Review: Infection Code – Alea lacta Est

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Our newest contributor, Murad, has some opinions on the new Infection Code in their first feature here. Check out the review and welcome them to the bowl.

Of all the 193 or so countries on Earth, the southeastern, Mediterranean boot of Europe, Italy, does not immediately come to mind as a nation that would be haven for extreme metal and other underground genres. Sure, it has had its periods of mayhem and malevolence throughout history, from the Roman Empire(does ‘’The Lion’s Den’’ ring a bell?) to giallo, but talk to the average, semi-informed listener, and musically speaking, they’ll associate Italy with Vivaldi and the accordion long before extreme metal. But, contrary to such surface-level thinking, Italy has been home to a truly vibrant, flourishing metal scene in the past decades, arguably more so than any other country in Europe. The colorful characters and bands that have inhabited the Italian metal scene belong to an incredibly diverse array of subgenres and stylistic choices, but one common thread seems to be a sense of ambition, technical proficiency, and dare say it, experimentalism, characteristics that unite bands as far-flung as the pummeling, Gorguts-ian
dissonance of Ad Nauseam to the more polished, symphonic sound of bands like Fleshgod Apocalypse. Thus, for nearly any band emerging from the burgeoning Italian scene, the standards are set sky-high. Unfortunately, on Alea lacta Est, the newest release from the Piedmontese group Infection Code, these standards are simply not met.

Despite having had the “avant-garde”’ appellation used to describe their sound, very little of the music on Alea lacta Est does anything to explore the vast, potentially limitless frontiers of extreme metal. Indeed, the farthest that the band pushes into experimental territory is the incorporation of some industrial elements and shouted, Mustaine-esque vocals that sometimes provide a medium-pitched counterpoint to the harsh vocals provided by vocalist Gabriele Oltracqua, who rarely ventures beyond a torpid mid-range rasp, with little variation in frequency, timbre, or inflection. Indeed, such repetitiousness and homogeneity is a characteristic of nearly all aspects of this album, not just the vocals. The guitar work on Alea lacta Es is pitifully drab, with the guitarists (Davide, Macha, and Demetrio Scopelliti) churning out one uninspired, dissonant chugging riff after another, in a manner akin to Meshuggah if they took a heavy dose of valium. What’s particularly notable is how the guitarists seem to almost entirely avoid the higher strings of the guitar, as if they were coated in electrified wire. Flashes of somewhat interesting, higher-pitched(relatively speaking) tremolo riffage appear in some of the later tracks on the album, such as “Deforming the Future,” easily the highlight of an album that utterly lacks them, but they are just that: flashes in a sea of homogeneous, repetitive chugging that seldom seems to deviate from track to track. The drum work is similarly uninspired, and, as is certainly not the case with almost any entertaining metal album that I’ve ever listened to before, it’s difficult to recall any interesting or captivating drum beats, fills, patterns, time-signature switch-ups, or other aspects of the percussive instrument that appear on the record, if they’re even present in the first place. Not much more can be said for the bass performance here, courtesy of Enrico Cerrato, who mainly doubles the riffs played by the guitarist rather than providing any engrossing counterpoint or fills.

Moreover, the compositional skills displayed by the band on this album are, simply put, weak. Each of the nine tracks on Alea lacta Est are utterly lacking in peaks and valleys, buildups and climaxes, dynamic and stylistic shifts, or any of the trademark features of any gripping musical work. Indeed, the music is so uneventful that, despite the harsh vocals, distorted guitars, and electronic effects, it sounds almost lethargic, a characteristic that tests the listener’s patience more and more as the album progresses, as the album descends into a monochromatic, monotone pile of mush, its individual tracks soon becoming almost indiscernible from each other because of nothing more than a lack of stand-out, ‘’perk-your-ears-up’’ moments.

Amid the sea of awe-inspiring and truly releases from the Italian metal scene in the past few years, from Ad Nauseam’s 2021 monster Imperative Imperceptive Impulse to the cosmic horror outings of Cosmic Putrefaction, Alea lacta Est, with its repetitive instrumentation and humdrum songwriting, looks like child’s play in comparison. Unfortunately, Infection Code has simply failed to deliver a promising piece of music with this album.

1 out of 5 Toilets ov Hell

Alea lacta Est is out now on Argonauta Records.

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