It's not just their typographer's nightmare of a name that catapulted iForward, Russia! to the forefront of the British indie scene when they released their debut two years ago. The group issued Give Me a Wall on their guitarist's small label, and their dark, fierce anthems were made unique by scratchy, slapdash production set alight by a wall of guitars, a ceaseless torrent of cymbal-heavy drumming, and singer Tom Woodhead screeching.
And now the Leeds quartet returns with Life Processes, and their first record on an established label offers as taut a musical experience as their previous outing. The band's notion of mixing post-punk urgency with cinematic post-rock comes across as fresh and relevant.
God is thrown into the mix, too, with biblical references throughout. There are confusing moments of divine empowerment ('Tonight God Is angry/ we can roll with the punches' from Welcome to the Moment) and redemption on the day of reckoning ('Ashes to ashes, dust to dust/ Jesus Christ and Lazarus' in Some Buildings).
Life Processes can't be faulted for its power and epic sweep, but runs the risk of flirting with grandeur. The ceaseless repetition of how the world is near its end, and that we all suffer from existential pain proves to be smothering by the end of the record.
In working with a professional producer (Matt Bayles, who counts numerous Seattle bands among his clients) iForward, Russia! have lost the idiosyncratic touches that made them interesting in the first place. Now they sound dangerously close to stadium-rock.
While still delivering an engaging piece of work, the band seems to be running in the opposite musical direction to what their militant name suggests.