Inquisition - Bloodshed across the Empyrean Altar beyond the Celestial ZenithWhen reviewing music, every writer is tempted to engage in prose so masturbatory that they deserve full, lucrative sponsorship’s from Kleenex, Vaseline, and the local carpal tunnel treatment center. Convoluted adjectives, metaphors, and flowery descriptors are used with a startling vengeance, with that extra bit of feeling one puts into something like kissing their years-long crush for the first time. “Yes,” you can picture our imaginary writer saying aloud, breathing heavily in a dimly lit room populated solely by him, “I earned this.” And yet, all of the fanciful prose in the world or arbitrary mid-sentence switches to the preferred foreign language du jour can’t capture the very essence of Inquisition as well as a simple five-letter word can. The essence of Bloodshed across the Empyrean Altar beyond the Celestial Zenith, their seventh full-length, can be described by that magical five-letter word: riffs.

Contra the Spanish Inquisition which no one expects, everyone expects the American Inquisition. Fear and surprise are not part of their arsenal whatsoever; you know what you’re getting, and there’s little worry the band will fail to deliver. Predictably, then, Bloodshed is at once the logical successor to Obscure Verses for the Multiverse and a fitting companion to Ominous Doctrines of the Perpetual Mystical Macrocosm. Like the former, it allows itself plenty of breathing room in composition, embracing atmosphere and melody with slower songs and longer riffs; like the latter, it brings plenty of sharp, icy, and immediate riffs to the table. It’s a fitting synthesis, trying to capture the best of both high-quality worlds. The most obvious references for Inquisition’s sound are Immortal and Gorgoroth, but they frequently invoke early Bathory and Sarcofago in their riffing as well. Essentially, Inquisition is a mixture of the most aggressive elements of the first wave and the most melodic yet vicious aspects of the second wave.

Where Inquisition succeeds here and elsewhere is by recognizing and exploiting the relationship between the two waves, and this stylistic choice is the key to understanding what they’re doing. “A Black Aeon Shall Cleanse” is a good example: in its first thirty seconds, it starts with what sounds like a retooled version of Bathory’s “Call from the Grave” outro and then switches into At the Heart of Winter’s melodic triumphalism without batting an eye. Far from being disorganized non-sequitur nonsense, Inquisition plays with these building blocks and makes great riffs out of them for five straight minutes. “Power from the Center of the Cosmic Black Spiral” tempers the aggression of Sarcofago with an interesting take on Infernus’s melodic style for a convincing, memorable, and abnormally riffy black metal song. Dagon’s playing throughout Bloodshed is something to behold, as he convincingly adopts the playing style of a thrashy first-wave ripper, a melodically-inclined “sophisticated black metal art” type, and a confident if not arrogant guitar hero, often all at once. In turn, Inquisition’s sound remains unique, fresh, and hugely entertaining.Inquisition 2016

There’s very little to complain about here. Admittedly, Dagon’s vocals aren’t for everyone, being croakier and more one-dimensional than Abbath’s. They’re definitely limiting, but this only helps Inquisition as songwriters; Dagon’s riffing has to be unmistakably his for the vocals to work. The references to slow Gorgoroth tracks like “Sorg” and “Rebirth” in “The Flames of Infinite Blackness before Creation” have to be kept in line by nods to the first wave and Inquisition’s own style in the absence of a shrill vocalist like Pest, and they are. Due to this, “Infinite Blackness” succeeds by being quintessential Inquisition and essential black metal. The only thing that slightly bothers me here is the prevalence of intro and outro tracks. They fit well enough into the record as a whole, but it’s a bit disorienting to have a separate dedicated intro track on an Inquisition full-length. The four and a half-minute double-outro of Bloodshed isn’t, as Multiverse’s two and a half-minute outro was, part of the concluding song, which gives them a slightly tacked-on feel. Nonetheless, these are minor quibbles that didn’t hurt my enjoyment of Bloodshed in any meaningful way.

Ultimately, Bloodshed is another winner in a discography full of them. Inquisition is the crown jewel of American black metal, and as expected this record is a joy to hear in both music and production. The DR score is nothing to marvel at, but all of the details of Dagon’s riffing and the subtleties of Incubus’s consistently interesting drumming are all easy to hear on any half-decent set of headphones or speakers. It’s a bit chillier and tighter in production than Multiverse’s warmer and roomier sound, but given their contemporary style, they made the right choice here. They also made the right choice in making Bloodshed nothing more than another Inquisition record; sticking rigidly to form, it’s great.


Rating: 4.0/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Season of Mist
Websites: inquisitionbm.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/inquisition.official
Releases Worldwide: August 26th, 2016

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  • Satthia

    Dagon is Lord Of The Riffs.

  • Reese Burns

    This may be the black metal album to dethrone Abbath this year.

    • TheNihilist

      Naðra has the black metal AOTY by now.

  • Norfair Legend

    Fantastic review, after a day on the internet feeling dumber by the minute I can always count on coming here to recoup at least a few IQ points.

