Invent Animate have always been missing something. They’ve always been one of the most consistent and strongest bands in their respective scene, but for whatever reason, they have never failed to fly under the radar. Their music has phenomenal shelf life, but at times, it can lack memorability. It’s an odd scenario to be in, as ‘Stillworld’ is one of my favorite metalcore albums whenever I hear it, but I almost never feel enticed to go back to it. This issue carried over on into 2020’s ‘Greyview’, their first album to feature new vocalist Marcus Vik. In many ways, the album was a step in the right direction and Vik’s chemistry with the band was phenomenal- but yet again, for as much as I enjoy the album, I struggled to return to it.
However, things took a change with their 2021 EP ‘The Sun Sleeps, As If It Never Was’. The EP was symbolic of a new era for the band, having dropped the comma from their name alongside its release and dropping the three tracks as one interconnected collective body of work. These two songs (and interlude) were the best tracks Invent Animate had ever released- and that replayability problem? It was gone. Not only did the EP go on to be one of my most played and favorite releases of the year, but it seemed like the band were finally getting the attention one would have expected of them years prior within the scene.
So what changed? They started writing their songs around Marcus’ vocal hooks, something they hadn’t previously done on ‘Greyview’.
Every song on ‘Heavener’ is easily recallable after just a few listens purely bc of his vocal hooks and how the instrumentation compliments them. The lead single “Shade Astray” is perhaps the perfect example of this- with a mesmerizing clean chorus synced with thall-esque guitars that is not only endlessly catchy but also equally satisfying. The hook in this song is unforgettable, but not because of strictly the vocal hook, but how the instrumentation and vocals compliment each other to craft the hook.
Not only did this stick with me, but it caught on within the entire metalcore community. There’s been a lot of anticipation for the album, and ‘Heavener’ is the extremely rare metalcore album that actually deserves every bit of the hype it’s given.
The passion on display throughout the album’s runtime is remarkable- noticeable in not only Vik’s incredible vocal performance, but in every aspect of the instrumentation and lyricism as well. From the riveting carnage of “Purity Weeps” to the immersive ambiance of “Emberglow”, You can tell that every song genuinely means something to the band- and it’s mesmerizing.
Invent are no strangers to dealing with the reality of death and the fleetingness of life in their music, but there’s a previously untouched element of self-acceptance throughout the way these topics are discussed on ‘Heavener’– dealt with more introspectively than ever before. This culminates in the album closer “Elysium”, which details Vik’s acceptance of his suppressed grief 12 years after the death of his grandfather. “Not used to letting go and it’s harder now/Left to feel alone but I still feel your ghost/Can I let it go?/Was I lost somehow?/Never felt your love when my eyes were shut”
Backed by a steady groove that wouldn’t feel out of place on Thornhill’s latest record, “Without A Whisper” tackles guitarist Keaton Goldwire’s struggle to confront the loss of his grandmother and hoping she’s in heaven despite his unbelief that “heaven” exists. “Are you going away to the place we used to dream of?/Radiance and grace, the only warmth I knew/I know I’ve been there before with you /Now you’re fading from me”. It’s a melancholic cut that’s led beautifully by Vik, who pours out his soul into his performance, highlighting his range and personal connection to the track.
As its title and aforementioned themes suggest, ‘Heavener’ in many ways could be described as a spiritual experience- backed by an ethereal sonic landscape and lush atmospherics throughout. The lone ballad “Reverie” embodies this spiritual feeling, standing out beautifully with a minimalistic approach highlighting Vik’s falsetto. The track has more in common with something you might expect to hear from The Weeknd or Post Malone, but it fits extremely well, flowing perfectly in continuation to and from the album’s heaviest tracks, “False Meridian” and “Immolation of Night”.
The weight of the album’s subject matter is felt strongly in the instrumentation of these two tracks, with devastating Meshuggah-inspired riffs and intense drum fills that ascend the record to new heights with each passing second. The two tracks also detail a journey of self-acceptance during a battle with ones self, with the former grappling with past trauma and the latter concluding that the trauma has only made them stronger and shaped the best parts of who they are. This moment of positivity in “Immolation of Night” is powerful, and only adds to the weight of the tracks. “The only peace I havе found is in stillness, the only strength in my weakness/I never invited the waves, but they have made me into something more/I am enough/I am whole/I am enough.”
‘Heavener’ is a career-defining album for Invent Animate. Intricate both musically and lyrically, the record feels like a genuine passion project and its creation was a real outlet of catharsis for the band. It’s one of the most well-produced metalcore records out right now, which is made even more impressive when you realize that the record is self-produced (with some added help in Landon Tewers of The Plot In You). Invent Animate found what they were missing, and it sounds like Heaven.