Inferno - Gnosis Kardias (of Transcension and Involution)Initially, this review was going to begin with a nutshell description of the current black metal scene. I had a few ideas: how the style is split into two methods of composition (instant gratification versus slow burning atmosphere), how the line between traditional and post-black metal is slowly being blurred, and so on. As I repeatedly drafted and deleted my intro, however, I began to realize that the state of the genre is far too multi-faceted to describe in terms of duality. Besides, you’re smart enough to read AMG, so you would have instantly seen through my half-baked thesis. My goal in summarizing the genre had been to emphasize how the entire breadth of the modern style is reflected in Czech Republic outfit Inferno’s seventh LP Gnosis Kardias (of Transcension and Involution), and after many failed revisions and much reflection, I realized that the band’s ability to effectively represent so many corners of a complex musical landscape is all the more impressive.

This isn’t to say that Gnosis Kardias is a world-shattering culmination of two decades of black metal evolution; Inferno’s formula sounds familiar, yet covers a surprising amount of modern black metal ground to form something unique. The persistent, rumbling blastbeats and a thick sense of dread remind me of bands like Nightbringer, yet the Lovecraftian atmosphere and multilayered guitar texturing of The Great Old Ones and even the ethereal guitar modulation from this year’s blink-and-you’ll-miss-it Manetheren album make an appearance. Yet as undeniably dense and hostile Inferno’s sound is, this album at times has an almost laid back quality that I totally dig. Gnosis Kardias’ opening moments exemplify this immediately; “The Innermost Delusion” opens with full throttle blast beats, yet only an eerie, slow-picked guitar pattern hangs over the rhythm section like a storm cloud, foreshadowing the chaos to come. All of Inferno‘s song openings excel at immediately establishing the tone of the track in question, and the constant evolution of the compositions rarely disappoints.

The only disappointing factor of the songs lies in their conclusions. Inferno succeeds at crafting free-form song structures without coming across as meandering (thanks in part to the layered guitars’ claustrophobic feel), yet almost all of these songs either end abruptly or fade out without reaching a proper climax. The one exception is penultimate track “Gate-Eye of Fractal Spiral,” the album’s slowest piece that finishes strong with an accelerated onslaught of blastbeats and electronic effects. The slow-burn qualities of this track recall Triptykon sans death metal elements, and while I’m not sure it serves well as Gnosis Kardias’ conclusion, it’s an undeniably memorable track that flows well into the record’s surprisingly effective ambient coda “Orison for the Baneful Serpent.” The sound of waves lapping the shore paired with the cosmic electronic effects really help in affirming the Lovecraftian vibe felt throughout the album.

Inferno 2017

In regards to performances, no one musician stands out, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. This isn’t a showcase of raw instrumental talent; rather, it’s a demonstration of how a focused band can create a cohesive sound that makes the listener forget he or she is even listening to a group of individuals in the first place. I’ve found the best way to listen to this record is by letting the waves of guitars and various distortion effects wash over me; it seems there’s a new inventive cymbal pattern or cascading background riff to discover with each listen, and while the assembly of these pieces is technically very impressive, the replayability factor is what really sold me on Gnosis Kardias. Production-wise, the record can sound messy in its busiest moments and the bass could use a bit more emphasis in the mix, but overall the individual instruments have plenty of breathing room and the final product sounds quite good.

As I finish yet another spin of Gnosis Kardias, I’m struck by how natural Inferno sounds on this record. They had been a second wave-aping act until just a few years ago, and they’ve shed their former skin so effectively (and without so much as a hint of pretense) that they feel like a fresh, young act despite being over twenty years into the game. Perhaps this isn’t a genre defining (or subverting) opus, but it doesn’t need to be; there are plenty of modern bands attempting this brand of dense, monolithic black metal, yet Inferno handily stands out enough to deserve close attention in an overcrowded field.

Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 224 kbps mp3
Label: W.T.C. Productions
Releases Worldwide: April 4th, 2017

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  • rumour_control

    Really good review. Thank you. As to your intro thesis, the cover art shows that “nutshell” description of the current black metal scene in a way.

  • Danny

    Great review, makes me interested in checking out this band, though the embedded track sounds kind of overwhelming.

