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I do enjoy a growling lady. And my latest encounter with such is Lena Kataraga of Moldova's Infected Rain. ‘Endorphin’ is their fourth album as a band, their first for Napalm Records, and it's a stunner. Down-tuned, weighty riffs and resonant, arse-vibrating basslines groove away over a whole ton of rhythmic variance across multiple time signatures, both laid back and frantic. There's abrasive dissonance and a thread of challenging melodic impulse within these heavy passages, which does lapse into cacophony at times, but in the most refined of ways, be it through the meticulously executed instrumentations or Lena's pitch-perfect growls. And all the discordance and aural chaos is sharply contrasted throughout the album with plenty of calm euphony, where she also gives her clean voice a good old workout, over passages of ambient and swirling keys, samples and other mellow instrumentations, which offer both light relief and beautified grace. The contrasts are sometimes sharp, jarring, and ever so fucking invigorating, but there are also some gentle transitions from heavy to mellow, and back again, where certain tracks feel like an amalgam of the ambient and the hard-hitting, in what can only be described as beautified brutality.

What also keeps 'Endorphin' interesting is all the quirky fretboard action that's brought to the table, to complement songs' polyrhythmic shifts. 'Lure' is a great example. Early parts of 'Taphephobia' (not a fear of the Welsh, apparently, but of being buried alive) do sound a tad like Butcher Babies (particularly a minute into the track), but this is a composition that transforms into something quite beautiful, complete with a wonderfully eccentric central motif where a semi-dissonant melody, while initially sounding at odds with the rest of the music, actually elevates it to a delightfully eccentric level of expression. There's what sounds like nifty use of an EBow (although I could be entirely wrong) at start of 'Walking Dead' for its captivatingly atmospheric intro. And so on. It’s evident these compositions have had a ton of TLC when being brought to life, through some ever-intriguing arrangements, fine performances, and Lena’s enticingly varied vocals that seem to change to match the mood and thematic shifts in her provocatively penned lyrics

Interestingly, the closing piece is the album's calmest, which has ironically been titled 'Storm'. The sonic storm has passed by the climax, and this final track offers a soothing aural cleanser. And what a journey it’s been. Infected Rain are what a modern metal band should sound like in the twenty first century. There are familiar handles and tried-and-tested genre idioms, but they're pushing these into refreshingly expressive directions that really are quite original, and without ever being too out there or merely progressive for progressive's sake. While sounding like a fusion of Sumo Cyco, Butcher Babies and The Agonist during some tracks, Infected Rain have, ultimately, forged their own path through a modern metal playground of innovation.
Napalm Records
Review by Mark Holmes
18th October 2019
1) The Earth Mantra
2) Black Gold
3) Symphony of Trust
4) Pendulum
5) Passerby
6) Lure
7) Victims
8) Walking Dead
9) Taphephobia
10) Storm
"...Infected Rain have, ultimately, forged their own path through a modern metal playground of innovation."