Review: IIVII —Invasion


The soundtrack to a sci-fi film so creepy it doesn’t even exist.

Firstly, let us dispel the mystery of the name. IIVII is not pronounced “One One Five One One.” Nor is it pronounced “Two Five Two”. Nor “One Four Two.” I could go on like this forever, but suffice it to say that the Roman numerals in the band’s name are not roman numerals. No, IIVII is pronounced “Ivy”. Why? I don’t know. Ask Josh Graham of Red Sparrows and Battle of Mice fame. He’s the mind behind the project. (Probable answer: “Because it’s the future, that’s why.”)

Secondly, let me say that IIVII’s second album, Invasion, could not have come across my desk at a better time. I’ve recently begun to dip my toes into the deep dark pool that is darksynth. An expert like our very own Decapitron (or pretty much any other human being) would be better suited to say whether IIVII qualifies as a darksynth project or not, but to these ears it draws most of its moods and textures from the same pool. Invasion is dark. Invasion is synthy. Invasion is the culmination of every technophobic nightmare ever spewed out by everyone’s favorite arbitrarily designated ten-year span of history—The ’80s. It sounds like the score to a sci-fi film or videogame, and indeed was composed with an imaginary film about alien invasion in mind. Where Invasion differs from most of the darksynth I’ve dabbled in is that it puts far more weight on atmosphere. Most darksynth is a slave to the Beat, and as such imminently danceable. And while you could surely dance to some of the tracks here, you’re more likely to retreat to your nuke-proof bunker to cram non-perishable foodstuffs into your facehole while cowering in abject fear. Invasion is all about the teeth-grinding, nail-biting, pulse-pounding dread. It’s all about the synaesthetic experience of inducing intense visuals using sound alone. And if anyone had ever bothered to make this film, it might have been the most unsettling sci-fi experience ever.

Scene 1, “We Came Here from a Dying World”, might have gone something like this: Outer Space. Sunlight breaking over the curvature of a beautiful and doomed Earth. A shadow falls over the day as something obstructs the Sun. Humanity turns its eyes skyward to witness the arrival of an alien ship. It hovers in low orbit, a still and silent menace. The end is certain.

In Scene 2, “Unclouded by Conscious”, NASA might have sent a vessel to make contact with the alien megalith. Brave astronauts with fear-glazed eyes watch the ship through portals as they make their approach. The ship sends a signal to their vessel. The signal contains a computer virus which reprograms the vessel’s AI to recognize all biological matter as a deadly threat. The AI opens the airlocks, voiding the astronauts into Space. Their demise is captured on camera and broadcast live around the world.

Scene 3, “Hidden Inside”: Humans of every nation lock themselves in their homes or offices and tremble together in speechless terror. The alien megalith enters Earth’s atmosphere, usurping an ever greater portion of the sky in its protracted descent.

Scene 4, “No More Enemies”: Innumerable smaller vessels swarm away from the alien mothership like some biblical plague that didn’t make the final cut. Their mission: infect all human technology with the same anti-life imperative. Human AI takes control of all electronic devices via wifi; the devices turn on their designers; massive bloodshed ensues. (Plot point possibly stolen from inspired by Maximum Overdrive; lawsuit pending.)

“Tomorrow You’ll Be One of Us” and “Painless”, Scenes 5 & 6 respectively: A solid seven minutes and ten seconds of human executions via machine, played out in grueling slow-motion.

Scene 7, “We Live”: Slow tracking shot in on a dead child lying atop a pyramid of corpses; extreme closeup of the child’s sightless eye. Reflected in the eye’s surface: the emotionless visage of an alien invader gazing down upon its work. Shot duration: 5:04.

Scene 8, “You Die”: Montage of the aliens dismantling everything humanity has built, recycling the raw materials in order to erect a new civilization in their own image.

Final Scene, “Sanctuary”: Single shot of Earth from Outer Space as a dispassionate Sun disappears, plunging the world into a brand new night.

You’ll notice that this film does not abide by any pithy three-act structure. No first- or second- or third-act turning point. No climax, no resolution. It does not build characters or develop themes. There is no subtext; no clever dialectical interplay between one shot and the next. Its story arc is a straight line. It doesn’t give a toss about your feelings, your expectation or how much money and time you invested in it. If you feel cheated, betrayed or degraded—well, reread the tagline, you fools. WE LIVE. YOU DIE.

The Invasion begins June 23rd, courtesy of Consouling Sounds. Pre-order the vinyl, CD and other merch here.

IIVII bandcamp

IIVII facebook

(Video for “You Die” courtesy of Terrorizer.)

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