Progressing towards Armageddon, American ensemble unfold a new panorama of alluringly frightening future.
Comparing this Californian collective’s creative output to cinema seems to be commonplace just because any juxtaposition should prove futile given the group’s sole member Riz Story’s career in movie-making, yet “In Humanity” must take his sonic sculpting further – to a thusly titled feature film and novel. Although there’s a double-disc offering on display, the listeners will actually have to deal, at their own peri, with a threefold concept that began to form in 2020, when the deceptively hermetic "On The Ending Earth..." blackened the horizon to pass the platter’s missing titular piece to its post-pandemic, if no less apocalyptic, follow-up. Does the dark idea justify the 101-minute length? Unexpectedly, the answer is yes.
Surprises are abound on this album, so there’s an immediate gratification in a pure piano solo in the otherwise intense, riff-roughed “Emergence” – one of the most brutal cuts here – but the record’s sprawling, if nuanced, instrumental passages on the vibrant likes of empty-skies opener “Elations” are rarefied enough to feel too arrestingly atmospheric, and precious, to be pared down, and the many melodies on the likes of “The Disappearing Everything” are too magnetic to minimize their pull. And while “The Pale Blue Dot” is brief, albeit fervent, it serves up rags of raga which dilute the overall rage, the prevailing motif in the chthonic creep-fest of “Don’t Swallow Tomorrow” where bass and cymbals reign, and in the ravaged balladry of “Transfiguration” that’s prefaced with spoken word and provided with a solemn, organ-driven coda.
Once melancholy is reined in, the band’s alumnus Jon Davison arrives to sing “Misanthropist” and allow Story let go of the voice and let rip on guitar, before the epic number “In Humanity” proposes a riveting theatrical experience, suggesting that people can be more than simple passerbys in this dystopian drama and setting the scene for “Curtain Call” whose sadness has suspense attached to it. And optimism too – for there’s faith in humanity oozing out of this album, the ensemble’s magnum opus and, hopefully, a turning point towards the brighter future.