iVardensphere’s 8th LP Ragemaker is a culmination of sorts for the now venerable Canadian industrial project. While varied organic percussion sounds have been a part of the project since their earliest material, and orchestral arrangement and design has frequently been an accompaniment to producer Scott Fox’s signature growling analogue synth sounds, never before has a iVs record been so focused on those elements, almost entirely to the exclusion of the stomping, club-oriented sounds that many have come to expect. Once those notions of how an iVardensphere record sounds have been put aside, you can really appreciate the degree to which Fox’s production and songwriting have evolved.
Ragemaker reads largely as a soundtrack record of sorts, and there are things beyond the music itself that lean into that feeling: one of the LP’s few vocal tracks “Sisters of the Viper’s Womb” suggests a larger narrative around the tracks of the album and even previous records, invoking characters like the Shattering Queen, The Woodsman and the Mother of Crows. Even without that song in particular, it’s not hard to imagine a procession of druids moving through the forest to the throat-singing and horror-movie drones of “The Maw” or a battle being fought to the complex and evolving layers of percussion that pulse through “Draconian”. The vast majority of the album’s cuts aren’t beholden to pop or club song structures, and Fox uses that freedom in maximal (see the multiple movements of strings, drums and even didgeridoo that play out over 8 minutes on “Varunastra” featuring long-time collaborator Brittany Bindrim) and minimal ways (“Ritual Oblivion” is scarcely more than one string melody and a percussion loop, and is no less impactful for it).
Even if you’ve been keeping up with Fox’s extant work like last year’s This Morn’ Omina record which he co-wrote and produced, or his adaptation of Coleridge’s “Rime of the Ancient Mariner”, there’s likely to be some unexpected moments in listening to the LP. The playful “A Whimsical Requiem for the Fay” (which sounds exactly as you might expect from the title) with its hammered dulcimer just isn’t the sort of thing you would expect to hear on an iVardensphere record. And for every blast of drumming that you can point to that does seem native to the project, like say the barrages that fill out “The Shattering Queen”, you get something new, like the choirs that take the spotlight midway through “The Age of Angels is Over”. Hell, without even diverging from the album’s aesthetic, you get the purest pop song the band has ever produced in the form of “Indomitus”, with Seeming’s Alex Reed delivering a deep-voiced rhythmic vocal against a slow world-beat groove, the track instantly recognizable as the work of two distinct, but unexpectedly complementary artists.
Whether Ragemaker is going to be the sound of iVardensphere going forward or is a stylistic experiment or proof of concept, one has to admire not only the craft of its construction, but the consistency of its design. The widescreen aspect of the music belies a lot of the intricacy that marks each invididual moment, to the point that you can zoom in on different passages as it progresses and easily pinpoint new details across multiple listens. It stands as a testament to the skill of its maker, and the scope of his vision.