Iotunn - Access All Worlds review




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8.25
Band: Iotunn
Album: Access All Worlds
Release date: February 2021


01. Voyage Of The Garganey I
02. Access All Worlds
03. Laihem's Golden Pits
04. Waves Below
05. The Tower Of Cosmic Nihility
06. The Weaver System
07. Safe Across The Endless Night


Hamferð keeps invading progressive metal bands. It happened to Barren Earth, it happened to Iotunn. It could be your progressive metal band next. You've been warned!

Of course two cases is far too few to establish a pattern, but I needed something wacky for the attention grabber. And it's not Hamferð as much as just Hamferð's vocalist, Jón Aldará, admittedly one of my favorite vocalists. My first reaction when stumbling upon Iotunn was "Holy shit! Jon Aldara in a power metal band?!". That was a bit quelled when I did listen to Access All Worlds and surprise: it's not a power metal record. A look through the album's comment section shows that people also realized that. One listen to the band's debut EP and only other release, The Wizard Falls did clear up some waters as to why Iotunn were tagged as such, but even that one isn't that much of a power metal record. Benjamin Jensen's vocals were a bit more on the power metal spectrum, but he used harsh vocals on the album as well, so the jump isn't that big.

Don't jump ship yet, if you were excited for a Jón Aldará power metal record, for two reasons: there's still bits of power metal, but very very little; and second: why would you want a power metal record when you already have a progressive/melodeath record and it still has Jón Aldará? I will give you, right off the bat, the biggest red flag. There's been very few records where the production was as frustratingly bad as it is here. I do listen to a lot of stuff with "bad" production, but it's usually stuff that is either experimental or has a reduced budget. How the hell does a legendary producer like Fredrik Nordström, who has produced such albums as At The Gates's Slaughter Of The Soul, Opeth's Blackwater Park or Dark Tranquillity's The Gallery among a huge list of other classics, miss the mark so much? I generally don't mind what people call "the loudness wars", but Fredrik screwed the mix so bad that what could've been an amazing display of progressive songwriting and epic cosmic metal sounds like an annoying blob of crippled noises that resemble metal. What did Iotunn ever do to you?

Of course it's an exaggeration, but only because no album in recent memory frustrated me this badly with its production since Khôrada's Salt, ironically also done by a veteran producer. But that felt challenging. This feels... empty. It feels like keeping an ice cream that smells so good just out of arms reach. Because the twin guitar attack keeps pumping out grandiose melodies that somehow perfectly fill up the hourlong runtime without ever not feeling vital, by taking cues from power, death and black metal, and keeping the prog just within reach of how technically complex it is. Because Jon's vocals easily go from melodramatic cleans repurposed from doom metal, to throaty blackened shrieks to meaty growls, always soaring no matter the register. Because, with a progressive space metal that channels Borknagar, Arcturus, Scar Symmetry more than the Barren Earth I would've expected it to sound like given the Jon connection, it sounds like the sweeping kind that feels comfortable with its foot on the throttle. And I can't properly taste it because Fredrik decided to brick the goddamn master.

Production aside, this is an album where the songwriting and the performance clearly plays on its strengths. Adventurous in the right ways without pushing it, focusing more on finding the right cues for the right moments rather than experimenting for the sake of it. Very few albums can maintain this grandiose atmosphere without falling flat or feeling cheesy.



 



Written on 08.03.2021 by My opinion is objective, sorry if you don't agree, but you're wrong.


Comments

Comments: 13   Visited by: 159 users
09.03.2021 - 09:22
Enemy of Reality

I have to give this album a few more spins. Heard it like 3 or 4 times and i couldn't exactly understand why the hype around them. Yes they're technically good and all, but when the album ended i couldn't recall a more than a couple of riffs or vocal passages.
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09.03.2021 - 17:56
Bad English
Tage Westerlund
To good record to be prog and swallow it, in a future this might be bigger band and riverside or dream theater might open for them....
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09.03.2021 - 18:03
nikarg
Mod
I have listened to the album both with headphones and through speakers and, while it's not perfect, I don't find the mix so awful. If you are talking about it sounding compressed/brickwalled, half the albums that come out today are compressed af, aren't they?

Jón Aldará is indeed top-shelf vocalist.
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09.03.2021 - 18:22
RaduP
CertifiedHipster
Written by nikarg on 09.03.2021 at 18:03

I have listened to the album both with headphones and through speakers and, while it's not perfect, I don't find the mix so awful. If you are talking about it sounding compressed/brickwalled, half the albums that come out today are compressed af, aren't they?

Yeah, but it rarely bothered me as much as it does here.
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2021 goodies
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09.03.2021 - 20:44
nikarg
Mod
Written by RaduP on 09.03.2021 at 18:22

Yeah, but it rarely bothered me as much as it does here.

I'll listen again, maybe there is something I am not picking up. Normally, I am more bothered than you by the production of an album so this situation is a bit unusual.
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09.03.2021 - 20:57
JoHn DoE

Written by Bad English on 09.03.2021 at 17:56

To good record to be prog and swallow it, in a future this might be bigger band and riverside or dream theater might open for them....


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I thought the two primary purposes for the internet were cat memes and overreactions.
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09.03.2021 - 23:32
LordFezzington
Lost To Apathy
Had this on while I was working the other day. Very much enjoyed it - the songwriting is definitely interesting enough to not just be another melodeath album. Agree they manage to pull the atmosphere off for the whole record without it being silly.

Production wise it's true it's not the most dynamic; will certainly listen to it again - next time through headphones though.
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"Pay no heed to anyone and do what seems right to yourself." - Franz Kafka, The Trial
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10.03.2021 - 01:02
Dream Taster
The Enemy Within
One of my favourite albums of 2021 already. I found no fault with the production but it is a very personal perception after all, and I like how far you went with it.
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10.03.2021 - 09:41
fenchik

Best album with Soen so far..Love Jón Aldará voice!!!
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10.03.2021 - 12:44
gavdann

I'm not sure if it's the production or whether the mastering has crushed it but I certainly suffer with hearing fatigue after a few tracks which is nearly always a sign of brick walling. I can't even blame Spotify either as I've switched to TIDAL HiFi.

It's a shame really as it's a really good album, just a struggle to listen to in one sitting.
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10.03.2021 - 12:47
Nejde
Green Devil
For me there's nothing wrong with the mixing. You can distinguish all instruments and I think they nailed the cosmic sound. For me it's the singing that's bugging me. The growling fit the music perfectly, the clean singing not so much. That's just my opinion though. I still think Aldará is a great singer and it was a smart move to replace Benjamin Møller Jensen who sang on the The Wizards Fall EP. I personally could have done without the cleans and just stuck with the growls.
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15.03.2021 - 20:52
Tuonelan

Good performances and songwriting all around, but the production does end up sounding a bit crisp and fizzy as you say. Not sure it is Fredrik Nordström's fault, though. Listening to the cymbals and the guitars, it seems like the basic tracks may have been pushed to clipping even before Nordström got his hands on them to mix and master everything.
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Nie mój cyrk, nie moje małpy
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27.03.2021 - 09:20
tintinb

Within the confining contours of Progressive Melodic Death metal this band produces a sound quite unlike any other band which is mainly because of the wholesome singing prowess of the lead vocalist and the excellent guitar work. The sound may not have too much of recall value but after a few listens the nuances and other hidden elements come out making it an enthralling listen.
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