I:scintilla are a band that have been on my radar for a long while. Whilst I’ve followed and enjoyed their eclectic style, that’s heavily grounded in the realms of Industrial, I don’t see them getting much coverage over here in the UK. It’s something that I don’t understand, as they have a sound that I feel appeals to alternative music scenes.

Needless to say, their fourth studio album, Swayed, continues these themes that the Chicago, Illinois based band are known for. It’s also their first record in over eight years. This time round, they’ve decided to go for a bit more experimentation, stripping back on the programmed electronic aspects of their music, and adding a more organic touch to their sound.

A cavalcade of distorted guitars signals opener “Human”, as hammering drums build into a catchy Gothic rock number. It’s more traditional in feel, as if it could be a Sisters of Mercy track, but with a modern twist. “Carmena Saturna” is a more typical I:scintilla track. A somewhat haunting electronic melody is combined with gritty sounding guitar hooks . The structure is simple and pleasing, whilst Brittany Bindrim’s vocal performance is as strong as ever. It ends with a chaotic blanket of electro sounds. “Boxing Glove” is closest to their previous work. The slower pounding rhythm makes this a hard-hitter, with a gritty industrial edge, as if it were inside the heart of a machine. Dark synths create an creepy aura, whilst guitars create a great sounding groove. “Mercy Screams” is beautiful, as layers of keyboards and electronic soundscapes create a stupefying atmosphere. Moments of serenity are prominent throughout. “DFTD (Between The Devils)” kicks straight back into the harder sounds, pulling no punches. The riffs and drums have an undeniable catchiness, and there’s a great use of switching between rock and electronic elements. “Nothing But Recordings” is extremely eerie at times, and I imagine that if Trent Reznor and Akira Yamaoka got together to create a song, it would result in something like this. Captivating melodies within the track create a ghostly beauty. “Pieces” continues the ominous mood, starting off very minimal. A domineering, slightly out of tune piano note is repeated, backed by hushed drums. This soon bursts into a straightforward rock track. Electronic sounds and acoustic guitar make the intro to “Island” mysterious, before suddenly exploding into a metal-like riff. It constantly evolves around these elements, going through many different motions, making it memorable. “Seaglass” takes on a slower pace, adding to the atmosphere of the track. Piano and synths echo in the distance, and the slow rhythm creates sweeping sounds, feeling grandiose in scale. Title track “Swayed” closes the album, and is a tribal-esque epic that’s just under 11 minutes in length. The entire band literally throws everything they’ve got here, as the song transforms many times along the way before it’s done. One could perhaps argue it’s overblown in length, but it’s still great climax to the record, and is a fascinating journey in itself.

It’s great to see I:scintilla experiment with more organic elements, as these seem to really suit the tone of their style. Some may not be keen on the fact they haven’t pushed further with this, and even though I agree to some extent, I can see why they’ve held back. If they were to push too far, I feel that the essence of their core sound would be lost. The tracks presented on Swayed remain true to their sound whilst adding in something new and fresh at the same time. It’s an excellent match to the usual electronics/programming, making the album feel diverse in scope. They’re known for unconventional musical arrangements, making their songs a pleasing unpredictable journey of discovery. It’s one of the reasons that I got drawn into their music, and I find myself swayed once again.

Final Verdict: I:scintilla may have stripped back on the electronics/programming a bit, but they have held back on pushing it too far. This works in Swayed‘s favour, as it remains true to their core sound, whilst feeling fresh. An eclectic range of tracks, bound to please a diverse crowds.

Tracklist:

  1. Human
  2. Carmen Saturna
  3. Boxing Glove
  4. Mercy Screams
  5. DFTF (Between The Devils)
  6. Nothing But Recordings
  7. Pieces
  8. Island
  9. Seaglass
  10. Swayed
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