REVIEW: Invent Animate – Heavener [2023]

Artist: Invent Animate
Album: Heavener

When it comes to the relatively niche world of progressive metalcore, Invent Animate need no real introduction. Since their debut full length release Everchanger, the band have become synonymous with the genre with their technical, groovy, heavy-but-also-really-pretty brand touching on just about every aspect thereof. Their unique, influential style has stood the test of time, now practically a decade old and still going strong through lineup changes, record label changes and…well, a global pandemic. Now, with the release of Heavener, the group’s fourth full length album, the question rises; are we just getting another Invent Animate record (as though that’s a bad thing), or are we getting something more? The answer is almost definitely the latter, as while Heavener definitely features the hallmarks of Invent Animate’s well-established and time-honored dynamic, there’s so much more to be heard, A stunning arrangements of jarring breakdowns and dissonant grooves in stark juxtaposition against somber harmonies laden with melancholic singing infused with a focus on building catchy, ear worm choruses and balancing the band’s bold, aggressive tendencies with ethereality, Heavener isn’t your grandpa’s Invent Animate, to say the least. The only question left to ask thereafter is, with the band’s first—albeit minor—deviation from their tried-and-true approach to date, how does Heavener stack up?
Heavener, off the bat, strikes the listener as album with a much more pronounced melodic side, spending a fair portion of its runtime oscillating between ambience and energetic, driving choruses that divide Invent Animate’s unmistakable style of stuttering, sinister breakdown. Songs like “Without a Whisper” and the sullen, softly crooned “Reverie” are the two strongest examples of this, highlighting crystal-clear fretwork layered over minimalist percussion and a bouncy, smooth bass. While “Reverie” maintains its melancholic nature throughout, serving as almost a type of interlude, “Without a Whisper” builds throughout the track, with the melody-driven verses and catchy chorus slowly stacking up to an explosive, cacophonous end where ever so slight layers of dissonance from the band’s guitar create a lasting impression out of a track with an otherwise innocuous beginning. On paper, it’s the band’s “softest” release to date—but that doesn’t mean they don’t still pack one hell of a punch. This is evident in single “Immolation of Night” or “Shade Astray,” which serve the band’s signature, angular riffs and mind-bending breakdowns up on a silver platter. Other songs, like the groovy, crunchy “Labyrinthine” or the penultimate cut “Emberglow” continue this trend, with percussion roaring along at a mach-speed candor while a densely layered bass adds a world-thumping heft to the kick drum and contrasts against a bright snare and splashy cymbals. Songs like “Emberglow” or “Void Surfacing” are where Invent Animate spend much of their time on Heavener—not their lightest, nor their heaviest, but somewhere gyrating in the middle of the two, taking anthemic choruses and weaving them into a firmament of the same raunchy, precise heaviness we’ve seen them craft for nigh on a decade now.
With a renewed focus on the chorus and crafting vocal bridges and harmonies that stay wedged in the listener’s head, it should come as no surprise that Invent Animate’s vocal element on Heavener is…well, Heaven, if you believe in that kind of thing. Without sounding cliche to the metalcore of the 2010’s, Invent Animate have provided us a master’s course in the delivery of the “heavy/soft” dynamic, with songs like “Shade Astray” or “Void Surfacing” delivering verses with grisly, harsh screams and bellows that sandwich choruses beautifully sung (with a tasteful degree of pitched screaming to boot). This isn’t necessarily anything new from Invent Animate, but it does see the band’s relatively new frontman Marcus Vik truly come into his own, compared to a delivery on Greyview that saw him—and the band—still heavily favoring a dynamic that spent much more of its time screaming than singing. Another unexpected benefit of the band’s shift in vocal ratio is that Invent Animate’s lyrics truly shine on Heavener—which isn’t really surprising, as they’ve always had solid lyrics, but on songs like “Reverie” or “Purity Weeps,” they become one of the band’s biggest selling points—which when compared to their immense fretwork, vocal variety and stunning percussion, hasn’t always been the case.
This might be an unpopular opinion, but Heavener feels like the first time Invent Animate have tried anything measurably different in several releases—if not ever. Largely, the album is a success, and with songs like “Shade Astray,” “Void Surfacing” and “Emberglow” it really isn’t a surprise. If anything, Invent Animate are victims to their own immense success, as Heavener only stutters in the context of their own discography, but overall remains an incredibly strong listening experience in its own right. The takeaway? Invent Animate remain at the top of the progressive metalcore food chain, and Heavener opens up a huge number of new directions for the band to expand into next.

For Fans Of: Sentinels, Erra, Silent Planet, Northlane
By: Connor Welsh