    This may be slightly tangential to the topic at hand, but where would people advise getting started in black metal? I’ve been interested in the genre for a while, and have started really enjoying some black-ish bands like Moonsorrow and Primordial, but when I tried to listen to Marduk on a friend’s recommendation it just kinda sounded like noise. I’m not necessarily looking for the “fundamental” bands (Immortal, Mayhem, Venom, etc.) that started the genre so much as the most “accessible” bands (dirty word, I know) that might get somebody unfamiliar with black metal excited about it. I’m sure this question has been asked on the internet before, but I trust the tastes of this site much more than I trust the tastes of the wilds out there.

    • rumour_control

      Listen to the track, “Souls for Belial” from Marduk’s Serpent Sermon if your friend is insistent. I doubt you’ll be disappointed. As far as “accessible” black metal, I’ll let others comment, as my tastes tend to be a bit less accessible, but that’s me.

    • Ta2dlam

      You can go to Cradle of Filth and Dimmu Borgir. While there may be arguments of their black metal ‘cred’ they are more accessible and the symphonic elements are quite enjoyable. Also, Carach Angren has some vocal variation in addition to the aforementioned symphonic pieces.

      • Danny

        I don’t mind Carach, they’re probably the black-est thing I listen to right now. I’ll check out Cradle and Dimmu, I’ve heard of them a bunch (obviously) but never actually listened to them

        • Ta2dlam

          Schammasch’s Triangle also covers a broad scope (it’s a 3-dsic effort) from fundamental to atmospheric to post-black. Not necessarily in that order, though.

          • Thatguy

            Triangle, and Schammasch in general are the parson’s egg of metal.

          • Ta2dlam

            I don’t deny that but he was looking for something accessible, not necessarily the ‘best’. I thought Triangle could give him a wider range of styles than a lot of one or two dimensional groups or albums.

          • Thatguy

            True enough. What I meant was that when you wade through a Schammasch release you have to listen to a good deal of not so interesting stuff to get to the gems.

        • rumour_control

          If you want a Dark Side of the Moon experience as far as melodically-consistent all the way through in an imaginative fashion, you can do worse than Enslaved’s Isa. It was a landmark record for them, and certainly worth the time.

        • Ta2dlam

          Last one and I’ll stop…well, last two. Watain’s The Wild Hunt and Behemoth’s The Satanist. I find them to be more than accessible while still holding onto the ‘black’ in their metal.

        • Ta2dlam

          Cruelty and the Beast is often considered Cradle’s most truly black album. One that I return to a great deal is Thornography simply because I enjoy it a ton. It has great lyrics, great melodies, great riffs, yet is seen as a departure for them by a lot of people. Dimmu: I would go with Enthrone Darkness Triumphant or Puritanical Euphoric Misanthopia or…hell, I even like Abrahadabra, their most recent other than a new live DVD. It’s hard to go wrong with any DB in my opinion if you’re not searching for the black metal equivalent of Beethoven’s 9th.

          • TLFernandes

            My dear, Cruelty and the Beast the most truly BM album of COF???? What have you been smoking? It’s good stuff for sure… More serious now, The Principle of Evil Made Flesh is the only (??) BM album from COF. I do like Cruelty and the Beast, but it’s much more Iron Maiden than Burzum

          • Ta2dlam

            After I wrote that I thought about editing it to say it’s often considered the masterwork of their particular style but I was too lazy and…my dear?

          • TLFernandes

            sure, dear would suffice

        • I think Vempire is the best thing Cradle of Filth ever did and it was probably the album/ep that got me into black metal. Satyicon’s Nemesis Divina was another. I think Nemesis Divina is a great starting point.

        • mtlman1990

          Enthrone Darkness Triumphant for Dimmu
          Dusk and her Embrace for Cradle

    • Lars Barres

      The gateway records for me were Dissection’s “The Somberlain” and “Storm of the Light’s Bane,” Emperor’s “In the Nightside Eclipse” and “Anthems to the Welkin at Dusk,” and Immortal’s “At the Heart of Winter.”

    • undead_toaster

      I’m relatively new to black metal myself, but I would recommend checking out Dark Fortress, Windir and Melechesh.

      I’m really liking the embedded track here, too.

    • Everyone and their mother should listen to the first two Drudkh records.

      • Hulksteraus

        Plus one on that comment!

      • [not a Dr]

        Forwarding this to my mother, grandmothers, mother-in-law, mother-of-my-children, etc.

    • Thraeg

      Hey, I had a very similar experience (liking Primordial and Moonsorrow but not clicking with the putative gold standards of the black metal genre). What worked for me was starting with the atmospheric/folky/melodic side of things and gradually expanding outward from there.

      My top picks for your situation would be last year’s albums from Thrawsunblat, Saor, and Hyperion.