    Albums sounds great, Inquisition do not disappoint as usual.

  • Sounds good but I wish the album title was longer.

    • basenjibrian

      maybe tack on “transcending the limitations of the quotidian and squamous multiverse”

  • eloli

    “Essentially, Inquisition is a mixture of the most aggressive elements of the first wave and the most melodic yet vicious aspects of the second wave.”

    That phrase sums up in a nutshell Inquisition’s sound, and the reason why this site’s writing’s so good.

    • TheNihilist

      That’s true, but references to Gorgoroth and Immortal? Dagon did extreme music when gorgoroth was not yet a band!

      • TheNihilist

        Now, about this album, sadly the production is very generic this time. I miss the raw sound of previous releases.

        • Wack

          Ok now your just talking smack,very generic my ass.
          Sounds like well recorded instruments,its definitely not a messy underproduced excuse for cool guy cult points.
          The beauty is they have 7 distinctly different albums to choose from,you can always stick with the old stuff to feel safe.

  • Monsterth Goatom

    I was struck by Dagon’s vocals. He suddenly sounds much older than on Multiverse. Still my favourite metal band. One strong release after another.

    • basenjibrian

      Older than the sands of time!

  • André Snyde Lopes

    So, you go all the way to the celestial zenith, right? Now, beyond that there are a bunch of altars, one of which should be the empyrean altar. The way to check is to make sure you see some blood that was shed; if it was poured or just dropped, then that must be a different altar.

    Once you actually find the altar, look at the bloodshed. You see that? That’s what this new Inquisition album is about.

    • mindbleach

      Serious case of the ol’ Death Metal English going on there

    • METAL OTTER

      Thanks, Global Positioning Satan!

  • Kronos

    Dammit your review is so good.

  • mtlman1990

    I like the way the vocals are mixed. It really puts this album above there others.

  • Poop King

    AOTM

    • Blueberry Balls

      I agree.

  • Marco Stojanovic

    Thank you for that Monty Python reference :)

  • Dr. Wvrm

    This is remarkably well-written. Work of this caliber makes me want to tear up the review I’m preparing and start from scratch. Well done, Diablous.

  • Blueberry Balls

    This release deserves a 5.0 damn you!!!!! m/ m/

    Nice review by the way.

  • Dale Midkiff

    “Everyone expects the American Inquisition.”

    This is a great line, and also true. I honestly can’t think of another band that consistently produces such quality metal. Just outstanding.

    • TheNihilist

      The Colombian Inquisition…Dagon described Inquisition as combining “the South American attitude” with “the musicianship and skills of the European scene”. Inquisition is not properly a USBM band.

      • Jack

        Both members were born in the US to american parents, thats about as proper as you can get.

        • TheNihilist

          Dagon mother is Colombian and he speak spanish with perfect Cali accent. His father is german. Dagon formed Inquisition in Cali, Colombia in 1988, according to the Inquisition site. Maybe I’ve always thought in the USBM like a genre label, more than a geographical label. The music of Inquisition sound very different of bands like Judas Iscariot or Grand Belial’s Key, and his first works are pure dark brutal thrash in the vein of Holocausto or Parabellum. For me is 50% Black Metal and 50% pure South American sound, musically.

          • TheNihilist

            And yes, until the Ominous Doctrines they were a well know underground Colombian origen band, now than they are “famous” are labeled like “American”. If you think in Inquisition like an American band, really you must be new in Inquisition. Listen the Incense of Rest, totally Colombian Inquisition!

          • Jack

            Don’t really care what area of this tiny planet their from.

            2 north american born gringos in a Colombian band. Incubus (native gringo) has been in Inquisition since 1996 and recorded on all 7 full lengths (all recorded in the US). I guess Dagon should have changed the band name when he moved back to the US and there wouldn’t be any nationalism debate?

            I do like the demo,EP and MCD/split (Colombian recordings), but its nothing close to the same as “Into the Infernal” and after. Completely different band and era.

          • TheNihilist

            I don’t care about Colombian stuff or third world nationalisms, but in metal-archives, the official bancamp page and wikipedia appear like a Colombian band. And Dagon don’t change the name of his band for a main reason, he is Inquisition, and he founded Inquisition in Colombia, where he lived 15 years, his entire formative years, and became a metalhead. In this context, the drummer guy has always been a kind of auxiliary. About Into the Infernal was released into a Colombial label, sylphorium, and contain composotions of his “first” era.

  • Oscar Albretsen

    Face paint and gardening tools. I’ll pass.

    • Reese Burns

      Heh, tastes differ I guess, but I would really recommend giving this one a shot, it’s some great stuff

      • Oscar Albretsen

        Well, I’ll listen to the song based on your recommendation, but my hopes aren’t high, just looks like another black metal album. But, face paint isn’t always a bad thing (Ghost).

        • Oscar Albretsen

          Now my PS4 won’t play it! Well, there’s still spotify…

          • Oscar Albretsen

            Well, the singing wasn’t bad. Got through about two minutes of the song hoping they might have a different riff at some point, but no such luck. At least they look scary, I guess.

