Now You Know: Immortal Bird

Tuesday, 28th January 2014

Formation: 2013
Location: Chicago, IL (USA)
Style: Black/death/thrash; a mixture best just described as extreme.
Personnel: Rae Amitay (Vocals/Drums); Evan Anderson Barry (Guitars); John Picillo (Bass)
Latest Release: Akrasia (Closed Casket Recordings)

Immortal Bird’s Akrasia, their debut EP, brought in the end of 2013 on a particularly high note. The band’s name has origins in places that the average listener may not expect. Vocalist/drummer Rae Amitay states, “I am hugely into David Tibet’s experimental neofolk group, Current 93. The album Sleep Has His House is one that has influenced me a great deal, and contains the song ‘Immortal Bird,’ which I fell in love with the first time I heard it. The lyrics were, for lack of better words, fucking incredible to me. A few people have asked if our name is from the Keats poem, Ode to a Nightingale (‘Thou wast not born for death, immortal bird!’) That crossed my mind when I was deciding on the name, but our name is not a direct reference. I see it as more of an added bonus, since it’s an exceptional poem.”

The band’s blend of extreme metal genres is tough to describe, though Amitay mentions “The overall feeling is definitely vicious and raw without being haphazard. There’s a lot of buzzing riffs and blast beats, but it’s all pretty damn deliberate. During the writing process, it’s sort of in the back of my mind that I want to be noisy and aggressive, but not simply making a bunch of noise for the sake of being abrasive.”

With this slurry of black metal, thrash, and death metal, the uniqueness of Immortal Bird’s sound extends from their songwriting process, of which Amitay describes as “Definitely a bit strange, but it seems to work really well for us. I try to write as many riffs as I can on my five-string bass, and Evan fleshes them out on guitar into more complex arrangements. Once the general structure is established, the bass lines are written underneath. Some writing sessions yield close to an entire song, other times we might walk away with just a snippet. We’re still such a young band in terms of how long we’ve been collaborating, I don’t think we’ve established any ‘tried and true’ method quite yet.”

Continuing with extreme nature of Akrasia, the lyrics also provide a visceral treat as well. “The lyrics are focused on past incidents of akrasia, and the mix of emotions that accompanied them. There’s a lot of darkness, festering resentment, self-loathing, aggression…all that fun stuff” says Amitay.

One aspect of Akrasia that immediately reels you in is the unique cover art with two birds and a severed hand, depicted by artist Kikyz1313. “She’s phenomenal at creating these beautifully delicate pieces that are also exceptionally grotesque. I love her work, and when I saw ‘Candy Bird’ (that’s what the piece is called) I wanted it for us. It’s a gruesome visual without being blatantly gory, and it provokes a lot of questions. And of course, it incorporates birds.”

On whether the piece relates to the adage, “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush,” Amity replies: “I’m not sure if that adage was going through her head when she created it, but it went through mine. It kind of connects with the concept of akrasia, which is acting against one’s better judgment, or out of accordance with previously held values. I’m probably somewhat butchering the interpretation, but to me, “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush” kind of means that it’s better to have immediate access to something lesser than to take a risk on something better, whose attainability is uncertain. A lot of akratic behavior stems from impulsively deciding to go for the perceived ‘better’ thing by forsaking the thing that is viewed as ‘lesser.'”

Akrasia was mixed by Converge’s Kurt Ballou, which she admits, “I’ve been a massive fan of Converge for more than half of my life. I’m into a number of the bands he’s worked with, and to me, he’s an ever-evolving virtuoso of his craft. He’s so tasteful, and the albums he’s produced speak for themselves. I wanted Immortal Bird’s first release to be as strong as possible, so I asked him if he’d take us on. He said ‘yes,’ and the rest is history.”

With members involved in multiple bands (Thrawsunblat, Wilderun, and Replacire for starters), the question of Immortal Bird’s full-time status could be called into question. “We’re all in more than one band, but I consider Immortal Bird to be ‘full-fledged” in the sense that there is, at least thus far, consistent writing, rehearsing, and performing. I sort of view side projects as being more focused on sporadic recording and the occasional show, and no one in the band sees Immortal Bird that way. I feel really lucky to have people involved with this group who have the ability and desire to focus a lot of their energy and creativity on Immortal Bird, in addition to their other musical pursuits,” answers Amitay.

With Akrasia’s release now in the rear-view, what can we look forward to next from Immortal Bird?

“We’re focused on keeping the momentum going, by writing new material and touring as much as possible,” says Amitay. “We’re not sure yet if we’ll do a full length or go with another EP the second time around. But we’re staying busy.”

Speaking of busy, the band recently announced a 10-date east coast tour set to begin at the end of February. “It should be a lot of fun,” Amitay concludes. “We’re sharing the stage with a bunch of great bands along the way, including Occultist, Mortals, East of the Wall, and Obsidian Tongue. For updates on these, check out our Facebook!”

Immortal Bird tour dates:
2/28 Columbus, OH – Ace of Cups
3/1 Virginia Beach, VA – Roger’s Bar (w/ Occultist)
3/2 Richmond, VA – Strange Matter (w/ Occultist)
3/3 York, PA – The Depot (w/ East of the Wall and Diamond Plate)
3/4 Baltimore, MD – House Show TBA
3/5 Brooklyn, NY – The Acheron (w/ Mortals)
3/6 Worcester, MA – Ralph’s (w/ Obsidian Tongue)
3/7 Wallingford, CT – Cherry St. Station
3/8 Pittsburgh, PA – The Smiling Moose
3/9 Cleveland, OH – Now That’s Class
3/7 Wallingford, CT – Cherry St. Station
3/8 Pittsburgh, PA – The Smiling Moose
3/9 Cleveland, OH – Now That’s Class