Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Inquisition- Invoking the Majestic Throne of Satan

It is probably ironic that my favorite black metal album, Transilvanian Hunger, which utterly captivated me on first listen, is responsible for all that is terrible in black metal for the past 15 years. Darkthrone themselves understood this, that nothing "more" could be done in that direction, which they promptly turned their backs upon (with what results, one has seen).

Transilvanian Hunger, because it is so "minimalist," *appears* to have thrown out the metal tradition and to be in-itself an entire style. The result of its influence has been a disastrous paint-by-numbers of 4,000 bands that "sound like Transilvanian Hunger." Inquisition is NOT one of those bands, for the precise reason that they are thoroughly a metal band. Let's see what that means.

Inquisition basically operates in two modes--ugly, ugly, and simple grinding/blasting, with basic riffs and vocals in the barked/croaked Von style; and on the other hand, slow and meditative passages with long and "pretty" riffs, but which remain absolutely integrated into the rhythm of the song and are a kind of commentary on the condensed blasting parts.

What's interesting about this band is that they began as an extremely riffy, complicated death-thrash band in the style of early Sepultura. The first demos are absolutely bursting with semi-technical and furious stringwork. Now Inquisition make two-piece (guitar and drums) black metal cut from the simplest material, but every second of the song is still supposed to "count." That is, while other bands will bore me with long ambient or noise pieces in the illusion that I will find this to be "evil," Inquisition give even their most boneheaded and primitive riffs an intensity of performance and conviction, so that one is not waiting around for the "pretty" riffs exclusively. In fact, one of the best moments on the album is the switch from an unaccompanied, swirling guitar part into a blunt and idiotic mosh part ("Rituals of Human Sacrifice for Lord Baal"). I believe it is their emergence from an extremely riff-oriented style which makes this simpler music so entertaining, and belies its "ritualistic" pretensions.

In songs like the title track, one can hear (in contrast) what went wrong with newer Graveland. Mid-tempo, croaked vocals, cycling short riffs... on the surface, the sound is the same, but the whole *point* is different here. In Graveland, I'm not sure why all this is being thrown at me, but in Inquisition, the beat and alternating of melody with micro-riffs are not just layers of digitalia; the point is to get the listener headbanging!

This music shouldn't work at all, and the way it is put together is an acquired taste for sure, but the best Inquisition songs really put to shame all recent black metal that is too little creative to forge its own style. Inquisition's "style" is so offputting that it is only here at all because it *does* work phenomenally well.

Score: 4 stars (****)/5
Best songs: "Rituals of Human Sacrifice for Lord Baal," "Hail the King of All Heathens"

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