          • Reese Burns

            Eh, fair enough. Good on ya for giving it a shot though

    • Here’s Johnny

      You use a scythe in your garden, do you?

      • Oscar Albretsen

        Nah. A hose.

        • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

          But you wear corpse paint for gardening, right? It beats regular sunblock.

          • I do.

          • Blueberry Balls

  • Francesco Bordoni

    YES! This one is gonna be Killer!

    …and let me also add how much I genuinely loved this review. I fucking loved it, yes sir, I love it and I wanna have its babies.

  • dduuurrrr dddduuuurrrr

    Let’s update all our old covers with great artwork!

    Awesome! How bout the new one?

    Nah, I drew this snake and hawk fighting on my 3 ring binder, just use that.

    • Diabolus_in_Muzaka

      Those reissue covers are incredible.

      • TheNihilist

        The first covers are always the best. Reissue covers suck.

    • Here’s Johnny

      looks decent to me..if generic.

  • Scourge

    This is my first Inquisition purchase never having listened to them before. I was really surprised by the Immortal sound, At the Heart of Winter being one of my favorite albums. Been listening to this the last few days and it’s incredible! Do the rest of their albums compare to Immortal?

    • Reese Burns

      Yeah, there’s always been a similarity to Immortal. And if you like this record, you’ll definitely like their others.

    • Diabolus_in_Muzaka

      All of their records are quality, but try the two that came before this one (Obscure Verses… and Ominous Doctrines…) first, you’ll like them best.

    • TheNihilist

      Liste the Incense of Rest or the Farallones, that was years before the overhyped At the Heart of Winter.

  • Saw these guys live last year with Septicflesh, Abysmal Dawn and Carach Angren. They blew everyone away with their performance despite being a two-man act.

    • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

      Two-man, infinity of riffs… Riffs win all the time.

    • tomasjacobi

      I saw them a couple of years ago in a support slot for Behemoth.
      I think most people didn’t know who they were, but they won the audience over quickly; really great live band.

    • Diabolus_in_Muzaka

      Saw them this year at Throne Fest in Belgium, they were absolutely incredible. Dagon is a great showman.

    • Blueberry Balls

      Blowing away Carach Angren live is no easy feat. I saw the Inquisiton last year myself and they are tits.

  • Thatguy

    I’ll join the chorus. Great review, and the music is almost as good.

    • Am I the only one here that thinks it is a bit long in the tooth? Quality yes, but a bit long.

      • Thatguy

        Now that I have had a good listen I will agree with you. It is very good but too long.

  • Here’s Johnny

    Spot on review. Always liked the music but vocals grated with me, seems he has sorted them out for this album though. I went and bought this after seeing the live Hellfest 2016 video, truly amazing!

    A Black Aeon…best black metal tune in years.

    • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

      Vocals sound the same to me… seems you got used to them.

      • Here’s Johnny

        They were a bit amateurish/too loud before. Now they are not so far up in the mix/far more focused. Plus the echo effect works. Just slight tweaks.

    • drug_genosh

      Really? I miss his old vocal style-they were my favorite part! Definitely started changing a few releases back. Oh well.

  • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

    Why is Dagon showing off a plastic monowing attached to the end of a broom handle?

  • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

    Inquisition is one of the few bands where I believe they could release a riff-tape and it would come out great.

  • De2013

    No matter what you wrote after “lucrative sponsorship’s from Kleenex, Vaseline, and the local carpal tunnel treatment center.” the review couldn’t get any more epic-er. Loved it.

    And Inquisition sounds killer! Feel totally ashamed / stupid I missed them during the Behemoth/Abbath tour beginning of this year.

  • Very enjoyable album, even though the abundance of riffs seem to have a samey quality to them. ROTM, perhaps?

  • Death_Of_OutRage

    Multiverse was AWESOME and IMHO the best Inquisition album then. Bloodshed surpasses and worthy of AOTY.

  • Great review in all respects. I disagree with the assessment of Dagons vocals,though. They do not limit at all,are unique & unmistakeable,and you can hear (most of) the lyrics. Also, Dagon always seems to say “WOW !” at exactly the same time that I am marvelling at the depth,excellence and innovation of the playing and song writing!

  • IndignantN00b

    A bit late to this party but, as someone who used to obsess about black metal but lately has become too picky about it to enjoy most of it… Inquisition is basically carrying the entire scene on their backs right now. They’re the black heart pumping the death’s blood into a scene that lately has become far too prettified and navel-obsessed.

    I was pretty worried about this one based on the two prerelease tracks, but now that I’ve heard the whole thing, I feel silly. It’s good to know that, in this era of hype and flavor-of-the-month “trending” and post-whatever bullshit, that the elite is still the elite, and that when they act, the differences are obvious. It’s like comparing an elite boxer to a club fighter. There are levels, and Inquisition consistently makes most depressive, blackgaze, Cascadian, post-black, and whatever else look like kiddie bands. Trve as fvck.