Full disclosure – when I saw that this band is fronted by the singer of Barren Earth and Hamferð, I got quite excited and it immediately made me hungry to listen to their album. The man has one of my favourite voices in metal, and on Access All Worlds, he puts it to damn fine use.
This is powerful progressive metal, crafted by a band that aren’t afraid to combine their influences and play around with them. Across the 62 minutes of material we are gifted with on Access All Worlds the band play a wide-ranging hyper-competent brand of progressive metal. A mixture of styles, from power metal to death metal can be heard, with elements of modern progressive black metal thrown in here and there too. Other band reference points, besides Barren Earth, would be for groups such as Enslaved, Dark Tranquillity, Opeth, Borknagar, In Vain, Insomnium, Ne Obliviscaris, etc. There’s even touches of Amon Amarth, Green Carnation, and Nightwish to be heard in places, at least to my ears.
The album boasts a strong selection of songs, and the writing is first-rate. Upon initial listens you’re struck by any number of attention-grabbing things – a colourful melody here, a vocal refrain there – and on repeated spins these obvious highlights are only reinforced. The music is more than just these standout parts though, and the more you get to know this album, the more impressive, enjoyable, and satisfying it reveals itself to be. The songwriting here emphasises the whole experience, and it sounds like everything has been considered.
The songs demonstrate good breadth of delivery, from blasting aggression to atmospheric immersion, with thick grooving riffs one moment, emotive melodic workouts the next, and more besides. The music may be epic in nature and offer the listener a cosmic, out-of-this-world journey, but there are still moments of intimacy and warmth to be had. It would be tempting to lay all of the credit for this with Iotunn’s singer, but in reality this is a more textured work than that, despite the singer’s prodigious talents.
The vocals largely alternate between deep growls and those massive, infectious cleans of the band’s skilled singer. The former are devastatingly effective, and the latter filled with rich emotion. The vocal performance is more varied than that though, with a few different styles appearing over the course of the album.
This is a larger-than-life release that sounds huge and delivers songs that will knock you down with their impact and presence. So far, so surface. However, what sets Iotunn apart is their songwriting skills that have allowed them to craft an album that’s predicated on quality and longevity. Access All Worlds is a triumph, and I heartily recommend spending much time with it.