      Beyond that, I’d also second the mentions of Dissection and Windir, and I’ve particularly enjoyed the recent albums from Mesarthim, Borknagar, Violet Cold, Sojourner, Wormwood, Netherbird, Oranssi Pazuzu, Inquisition, Imperium Dekadenz, and Khonsu.

    • sjforr

      I think you’re looking for early Ulver. Start with Bergtatt. Also, check out the Wormwood review from March. Brilliant album and I think it’s precisely what you’re after.

    • Reese Burns

      Uada is a great starting point.

    • You can’t go wrong with Arcturus or Blut aus Nord. They are labeled as ‘avant-garde’, but sound very accessible to my ear (and totally otherwordly in the same time). If “blackish” is enough for you, try some Vintersorg, Borknagar and Solefald. Also, Ihsahn’s solo works. I can’t recommend them enough.

      When it comes to pvre/trvv/kvlt stvff I unfortunately can’t help you as a complete, unashamed ignorant.

    • Alex P

      I empathize my dude. I’m only about 2 months ahead of exactly where you are now; I tried searching up accessible black metal bands and nothing ever seemed to stick. The genre clicked for me when I went the opposite direction and tried out some of the harsher, more inaccessible stuff (harsher for the uninitiated, I guess – that adjective is relative). I’m inclined to chalk this up to my penchant for gnarly bands like Coma Cluster Void, Deathspell Omega, Pyrrhon, Ulcerate etc. A combination of blackened qualities in the music and a general desensitization to the squalor that bands like them produce. Looking back, I definitely think Deafheaven’s Sunbather and Altar of Plagues’ Teethed Glory & Injury were very much primer albums for me as I dipped my toe. Insofar as recent stuff, I’ve been enjoying the shit out of Departe’s newest, and Mgla’s Exercises in Futility sounds like Dark Tranquillity if they turned their blackened influences up to 11. Ustalost has a record called The Spoor of Vipers with some rad synth stuff going on and Lorn’s newest called Arrayed Claws is just monolithic. Good luck!

      • Patrick Bertlein

        Listen to Walknut and Dawn.

    • Mark Z

      Honestly, I would just start with early Darkthrone, specifically A Blaze in the Northern Sky. That was one of my first black metal albums and I’ve always found it be very ‘welcoming’ in addition to being one of the foundational albums of the genre. It has that pure black metal aesthetic while being more than just a stream of blastbeats and tremolo riffing.

      If you want to get in from another direction, why not try some blackened thrash? Destroyer 666’s Cold Steel… For An Iron Age and Desaster’s Satan’s Soldier’s Syndicate are two great albums that combine some rollicking, memorable thrash riffs with black metal extremity.

    • Patrick Bertlein

      Falkenbach, Summoning, Nagelfar, Dawn, Sacramentum, and Frostmoon will cover every facet of the genre me thinks.

    • violent_chiba

      Some landmark records for me personally are: Mgla’s “Exercises in Futility”, Gorgoroth’s “Under the Sign of Hell”, Immortal’s “Sons of Northern Darkness”, Drukh’s “Blood in Our Wells”, and Darkthrone’s “Circle the Wagons”

    • contenderizer

      Won’t come as a surprise to anyone, but…

      Venom – Welcome to Hell & Black Metal
      Mercyful Fate & King Diamond – everything up through MF’s Time
      Celtic Frost – Morbid Tales & To Mega Therion
      Bathory – Bathory (s/t debut), Under the Sign of the Black Mark, Blood Fire Death & Hammerheart
      Mayhem – Deathcrush & De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas
      Burzum – Det som engang var, Hvis lyset tar oss & Filosofem
      Darkthrone – A Blaze in the Northern Sky, Under a Funeral Moon & Transilvanian Hunger, etc. (still great today)
      Dissection – The Somberlain & Storm of the Light’s Bane
      Sigh – everything, but esp Scorn Defeat & Imaginary Sonicscape
      Emperor – In the Nightside Eclipse & Anthems to the Welkin at Dusk
      Ulver – Bergtatt, Kveldssanger & Nattens Madrigal

      • Drew Music

        Trve kvlt fvckery. A strong collection of fundamental black mastery, but probably too much for the introductory dip.

