Inquisition-Obscure verses for the multiverse

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American black metal bands tend not to reach mainstream levels or indeed focus on cashing in via carbon copies of their Scandinavian peers, but one thing that is hard to ignore is the somewhat unique take on the traditional sub-genre. From a background which introduced to us the likes of Absu, Nachtmystium and to a considerably lesser extent, Inquisition comes a more or less structurally straightforward attempt at recreating the sort of bleak atmosphere and hellish blastbeats which have plagued the sub-genre ever since its foundation, and Inquisition, since their formation a quarter of a century ago, have progressed within this style.

However, new album “Obscure verses for the multiverse” seems to take on an ambitious approach, utilizing such a thought-provoking concept to control and manipulate which direction the band’s core sound will weave. Essentially what we have here for the most part is cold, wicked blasts of raw, intoxicating black metal, but with an experimental edge and to a greater degree the sort of progressive sensibilities which are nowadays used by Nachtmystium, Enslaved and others in the same circle. That said, half of the album naturally takes influence from Immortal and Immolation, whereby the cold-hearted, miserable vocals of the former flow perfectly well with the insane albeit catchy riffing of the latter. Songs such as the impressively furious opener ‘Force of the floating tomb’ and ‘Spiritual plasma evocation’ give way to the more adventurous likes of the near progressive title track and maniacal ‘Arrival of eons after’. Throughout, you can feel the bitter cold coming out of the stereo yet at the same time the warmth of a more sentimental, thoughtful approach to near flawless songwriting.

Although the album takes its pride in producing simple black metal of the highest quality, there are various moments where odd instrumentation or awkwardly placed sounds appear, which all at first appear confusing to the casual listener. It’s the last minute or so of ‘Infinite interstellar genocide’, the somewhat psychadelic rhythm section of ‘Darkness flows towards unseen horizons’ and certainly the mesmerizing intro to ‘Inversion of ethereal white stars’. All these contribute to a consistent and fluent atmosphere which very rarely fails to impress, and even the most close-minded of extreme metal fans will be able to appreciate what is mostly a display of stellar musicianship.

There are times when a couple of songs do stagnate however, though the likes of the almost completely monotonous ‘Joined by dark matter and repelled by dark energy’ are more than made up for by the excellence of the first half of the album. Yet these few minor flaws never seem to hinder the album’s general progress or direction, and there is indeed a sense of power and ambition growing deep within Inquisition’s soul. Thus the band’s latest album, “Obscure verses for the multiverse”, is certainly their career-defining moment, if only because their musicianship has improved substantially from the last record.

3.9/5

1. Force of the floating tomb

2. Darkness flows towards unseen horizons

3. Obscure verses for the multiverse

4. Spiritual plasma evocation

5. Master of the cosmological black cauldron

6. Joined by dark matter, repelled by dark energy

7. Arrival of eons after

8. Inversion of ethereal white stars

9. Infinite interstellar genocide

Bandpage: http://www.last.fm/music/Inquisition

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/inquisition.official

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Philip H. Anselmo and The Illegals – Walk Through Exits Only

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Philip H Anselmo is a man that truly needs no introduction: lead singer of the legendary groove metal band Pantera and such hard rocking acts Superjoint Ritual and Down, the man knows how to rock. Despite having been around for so long, however, music fans had yet to see Phil release a true ‘solo’ album; that is, until now. The long overdue venture for the front man everybody knows, the album could have been any combination of genres: groove metal, sludge metal, death metal, etc. The man has done so much in the music business that it wasn’t known whether he was going to stay in his comfort zone ala Mark Tremonti on his solo venture or go way out of bounds like Chris Cornell did on his second solo release. So, what’s the verdict on Phil’s first solo album? To be perfectly honest, if you want heavy, you got heavy.

For a guy like myself, who really enjoyed the first few Pantera albums but listened to little of Phil’s work elsewhere, his voice now sounds a great deal more hoarse, yet just as effective given his backing band this go ’round. Each of his groups subsequent to Pantera had their own distinctive sounds removed from the aforementioned group, though this album does offer up some of the most extreme sounding stuff since Far Beyond Driven. As a matter of fact, Phil sounds very angry on this album and the music doesn’t do anything to alleviate that feeling; from the get go, the listener should expect unrelenting heaviness, and that’s what we get.

Phil’s vocals range from high shrieks to low growls, some of his screams reminiscent of latter Pantera albums, and Warbeast drummer Joe Gonzalez goes crazy behind the kit, mercilessly beating the hell out of the drums on virtually every song. Phil has sounded every bit as angry for a great deal of his career, so it should come as no surprise that that’s still the case. Look no further than Betrayed; where he spews out the lyrics ‘I’ve been betrayed/Revolt! Revolt! Revolt! just as the song opens. It’s not just the lyrics, but the delivery that brings the point home; Phil sounds like he is going to explode with anger with virtually every word he belts out, so the combination of lyrical content and vocal delivery really drive home the message that he is pissed off and there’s nothing anyone can do to change that.

