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IRM
Closure Richard Fontenoy , March 10th, 2015 12:19

From a first glance at the stark sleeve image of a shadow hand sinking beneath stylised wave and the opening thud of a reverberant drum, it's clear that Closure is not going to be a particularly cheerful record. The droning scalds and agonised vocals (stuck through an effect which sounds unfortunately a little too much like that used for the Daleks for suspension of disbelief to kick in properly, but that fades over the course of the album) suck out any joy from the atmosphere, and it becomes apparent that IRM are finishing off the six-year cycle that started with Nigredo in 2008 via Order4 a couple of years later with an often dizzying descent into the nether regions of psychic dysfunction.

Not having heard either of those releases, it's difficult to judge what back story has lead up to the bleak termination of Closure, but if it's anything like as mordant and misanthropic as the nine numbered tracks here, neither previous record can have been a lightweight listen.

Closure operates somewhere at the interface between power electronics and Scott Walker's more extravagantly emotive latter-day vocal performances. When IRM delve deep and hard into the tortured symbolic landscape of the narrator's psyche, they do so with the sort of visceral intensity that is perhaps best left absent from late-night listening sessions. Unless the intention is to be disturbed and unsettled – in which case Closure does the job perfectly.

When left free from the juddering, acid-soaked electrical mouthwash treatment, Martin Bladh's  first-person spoken word narratives of assassination and self-loathing depend as much on soundscaping and brooding atmospheres to create a theatrical shadow-puppet world reminiscent of a radio play gone horribly, nastily awry. The way in which IRM pull the listener in to their carefully-constructed sound world can become quite unnerving at times, getting up close and just that little bit too personal before performing the equivalent of a zen smack around the head with the aid of thundering percussion and bouts of brutalised word association.

While easily labelled as power electronics, Closure is about as far from the normal wall-to-wall crush and grind of the genre as Gnaw Their Tongues or Khanate are from the doped-up doom-mongers in metal. Here, IRM share both of the latter's penetrating fascination with getting a mite too cosy for comfort with the darkest recesses of humanity in extremis. When they do so, whether through Bladh's deracinated and gradually degrading vocals or the selective application of immanent drone and wholesale slabs of ponderous bass leading inevitably to a full-scale nihilist noise assault, the effect can be powerfully effective in conveying an atmosphere of dread and despair, thankfully without falling too far into the clichés of the form.

Closure is neither a pleasant listen, nor perhaps one that is likely to be listened to that often, as is the case with many similar albums where the spoken word is at its heart. But like a well-made art-house horror film, it deserves to be revisited as the mood strikes, and will doubtless accumulate resonance over time.

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