    • Drew Music

      Yeah dude, looking through it all you got some strong material to build up a tolerance for/love of black metal. Don’t be surprised if you start viewing other material you previously enjoyed as somewhat lacking or even weak after a while, addiction to purity comes with at the price of elitism. For a beginner/newer fan, I think Alex P gave you the best list as far as, well not ‘easing’ you into this world of harsh darkness per se, but I feel like those bands would be your best bet. Additionally, I humbly submit Amestigon for your consideration; if Demiurg doesn’t make you the happiest little demon around then maybe just give up altogether. Enjoy!

    • HairyToeKnuckles


    • By-tor

      Put Emperor’s “I am the Black Wizards” on repeat until your ears relent. Seriously, lots of great suggestions already made. The only 2 I would add are Dimmu Borgir – Stormblast and Gorgoroth – Ad Majorem Sathanas Gloriam. Those along with Emperor’s Nightshade are a few of my more accessible favorites.

    • alex leverkuhn

      I would start with Emperor’s sophomore output, Anthems to the Welkin at Dusk. Another great album is Satyricon’s Nemesis Divina.

    • Matt Vogt

      Hey Danny. While you certainly got a good response, I think most people recommended albums or bands that are ‘very good and relatively accessible’. Perhaps you were looking more for ‘very accessible and (at least) relatively good’, in which case I would add a couple of suggestions:
      – Absu ‘Tara’
      – Borknagar ‘Quintessence’
      – Destroyer 666 ‘Cold Steel…’
      – Dissection ‘Storm of the Light’s Bane’
      – Keep of Kalessin ‘Armada’
      – Melechesh ‘Emissaries’
      – Negura Bunget ‘OM’
      – Progrenie Terrestra Pura ‘U.M.A.’
      – Rotting Christ ‘Theogonia’
      – Spectral Lore ‘III’
      – Vallendusk ‘Black Clouds Gathering’

      • Danny

        While I really appreciate everybody’s different responses, I think you really hit the nail on the head in terms of what I was looking for. I’ll check ’em out.

  • I was listening to this yesterday and the day before and I still don’t know what to make of it. Track 3 is particularly tasty but I totally agree with you that in general, individual songs on this record never reach any kind of gratifying climax to make the whole journey worth it. Obviously, YMMV.

    I’m still sorting my feelings out though (the term “grower” should have been somewhere in this review me thinks) – I’m such a black metal snowflake.

    • Eldritch Elitist

      “Grower” wasn’t a term I’d considered using, because I actually liked this quite a bit from the start. It definitely fits though, because the album really blossoms on subsequent listens. My final impressions were even stronger than my initial thoughts.

  • Thatguy

    Thanks. These guys are new to me and this sounds worth a closer listen.

    I love the band photo too!

    • Eldritch Elitist

      I really like the band photo, too! It’s a bit cheesy, but the atmosphere pairs well with their music, and I love the contrast of light blue on pitch black.

  • Westpaceagle

    Very fair and well summarized. This is obviously not a mailed in generic review. This is a complex record and has some really rewarding moments, but not without flaws, specifically as you mention failure to bring it home. I feel like they are a few passeges from a real stunner. Still unique and interesting though

  • Rodrigo Soto

    I read Lovecraft, I listen.

  • hallowed

    W.T.C. really puts out some of the best stuff around. New Acrimonious is even better than this.

  • Death_Black_Metal_Fanatic

    PLEASE review the new album from Windswept. EPIC black metal!!!!

    • Drew Music

      Epic black metal, you say? And in all caps, no less? Looks like I’m going youtubing.

  • Dennis Thomsen

    This album is top notch Excellence! I find every nuance of this album to be perfectly executed. They couldn’t be on a better label either for that matter.

  • Rodrigo Soto

    I looked for the band in Google play music and it showed me like 4 bands with the same name. Seems like a really generic name for an outstanding band.

  • Roquentin

    Just came here to say that this fucking rocks. Carry on…

  • basenjibrian

    Spinning this now. There is a grooviness to this slab of doom that is appealing. I agree that the songs need more structure or a better ending…they sem to petter out. 3.5 seems fair!

  • Tom Hardy

    I picture giants on board a massive wooden ship, stormy seas, big drops of rainfall, quickly approaching the eye of the storm and those bearded blokes stand strong, wet on deck with a raised arm from the captain reciting/ singing the embedded track … full of mysticism and magic spells for allowing them to pass through.

    Lets come back to shore shall we. This record excels in all fast parts. The breakdowns or slow downs are a bit annoying and break from the mood set in place by those enchanting, luminous incantations being sung in the backdrop of mystic galloping riffage. But I’d give them a fair point for that excellent art work, it is saluted.