Surprising, however, were the constant time signature changes; not nearly as intense and shifting as The Dillinger Escape Plan, they still provide a diverse listening experience on a few tracks to make them stick out amongst all of the brutality. In fact, this is probably where the album suffers the most; despite time changes left and right, the album really lacks variation, as a whole. Blast beats occupy many of the tracks, Marzi Montazeri overuses pinch harmonics and overall there is very little variation with the nice exception of the solo on Usurper Bastard’s Rant, the bass is nearly inaudible in the whole mix, and Phil’s relentless growls/screeches can grow a bit tiresome with no melodious chorus present to give both the listener’s ears and Phil’s voice a break. This is another aspect of the solo album that differs from his other work; there aren’t any songs on the album to break it up a bit and provide some relief; what you get on track one is what you get on the final track, with absolutely no let up in between.

The final verdict on whether or not to give this a listen comes down to a few different questions: does the would-be listener want to hear unrelenting thrash metal for 40 straight minutes with no break? If you have heard the other work of Phil, does the thought of his work with The Illegals provide enough reason to listen to an album that can be described inherently as Phil Anselmo through and through? If the answer to the first question is yes, then listen to this album. My answer to the second question was yes; Phil has done exceptional things in music, so his name alone was enough reason to give this a listen. Despite the flaws in the album, it surprised me as it’s been awhile since I’ve listened to something this heavy. It’s recommended simply for the fact that it’s unapologetically harsh from the first second to the last seconds of the last track (before the strange guitar sounds for the last eight minutes).

Final rating: 3.2/5

Tracklist:

  1. Music Media Is My Whore
  2. Battalion of Zero
  3. Betrayed
  4. Usurper Bastard’s Rant
  5. Walk Through Exits Only
  6. Bedroom Destroyer
  7. Bedridden
  8. Irrelevant Walls and Computer Screens

https://www.facebook.com/Philipillegals

This Misery Garden – Cornerstone

ImageCoupling a distinctively dark instrumental side with vocals that bring grunge or contemporary hard rock to mind, Swiss band This Misery Garden stomp their way through their sophomore release with razor-sharp riffage reminiscent of Dream Theater (think Home and As I Am; I should note that Cornerstone does not have an extended solo in sight) and gruff, strained vocals that fit the music perfectly, adding an emotional edge that Cornerstone might have lacked otherwise. The songs are skilfully constructed so as to remain engaging and avoid becoming monotonous; breakdowns are kept short and poignant and ideas are repeated enough to be memorable, but not enough to become repetitive, therefore sounding concise.

However, when listening from start to finish an obvious problem presents itself; despite the aforementioned engaging manner in which individual songs are constructed, the album as a whole is rather one-dimensional, since the same atmosphere of menace and uneasiness is present from start to finish and becomes somewhat overpowering. Whilst this does ensure that Cornerstone remains cohesive, it isn’t expanded enough to make it as much of a diverse, refreshing experience as it might have been. The first four tracks are virtually interchangeable and – although Ropes distinguishes itself by being both more upbeat and energetic, consequentially becoming an album highlight – it is not until track six – Siamese Again, which is far slower-paced than the previous songs and uses acoustics to great effect – that we get a hint of variety. The album looks as though it’s going to really pick up from here, as Crowded Hallway is another strong song, but it quickly reverts to the same standard of the first few tracks for the remainder of its running time. I must reiterate that there is nothing bad here; the album becomes slightly stagnant because it plays it too safe; the band have found a sound that works well for them but don’t seem to have explored it to its full potential, which leaves us with collection of tracks that seem to be firmly inside their comfort zone, and whilst it is excellent to see that they have mastered it so well, it would be excellent to see more innovation on future releases, since they are clearly capable of great things.

I find Cornerstone very similar to Katatonia‘s Viva Emptiness in terms of both strengths and weaknesses; both albums showcase a strong sense of gloomy atmosphere that is maintained throughout, but suffer from being unvaried experiences from start to finish. Although Cornerstone is heavier and more instrumentally complex that Viva Emptinessthe feeling I get when listening to either is nearly the same (they do not sound identical; they are just similar experiences), as is the fact that I enjoy listening to individual songs much more than the whole album. Also like Viva, Cornerstone could have been much better than it is; the clean sections contained in many of the songs are used excellently and would have added a lot if used more often, or for longer (Siamese Again proves this, as it is the only song that does so), and the infectious energy of Ropes shows that This Misery Garden know how to make a song sound alive and engaging. I look forward to hearing any future releases, and for now I advise anyone to at least investigate the recommended tracks.

3.5/5

Highlights:

Rope, Siamese Again, Crowded Hallway

Tracklist 1. Human E.T. 2. Holy Clutch 3. Angry Child 4. Mr. X (was right) 5. Rope 6. Siamese Again 7. Crowded Hallway 8. Warning Zone 9. The First Man 10. Death Head Colors 11. Swallowing the Monster (bonus track) 12. Flower Eye Tree (bonus track)

Band’s website

Faeebook page

See also: Katatonia – Viva Emptiness

Alter Bridge – AB III

Dream Theater -Train of Thought