(Here we have Nathan Ferreira‘s review of the forthcoming second album by New Hampshire’s Unflesh, which is set for release on April 2nd.)
I can’t remember where I first heard it, but use of the term “bread and butter listening” to refer to a certain type of album is an expression that’s always stuck with me. You know, the kind of thing that doesn’t do anything new, it just rules and you listen to it a lot. The stuff that scratches your most frequent musical itches, that album that you can just throw on at any time and you know it’s going to give you exactly what you need. Mood music? Who needs that?
Inhumation, the new album by tech-heads Unflesh, is exactly that type of snack for a tech-head like myself. Ever since Necrophagist burst onto the scene with their melodic, almost neoclassical angle on death metal and Obscura took extra steps in making it into a full-fledged substyle, this type of music has been by no means groundbreaking, but man is it ever tasty.
It’s hard to find new bands that can execute it properly, and if you do, they’re already snapped up by The Artisan Era as soon as they get noticed. That’s why I’m extra-intrigued that Unflesh has decided to go the independent route in releasing Inhumation – the album blew my mind halfway through the first proper track and there’s no way somebody from a label heard this and wasn’t similarly astonished.
It’s not as though Unflesh is completely unknown or lacking in pedigree – their drummer has done a live stint for Allegaeon and founding guitarist Ryan Beevers previously played with First Fragment’s current drummer in the now-defunct Solium Fatalis. The professionalism is evident in the airtight performances and slightly glossy production, and even without prior knowledge of anything related to this band it’s clear they’ve been at it for a while now and put in the necessary 10,000 hours on their instruments. Nonetheless, it’s very possible (and unfortunately common) for technically accomplished musicians to write downright boring music. But that isn’t the case here.
Whether it’s the acrobatic bass-heavy verse in “Holocaust of Stars”, the unusually catchy atonality of “Inhumation”, which evolves into flourishes of beautiful little licks guaranteed to induce air guitaring, or the hook-laden progression of “Vast Forest of Impaled Cadavers”, which throws punchy yet abundantly melodic guitar leads at you one by one, the memorable moments are aplenty. And despite the abundance of skill clearly present in each member of this power trio, the songs never push themselves harder than is required and are more apt to rely on the natural allure of their riffing, with garnishes of the occasional blackened motif on songs such as “Amongst Horrors Must I Dwell” that evoke auditory images of bands like Inferi and Demon King.
It’s hard enough to pull off 6+ minute numbers in the tech-death genre, and Unflesh did it three times on Inhumation; all those songs feel half as long as they are. With the distinct, legible rasp of Beevers and songs that toe a line between melody and technicality with aplomb, Inhumation is simultaneously mindboggling and infectious in that very specific way that elevates an album from good to great – from an occasional stop in the journey to a staple in the listening rotation.
Although Inhumation very much has a personality of its own, the album that it most reminds me of is A Celebration of Guilt, the landmark melodic tech-death debut by Arsis. That is not a comparison I make lightly, as it’s exceptionally rare for a band to capture the same sort of fury while still working it into songs that stick in your head over and over again (A Celebration of Guilt is a top 10 all-time album in my books, for whatever that is worth). Albums like this don’t come by very often, especially not in a genre that necessitates such complexity and a high pedigree of musicianship. Don’t miss it.
Inhumation comes out everywhere April 2nd. The album features artwork by Junki Sakuraba (Seven Spires), and was mixed and mastered by V. Santura, most known for his work with Dark Fortress and Triptykon, at Woodshed Studios in Germany. This album is recommended for fans of Arsis, Dissection, Emperor, Necrophagist, Necrophobic, Naglfar, Tribulation, Obscura, and Revocation.