(This is the second installment in a seven-album review orgy by our man DGR, who is attempting to free his mind for year-end season by clearing away a backlog of write-ups for albums he has spent a lot of time with in 2020. Today’s subject is a new EP by Inferi, released on October 9th.)
As a rule of thumb, releases by the Tennessee-based tech-death crew Inferi tend to be a lot of fun. They made their name in the whirling maelstrom of everything-and-the-kitchen-sink, pyroclastic-flow-of-notes style of hyperspeed tech-death. As much as anything, it’s a blast to see just how far Inferi are going to push each song before they fully disintigrate. While they’ve certainly become one of the groups whose music serves as a snapshot of a scene at the time of each release, there’s purely reptilian amusement to be found in seeing how much a band can shred within a single song.
Of Sunless Realms is the newest EP from the band, weighing in at a compact – for them – twenty-two minutes and five songs. Every previous time when covering a band of their ilk – including those their current label The Artisan Era likes to traffic in – it has always felt justified to warn people to gird themselves a bit for a massive journey ahead, simply because such bands really, really like to pack as much as they possibly can into every song. Surprisingly, Of Sunless Realms works in their favor simply because of its compact length – about as no bullshit as Inferi can get – with five songs that provide a tantalizing snapshot of where the band are now.
Truth be told, a large part of why I’m continually eyeing the Inferi camp – as well as their many, many offshoots and extended family tree – is that I’m present for the high-speed guitar shred and even at five songs, Of Sunless Realms has it in spades. Every song has one really specific highight section that you can’t help but perk your ears up at – even as vocalist Steve Boiser leads a class on high shrieks and rapid-fire vocal delivery to match. In combination with Inferi’s constant wall of sound, this means you’re in for some massive musical movements.
This is made abundantly clear early into opener “The Abhorrent Art”, which starts out well in the comfort zone for the band, partially to ease a listener in and partially because I don’t think Inferi can help themselves from going zero-to-one hundred in half a second. Yet once guitarists Mike Low and Malcolm Pugh are set free, in comes that ever-present melodic through-line that has become one of the hallmarks of the band. You could probably spill enough ink to drown a city on the lead-in and the entirety of the solo-section alone, as multiple motifs battle to get firmly latched into your brain.
Inferi hew close to the loosely defined Cthulu-mythos that works its way throughout Of Sunless Relams. It’s to be expected. You don’t get to make a massive song like “Eldritch Evolution” – another song with a glorious guitar break within it, once you get past the constant assault from every other front, including some backing orchestration for extra ‘huge-ness’ – and have it run right into a track like “Spellbound Unearthed Terror” and not consistently scream about all sorts of incomprehensible evils overtaking everything, and the epic destruction therein, without backing it with a gigantic wall of sound.
Inferi are near-relentless in those opening movements in Of Sunless Realms and the only breather is the brief break of “The Summoning”, which goes as expected because it brings into the world the EP’s closing song, “Aeons Torn”. It is the longest song on the EP. Its opening moments bring a slower groove in order to build into the expected wall of speed, and that’s a good choice. The angular momentum the song maintains throughout its opening segments makes “Aeons Torn” a good choice for a closing song. It lumbers around in comparison to its accompanying tracks, only speeding up for a few segments when you start to get the sense that Inferi are champing at the bit to accelerate.
Getting new material from the Inferi crew so soon after Revenant – in comparison to the larger gap between that one and its predecessor in 2014 – is a pleasant surprise. There’s always so much music within each song that it’s hard to imagine what the songwriting must have been like, other than the band sitting down and going ‘alright, what sort of audio hurricane are we going to fill with guitar work and backing keys this time?’.
The group are already discussing going back into the studio for a full-length, which will be more along the listening lines of ‘alright, you’d better prepare yourself for this journey’ that we’ve come to expect. Even as a shorter hit to the system, Of Sunless Realms shares a little bit, though you have to keep in mind that even with only four songs and an interstitial bit, Of Sunless Realms still clocks in at a hefty twenty-plus jam-packed minutes. The duration does work in its favor because each song has a little more room to breathe instead of forcing a listener to continually prepare for the next oncoming torrent for the better part of forty-plus to an hour.
It is certainly an impressive demonstartion of just how well these guys can maintain that insanely fast clip while keeping each song memorable though – especially with those specific moments mentioned before that help differentiate each song. If Inferi are able to maintain that sort of crackshot focus on their newer material, then whatever the band have upcoming will be something to look forward to.