Artist: I AM
Album: Life Through Torment
There are days where you wake up and even taking a breath seems like a chore. Your will to function is crippled—let alone your will to perform at a level you need to earn that bi-weekly paycheck or please your loved ones. There’s a chain around your neck, bending it down and stretching it out, giving life’s guillotine a large target.
Life isn’t easy—you know it, and Texan ultra-heavyweights I AM know it.
With their debut full-length, Life Through Torment, this crushing quartet remove whatever senses of subtlety that might have been holding them back as they obliterate the listener with a collection of infernal, aggressive and intelligently crafted songs that take a backbone comprised of traditional metalcore and heavy hardcore and infuse it with the neurological inner-workings of a veteran death metal act—creating a slam-tinted, fist-swinging, violence-inducing display of devastating heaviness that overcomes simple genre conventions just as strongly as I AM overcome the works of their peers.
I AM continue in the goliath steps that Memento Mori took create a unique sound found somewhere at the crossroads of heavy hardcore and hellacious death metal. Life Through Torment is a visceral maelstrom of pulverizing, powerful violence—directed at everything within swinging range, whether it’s someone they hold dear or hate beyond measure. Built on a foundation of Ian Scott’s immense percussion, once Life Through Torment kicks off it doesn’t stop or slow down for anyone. Scott is a juggernaut, leading the charge on the steady, churning introductory track, “Life Through Torment” and only getting more and more intense as the minutes add up. By the time he reaches the climactic, neck-cracking apex to “C.O.S.L.,” the listener may as well be little more than ground-up bone and blood stains on the pavement where they stood—as Scott’s drumming yields pretty much the same effect as cramming two grenades into your ears and letting the fuses run down. Scott’s drumming—while raunchy and relentless in its own right, is made even more intense by the thickness and density added by bassist Austin Loughmiller. Songs like “Sacred Cries” and “Worndead” see Loughmiller’s bass adding thick, gritty punch to every kick drum hit, expertly contrasting Scott’s snappy, cracking snare. Together, the duo establish a dense and devastating low end that guitarists Jayson Braffett and Tom Reyes work create absolutely immense riffs and skin-splitting, bone-grinding, organ-melting slams atop. “C.O.S.L.” And “Stones” see the duo combining their penchant for low, gritty death-metal styled riffing with gargantuan grooves and beastly breakdowns—while the final track, “Forgive Me,” is a sucker-punch straight to the face. Even after nine other tracks of raw aggression, “Forgive Me” hits like a freight train, with Braffett and Reyes’ fretwork weaving in and out of Loughmiller’s lurid, snappy bass tone, creating catchy, two-steppy segments that drop into dastardly moments of devastation that have no equal.
Life Through Torment is, instrumentally, monstrous. The drums are big and explosive, while the riffs are jarring and driving while still maintaining a gloomy and dreary feel to them. With such soaring, huge instrumentation, it’s only fitting that I AM’s vocals are peerless to boot. Frontman Andrew Hileman, since the band’s debut, has made a name not just for himself, but for his band of Texan miscretins as well—as Hileman’s vocals are one of (if not the) defining feature of I AM’s unique sound. Gritty and hefty, Hileman is the voice of all Hell screaming in unison. While “Forgive Me” captures tortured, lamenting desperation perfectly, “Worndead” and “C.O.S.L.” Are crushing displays of raw, visceral and—frankly—pissed off power. Hileman’s low growls are ferocious enough to make the listener fear for themselves, while his painful, searing yells might make the listener think that they’re already dead and roaming the underbelly of Hell itself. Where his work on I AM’s previous EP—as well as his several notable guest appearances on EPs like Rejection//Dejection (one of 2016’s best) and The Hand that Feeds (one of 2015’s best, are you seeing the pattern?) were incredible, this is something new and peerless from one of heavy music’s most distinct frontmen.
It’s tough to pick a word (or even a sentence) that truly captures what Life Through Torment is really like. On one hand, power fits the bill nicely: I AM are a juggernaut, stopping at nothing to crush the listener. On the other hand, dark or dismal fit well—as the riffs and anthemic, doom-tinted moments of heavy hardcore and death metal mastery throughout the album are just that—bleak, bitter and darker than night. Finally, there’s a theme that many bands (especially Texan bands) touch on, but few have a true command over: violence. And where some bands maintain a façade of violence, I AM create it with every note, chug, slam, riff and syllable screamed. I AM is a tidal wave of suffocating, sinister violence—the kind that won’t kill you, but will make you suffer through every excruciating second you spend in this realm of existence.
For Fans Of: Mara, Deity, Wicked World, Advocate, Sunlight’s Bane
By: Connor Welsh