I admit it, I fucked up. When Irk contacted me during the summer of last year about reviewing their Bread and Honey EP, I was thoroughly impressed with their noise rock assault and told the band that I’d be all about giving it a write-up. But as I continued to drown in a never-ending flood of new music in the ensuing weeks and months, I got in over my head, and as a result the promised review never materialized. So when the band graciously contacted me again regarding their split with fellow UK noise-makers Wren, I immediately felt like total crap when I realized I had allowed their previous release to slip through my fingers.
Fortunately, the band was willing to give me a second chance and I’m glad they did, because the Leeds-based trio has one hell of a nasty split on their hands here. Irk kicks things off with a pummeling four song salvo that moves from strength to strength and leaves you feeling completely pulverized. The trio writes tension-filled, off-kilter tracks that recall the likes of The Jesus Lizard and Unsane, beating you down and creeping you the fuck out at the same time. The fact that they sport brilliant titles such as “You Sound Like My Ex-Wife” and “Life Pervert” is icing on the cake.
Irk brings a level of intensity to the table that often pushes into the red, but the band also knows when to reel things in and let that aforementioned creepy atmosphere take hold. It is this sense of dynamics that makes Irk’s half of the split such an enjoyable listen, especially when combined with the fact that they know how to craft material that’s as infectious as it is filthy. You wouldn’t expect these songs to get stuck in your head, but somehow they burrow their way in like sonic tapeworms (they don’t just get in your intestines, look it up).
Just about the time Irk is through bashing your brains in, along comes Wren to finish the job. Those of you that read THKD on the regular know that post-metal isn’t really my bag, but Wren’s ultra-heavy and surprisingly dynamic take on the genre is a damn fine one in my book. Indeed, the band’s lumbering, dissonant tracks bring an ugliness to the subgenre that’s right up my alley; think Isis circa Celestial but slightly darker and heavier w/ maybe just a hint of Red Sparowes style post rock lurking in the mix and you’re partway there.
Whereas Irk’s sound is extremely visceral, Wren’s is more controlled, a suffocating wall of sound that’s easy to become lost in. The three songs on Wren’s side of the split do a convincing job of dragging you into their world, crushing the listener under waves of despondence. These guys really know how to pile on the heavy and do just enough to stand out from the legions of bands that have embraced this style.
Overall this is a superb split release. I have to give the slight edge to Irk, but that’s due to my bias towards noise rock; fans of everything from Neurosis to Morne and Agrimonia will no doubt eat up Wren’s side. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not meant to be a competition, but rather a great way to discover two up-and-coming bands at an affordable price, and in this respect the split thoroughly succeeds. Expect big things in the future from both groups.