I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating: I have always had a deep appreciation for bands that don’t fit neatly into a single genre. That being said, it’s been a long time since I’ve heard an album that stopped me dead in my tracks and made me ask “what kind of fuckery is this?”
Enter Finish quartet Kairon; IRSE!, who definitely know a thing or two about bringing the what-the-fuckery. The promo for their new album Ruination caught my eye when it landed in my inbox partly because Gentle Giant is name-checked in the accompanying bio. I really like Gentle Giant, particularly Acquiring the Taste and Octopus, but no one ever name-checks them because even by 70’s prog-rock standards they were total weirdos due to their unconventional instrumentation (name a woodwind and it probably appeared in at least one of their songs) and complex vocal lines. And while I don’t know mow much of a Gentle Giant influence I actually hear in Kairon; IRSE!. I’m still really glad I gave this album a listen, because it brilliantly takes the elements that made classic progressive rock so engaging and updates them in such a way that they sound fresh again. Ruination manages to be retro-influenced without being derivative, which isn’t an easy thing to do.
If anything, there are a lot of moments on Ruination, particularly the opening track “Sinister Waters I,” that remind me of Peter Gabriel-era Genesis, which is some of my favorite music of all-time (seriously – I’ll fight anyone who doesn’t believe that “Return of the Giant Hogweed” is one of the greatest songs ever written), but their influences aren’t strictly limited to classic prog. There are also times where they sound a little like spaced-out stoner rock outfit Comet Control, especially on the delightfully hazy “Llullaillaco,” and it even sounds like there’s a touch of influence from 90’s shoegaze bands like Lush and Spiritualized on “Porphyrogennetos.” The band covers a lot of ground stylistically, but the one constant throughout the album is the giant, fuzzed-out bass tone that that anchors each of the album’s six tracks. Regardless of how out there some of the tracks get—like the mellotron and saxophone free-jazz freak-out sections in “Starik”—the bass is almost always right there beneath the cacophony, keeping things from spinning too far out of control.
In the end, Kairon; IRSE! might not be the most metal album you’re likely to hear this year—in fact, I’m hesitant to call it metal at all—but anyone who likes the direction Opeth has taken on their last few records and wants to dive a little deeper into prog-rock, Ruination would be an excellent place to start. Anyone into unpredictable, challenging music will find a lot to like here as well.