(In this post NCS writer DGR reviews the new album by Inferi.)
Inferi are a band who I’ve had every intention of talking about for a very, very long time but never had the perfect moment to do so. The Nashville, Tennessee based group play a style of metal that can rotate between technical death metal, melodic death, and epic-fueled thrash metal at the drop of a hat. They have always seemed to be defined by two things for me: The sort of insane ambition of a band who cut absolutely no corners and make absolutely no compromises; and the sort of high-speed energy equivalent of a spark landing on a trail of gunpowder, rapidly accelerating and heating into a massive explosion.
The group have been fighting it out as something of a working band’s band for the better part of seven years, and as of late January they have finally put out another disc — five years after their last one — entitled The Path Of Apotheosis. It was a long time coming, and so massive in scope and scale that it is hard to believe it came from a group scratching it out day-by-day in the underground. There is a reason why it has taken me longer than two weeks to review this album, because holy hell, is this thing a packed disc. I can say right away that if you’re a bang-for-your-buck person, you can probably understand my yammering, because wow, is there a lot here.
Yet, with five years and finally some momentum behind them, do Inferi get to take advantage of their moment in history? Does the massive wall of sound and scale that the band put forward actually become anything other than grandeur for grandeur’s sake?
Inferi move with one speed in mind: jaw-shatteringly fast. Every song on this disc, despite the misleading funeral-doom track lengths, is incredibly fast and impressively played. The group keep a million different guitar parts on hand at any one time and flow between them with the grace of a martial arts master — except they also bludgeon and shriek at the listener the whole time. They spin yarns and tell tales of battles and war across The Path Of Apotheosis and often try to reflect the frenetic pace of a battlefield within their own music.
Like many bands of late, they have also turned vocals into an instrument all their own with a triple-pronged attack — most remaining in an almost black metal rasp or high scream before going in the completely opposite direction for their lows. Sometimes they can become unintelligible and a little mush-mouthed, as if too many lyrics are being packed way too many times into one breath, but you can expect to hear the high-to-low shift frequently, often to signal the switching of the melody from a guitar part to the rhythm section. The vocals have just as much effect on the songs as the millions of different guitar parts throughout this disc.
If you’re a guitarist, though, I highly recommended that you just hit play, because there is a lot taking place on this album. It feels like a massive stone monolith you could spend weeks chipping away at, with tons of material to practice and master on your own — provided the drums and the almost relentless blasting that takes place don’t hammer you into the ground beforehand.
The Path Of Apotheosis is one of the few discs out there that could be perfectly served by having an intermission break about halfway through. The album is a celebration of excess in all its forms, in an unwitting sense. The band have managed to create one of the few things in the universe more dense than a neutron star; because of that, The Path Of Apotheosis just wears on you throughout a straight-through listen. It truly sounds like the band packed as much of the last five years’ worth of material into one disc as they could.
So much is happening at any one moment, whether it be the insane amount of guitar pyrotechnics and riffs available (I often imagine the album being written on a battlefield, with a general yelling at the troops, “No riff! No guitar part left behind!”, before charging headlong into a hail of swords and spears), or the Bal Sagoth-esque levels of lyrical intricacy and intrigue, crafting stories to be told to future generations, or the drumming which seems to come in one of two flavors — relentlessly precise blasting or the insane speed and rotation of thrash and death metal — or the constant symphonic swells.
Inferi aren’t doing bombast for bombast’s sake, as Fleshgod Apocalypse do (though Labyrinth was a step away from that). Instead, they make their songs feel as large and as epic as the battlefields the band are attempting to portray. As on actual battlefields, though, over time the constant clanging of shields and swords — no matter how large the field may be — can devolve into a morass of white noise in service of mood and overall ambience, as opposed to being the dynamic, thriving beast that metal songs can become.
That’s why I believe The Path Of Apotheosis is best served by a quick break about halfway through (using “The Ophidian Form” as a stopping point). There really is some awesome stuff packed in here, but it may become hard to notice over the span of the 30+ minutes consumed by the first six songs. The brief pauses between them just don’t feel like enough. Some of the best work on this album actually lies in the back half, with the group managing to make all their intricacies really click into place on top of the already massive foundation of music that precedes it — including having some really sharp grooves pop up beforehand. Take a break so you can fully appreciate it.
With the huge passage of time and the small shifts in their lineup, Inferi feel like they have reached a new starting point with The Path Of Apotheosis, as if it were a whole new relaunch for a whole bunch of new fans to discover them, without worrying too much about the works before. While I highly recommend digging into those as well with time, The Path Of Apotheosis is extremely enjoyable of its own accord. You rarely get to hear a band who have so much to say and do that everything feels as if it was delivered breathlessly.
Inferi seem to come screaming from the heavens every couple of years to surprise and stun many listeners, as if emerging out of nowhere with yet another disc of impressively technical and melodic death metal. The Path Of Apotheosis continues this pattern, but don’t be surprised again in the future: Give this album a listen now, because Inferi are one of those bands who are going to have a big groundswell behind them, and this will be the album that really kicks it off.