Label: Season Of Mist
It is one of the paradoxes of black metal as an art-form that it should somehow stay true to its roots, yet simultaneously move forward, exploring new ways in which to express the darkness that it at the heart of the genre. “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law”, yet to create black metal without paying the “proper” homages to those who have gone before is a sure way to invite scorn from those who favour themselves as “kvlt”. If it all sounds paradoxical, that’s because it is. Yet at the same time, it can be an easy concept to grasp, and this album demonstrates just why.
There’s plenty here that is reminiscent of mid-90s Norwegian black metal, with Immortal being the most apparent influence. The vocals sound uncannily like Abbath, and there’s plenty of frost-bitten guitars weaving through the maelstrom the two-piece create, whilst some of the slower sections bring the time when Darkthrone still played black metal to mind. Those influences are not the whole story, though. As would be hoped from a record featuring such superb, other-worldly artwork, there is that hint of the other here, which is no big surprise given vocalist/guitarist Dagon’s Satanic and Babylonian influences – but again, this is no radical departure from the standard black metal template. Indeed, given some of the hype surrounding this release, I was more surprised that it sounded so much like a classical black metal record rather than the second coming of Deathspell Omega, even if there is the odd hint of discord throughout the album – the opening of Darkness Flows Towards Unseen Horizons being an excellent example of this. The lyrics are worthy of note here, combining images of astrological horror and doom with Satanic praises. It’s an interesting route to take, and, combined with the artwork, is very effective – if only more black metal took such interesting lyrical routes.
That’s not to say it’s a typical or generic black metal album, though. As on previous Inquisition releases, there’s no bass player, with Dagon playing in a slightly unusual guitar style to compensate. It keeps things well within the classical black metal template whilst adding something different and unusual. Additionally, the blast beats throughout the album sound as if they’re more typical of death than black metal, and they add that bit of something unusual to Inquisition’s sound without straying too far from familiar black metal waters.
All that said, some of the tracks do have a tendency to blend in to one another, though I suspect that this was intentional; combined with the largely monotone vocals, it creates a trance-like feeling. There are definite highlights that can be pointed out though, such as the mid-paced opening to the title track, or the ritualistic drums that usher in Spiritual Plasma Evocation before pairing up with some crushing, discordant guitar. Inversion Of Ethereal White Stars features some high-pitched guitar leads that follow Dagon’s vocals at points, and it’s an effective pairing. The album ends with almost two minutes of noise, combining howling winds, ominous chanting and some haunting death horns heralding cosmic doom. It’s a chilling ending, and sums up the mood of the album perfectly – a lot of black metal concerns itself with the death of humanity or other Earthly concerns, but Inquisition are aiming for the cosmos and beyond.
Overall, it’s a solid enough album that sees Inquisition add subtle elements to a typical Norwegian black metal sound – they’ve been playing this kind of metal for almost 20 years now, and have their particular niche well honed. It’s not the most creative or outlandish black metal record ever made, but it’s certainly worthy of attention if you’re a fan of the style and are willing to give it a little time – and it will take time and repeated listens to fully appreciate this album. But if you fail to tap into the album’s particular wavelength and let it wash over and through you, then it might all feel a bit too repetitive. It’s not an album for black metal initiates, but it’s one for those who are familiar with this kind of music and can appreciate the subtle deviations Inquisition make.