New York five piece, and their debut full-length album Iris In. I feel like I’ve reviewed so many debuts this year, and thankfully, it also feels lately like I’ve been able to say “this doesn’t sound like a debut.”
Such is the case with Iris In. Though the band leans most heavily upon progressive metal (of the power/prog/melo-death triangle, there are swaths of melo-death rhythms, occasional harsh vocals (typically supportive), and no shortage of speed (even some power metal drum patterns) for the power metal fans. All this is neatly tied up with an abundance of melody, very capable singing, and impressive instrumental aptitude. Something about the production on this album niggles me a bit, as the sound occasionally comes across as pretty synthetic or “cold”. I don’t consider this a problem – on the contrary, it helps further provide the album with a sense of identity that I crave – but I can understand how some would.
Opening instrumental “Hemlock” is a pleasant change of pace from the symphonic prologues that one hears so routinely, and the initial song, “Blind Apathy”, pours on the speed and complexity in a fashion that ought to appeal immediately to fans of bands like Into Eternity, Skyfire, Brymir, and more. However, it’s the ten and a half minute “Falling From The Sky” that really parades the band’s creativity and songwriting skill. Bringing the memorable chorus back after well-developed and multifaceted sections (both instrumental and sung, though equally engaging) of grace and frenzy, the long tune finally builds up to a satisfying close that segues immediately into the Dream Theater-esque key-forged intro to “Breathe New Life.” Breathtakingly melodic despite its moderate tempo, this may be my favorite pick from the album. Just like its predecessor, it winds up dramatically in the last few moments. Boy does this band know how to close songs!
The raging instrumental “Moment Of Impact” will leave listeners craving “heavy” and “fast” well-satisfied, as it did me. The undercurrent of leftover melody and harmonic progression from “Falling From The Sky” is easy to pick out in a couple of places – providing continuous momentum and familiarity that I feel adds considerably to the memorability of an instrumental track such as this.
I should really stop the track-by-track now, but if it wasn’t already obvious, the individual identity and purpose of individual songs is well-pronounced and expertly executed. “Withhold The Sun” continues the airy melodicism of the past several tracks, and “Drown The Earth” is an antagonistic, churning affair that contrasts quite nicely with the atmosphere of preceding tunes. It’s here that I finally begin to feel a bit of long-windedness and burnout (thirteen minute track here – prog band!), but I admit that I find this song less hooky and attention-snaring to boot. Seemingly having expended all its ferocity, Optic rounds out the album with the calm, somewhat bleak, but appropriately positioned (I feel) “Etched In Grey”, which fades out simply and enigmatically.
Iris In is a pretty unique experience, and I say that as one who has hungrily sought a wide variety and large number of musical experiences over the last decade. Though less harsh, I would say that Optic tickles a most similar listening nerve to Skyfire, though the musical comparison between the two bands isn’t terrifically close. I wholeheartedly recommend Optic’s music to listeners who can relate to this same feeling, want to probe around for similar sounds to artists that I called out above, or those who would appreciate an unabashedly fast and airily melodic experience of substantial instrumental complexity. Despite being unafraid to pen longer songs, Optic rarely, if ever, dulls down. This is one hell of a debut, and a superb album by any standard.
4.25 // 5