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Ihlo - Union Award winner

by Dave "That Metal Guy" Campbell at 15 May 2019, 2:21 AM

From their Facebook page, IHLO is “a UK based metal band with Progressive and Electronic influences. Groovy, highly melodic and full of emotion.” “Union” is the band’s debut album, and contains seven tracks. The title track “Union” leads us off. Some guitar notes ring out like bells, until the main riff slams in hard, with electronica dancing in the background. Robison’s vocals are perfect for the music…smooth and gentle. There is a darkness that permeates the sound, but also there is hope. The main riff chugs away, holding down the bottom of the track. It reminds me a bit of DREAM THEATER but their own unique chord structures. The production is absolutely stellar and everything is clean and clear. Connor Mackie provides the guitar solo here.

“Reanimate” was one of the first singles released. It’s smooth and easy on the ears at first, then attacks with a Djenty rhythm and some aggressiveness in the guitars. Robison goes very high in the register here, and with ease. The keyboards provide an edge to the sound here that is hard to define. An uneasy feeling keeps growing throughout. “Starseeker” has a tougher sound out of the gates, then relaxes a bit in the verses, becoming pensive and ambient. The chorus is full and rich, and these opposites are what the band does so well. It comes to a crescendo at the end, gathering full forces. “Hollow” opens with smooth and mellow guitar parts, thick with reverb. The vocals ease in slowly. Hollow is defined as “empty,” or “hallowed out.” That is exactly the feeling you get with this sound. Some light electronica dances in the background but this song is all about the atmosphere. That is, until Robinson goes for broke with gut-wrenching wails.

“Triumph” has a very positive sound from some unique chord progressions that just work. The melody is laid out here unabashedly for you to enjoy. Guitars and keys work together in unison, sometimes in complete synergy and other times in supporting roles, bouncing back off of one another while the song moves forward. It wanes towards the end, like a car running out of gas, and just disappears. “Parhelion” was the other single released ahead of the album. This song swings with a groovy feeling, from the hard edged guitar riff and the keys swinging above them. It has a poignant sound, thick with emotions. The guitar and bass chug away with a catchy cadence, while the keys take some lead moments that are truly special. Just after the half-way mark, it drops to an ambient sound, before returning triumphantly, culminating with Robinson’s emotional vocal peak. This song is absolutely fantastic!

“Coalescence” closes the album, opening with clean guitars and some dark overtones that turn bright at times. This is the longest song on the album, at over fifteen minutes in length, and takes some time to develop. It has beautiful atmosphere along the way, with some accents here and there, but reminds me of being half awake, wondering if the dream I am in is real or not. At times the sound is menacing, like a dog gone rabid. Other times it is absolutely dreamy in its delivery. What a masterpiece of a closing song.

Overall, this was a fantastic listening experience. The album was not a concept album per se, but I can’t help the feeling that it was connected somehow, and linear in approach, especially considering the culminating final track, “Coalescence.” “Union” is a fitting title for exactly that; “something with shared interests or cause.” First of all, let’s talk about the brilliant vocal performance of Andy Robison. He can be so smooth and gentle, but when he lets loose, he can shatter glass. Musically the guitars, keys, bass and drums work so well together; it’s like watching a well-oiled machine do tasks that a human could do in a tenth of the time. “Union” is a journey, for me through self-doubt, self-deprecation and rejoice and rebirth. Don’t let this one slip away from you.

Songwriting: 10
Originality: 10
Memorability: 10
Production: 9

5 Star Rating

1. Union
2. Reanimate
3. Starseeker
4. Hollow
5. Triumph
6. Parhelion
6. Coalescence
Andy Robison – Vocals, Keys, Sound Design
Phil Monro – Guitars, Production
Clark McMenemy – Drums
Record Label: Independent


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Edited 11 November 2019

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