Like the most spiteful demon from the darkest corner of your mind, preying on your shadows and fears Danish metalers Illnath return with their third album Third Act in the Theatre of Madness. The release exposes and explores the deeper crevices of the mind, whipping away the safety net of sanity to crawl and stalk every thought and emotion with manipulative grooves and venom soaked intrusive clawed riffs. Admittedly the release does not venture down new darkened corridors but the striking melodically grooved black metal carries an infection and irrepressible quality that makes it a triumphant compulsive experience.
Illnath formed in 1999 and found a positive response and ever growing following to their initially symphonic black metal sound. A demo the year after plus their debut album Cast into Fields of Evil Pleasure in 2003 and the following Second Skin of Harlequin in 2006 saw them build on the ever strengthening attention. Musically they evolved too into a melodically driven black/death metal outfit, their sound crossing both genres without fitting neatly into either. Third Act in the Theatre of Madness sees the band with a new line-up with remaining founder member guitarist Pete Falk being joined by bassist Kenneth Frandsen, session drummer Reno Killerich, and the disarming yet mesmeric pit borne vocals of Mona Beck. The album released through Pitch Black Records also sees the most melodic release from the Illnath yet, a creative beast that is veined with killer grooves and provocative scorched sonically driven invention.
First track Third Act opens on a sideshow like melodic synth before stripping slices of the senses with sharp riffs and caustically gripping growls from Beck, her excellent delivery harsher and more impactful than any movie demonic interpretation. The song does not bring anything particularly new to the ear but rather revisits and re-moulds recognisable sounds and ideas to forge an openly agreeable invitation. Moments like the clean vocals of Beck and the mesmeric synths add a vibrant and pleasing extra aside to bring a fuller flavour to the song.
The following Scarecrow is a dramatic and excellent continuation of the intrusion. The groove that drives it twisting around the senses before squeezing them into submission as the flighty keys, the sinister bass, and the astringent vocals all take the ear through unpredictable and spite filled corridors. Already one imagines purists might be reluctant to entertain or even credit the varied and imaginative combinations of ideas emerging from here on in but anyone giving the album the focus it deserves will be rewarded with a balanced and nicely crafted collection of songs and their realisation.
Third Act in the Theatre of Madness storms through the ear continuously to its end, the likes of Snake of Eden with its classic metal pleasuring, the persistent acutely grooved Death Spring Will Come, and the rock n metal black blistering of Vampiria, riling up the senses with strong and addictive black metal fair. There is not a jaw dropping element to them or face slapping originality but they swarm over and capture the emotions through straight forward honest and eagerly brought sounds. If you want an album that ticks all the boxes from beginning to end Illnath is the band to immerse into.
Alongside Scarecrow, the hypnotically grooved Fall of Giants with its symphonic spiced synths takes top honours. The song leaps and punishes with acidic wearing sounds and a guitar incursion that is as venomous as the bile dripping off the vocals. The song adds extra spice with solos and melodies that cut deeply and linger welcomingly, a wonderful and thoroughly pleasing piece of sound.
As stated before Illnath with Third Act in the Theatre of Madness do not offer anything boundary breaking but the album is a feast of pleasure and stirring creativity from start to finish. It is easily an album one will reach for with glee again and again without any needed reminder or inducement.