Inquisition-Obscure-VersesInquisition might be the greatest black metal band on Earth. But they weren’t always gunning for that title.

In fact, they’ve taken a long, unlikely path to the upper echelon. Guitarist / froghammer Dagon thrashspawned the band in Colombia back in ’89 before relocating Stateside in ’96, where he linked up with drummer / hellmachine Incubus. The duo released their debut, Into the Infernal Regions of the Ancient Cult, in 1998. Then, they quickly settled into a rut of obscurity for the better part of the decade, releasing three albums to a small-but-devoted cabal of black metal weirdos. They did okay for themselves, assuredly, but there were a handful of hurdles preventing Inquisition from reaching a wider audience:

1) Their brand of riff-based, raw black metal wasn’t effectively pimped by the likes of War Hammer and No Colours Records.

2) Their brand of riff-based, raw black metal wasn’t effectively conveyed by consecutive wet-blanket production jobs.

3) Their brand of riff-based, raw black metal was effectively castrated by a polarizing element: The band was helmed by a mechanized toad with throat cancer.

Inquisition seemed doomed to be acquired taste, and an elusive one, at that. But eventually (2009?), the duo decided that they gave zero fucks and put a world domination plan in motion. They toured incessantly on the back of a record that no one heard (Nefarious Dismal Orations), honed their stagecraft, wrote an insane amount of killer riffs, and signed with the mighty Hell’s Headbangers. The result? Ominious Doctrines of the Perpetual Mystical Macrocosm, a white-hot scythe of riff-laden lethality that carved through fucking everything. Yeah, the robo-frog thing was on full display, but even those that had difficulty with Dagon’s Abbath-as-Dr.-Claw delivery couldn’t resist those colossal guitars.

Enter Obscure Verses for the Multiverse, the band’s quick-turnaround debut for Season of Mist. Underground toilers no more, Inquisition have their sights set on Immortal’s abdicated kingship. Obscure Verses is easily the most accomplished record of the band’s career. The production is robust, the packaging absurd, and the scope? Infinite.

Inquisition_2013Now, be warned: Obscure Verses isn’t as immediate as their last record. The riffery of Ominous Doctrines was dangerously sharp, pushed to the forefront with little regard for dynamics. Obscure Verses is more balanced, and therefore had the shine of a mild disappointment at first blush. Part of Inquisition’s charm has been their oddly unhinged nature. Ominous Doctrines, while tightly constructed, felt like it could burst into flames at any second.  This is the most professional recording the band has ever created (by a wide margin), and that in itself makes it feel almost tame by comparison.

However, it’s a calculated—and ultimately brilliant—approach. Dagon packs an inhuman amount of riffery into this thing, tightly braided with Incubus’ whip-smart tempo changes.  The holocaustic windsprints of lead single “Darkness Flows Towards Unseen Horizons” illustrate this growth: It’s still classic Inquisition, just with a long-sought testosterone boost and a level-headed mix.

But the record gets really rad when Dagon throws some rock n’ roll swagger atop Incubus’ swarm. The title track is packed with wild squalls and foot-on-the-monitor flourishes. “Joined By Dark Matter, Repelled By Dark Energy” and “Inversion of Ethereal White Stars” are skeleton’d by somber, flannel-draped guitar lines—relics not of the Ancient Ones, but of early 90’s space rock. (Speaking of space, the unrelenting bursts of “Infinite Interstellar Genocide” boast a new theory about Dagon’s vocal chants: He’s not a reptile, he’s a Dalek. Think about it.) The final track, “Where Darkness is Lord and Death,” precedes the froggiest of all Dago-frog deliveries with a sneering, cocky riff that’s more Slave to the Grind than Odz Manouk.

Inquisition_2013aIt’s a capstone on a long-boiling suspicion: Dagon has been slowly positioning himself as the first black metal guitar hero. (That sentence looks weird. You know what I mean.) Onstage, he’s gone from stoic riffchanter to full-on showman, adopting stage moves that are more pro wrestling than sober Satanism.  Here, the metamorphosis is complete. Obscure Verses is a status record. It takes Inquisition from ultra-cult cornercrouchers to stage-dominating worldbeaters.  It might be the most guitar-centric black metal record of all time.

So: Does this statement of intent mean that Inquisition is poised to claim the throne as the greatest black metal band on Earth? Well, that title is too nebulous to pin down. The genre is too fluid, too fickle. Some crave a spiritual or emotional experience; some crave edge-tearing progression. Inquisition isn’t looking to provide either. But for black metallers that want to headbang until their vertebrae liquefy? Yeah, this is where it’s at.

Riff hard, friends. Black metal doesn’t get heavier than this.

Rating: 4.0/5.0
Label: Season of Mist
Release Dates: EU: 2013.10.25  |  NA: 10.29.2013

  • Игорь Чернов

    O.. And Why I’m not even surprised, of course, if it is black metal, of course rating: – 4 or 5 points! Even if the album will pass away, and don’t stay in memory or history..

    • Are you implying we are metal racists?

      • Игорь Чернов

        heh.. yep you guys just too love black, really, every black or folk black album you rate over9000, and i’m not have any problems with that, just pesky growl about that thing^^

        • Евгений Корнев

          pshh pshh… hey buddy! I check some song on youtube and they are really awesome, especially vocal, like astral river in your ears – ha ha~!!

          • Игорь Чернов

            yeah, i check some too, and was suddenly surprised, and of course i really looking forward to the top of the month – of October, interesting what Angry chosen to the top in this time.

          • Евгений Корнев

            it may be that some types of – Trivium – vengeance fall shit HA HA!

          • Игорь Чернов

            ))))) not American metal in this thread – no way!!111

  • Solbrave

    Fucking great album. Spiritual Plasma Evocation’s intro literally made me drop a wad in the porcelain god.

    • d3ad13

      I couldn’t agree more – I can’t stop spinning “Darkness Flows Towards Unseen Horizons” and “Inversion of Ethereal White Stars”. The backing riff that kicks in at :14 on that second track is simply beautiful.

  • skooly d

    Excellent, excellent review. Distills my thoughts telepathically. This is going to be difficult to unseat as my #1 for the year.

  • RagE

    “black metallers that want to headbang until their vertebrae liquefy?”

    That is all i ever wanted..

  • Kyle McDonald

    Wow. I have two things. 1) this is pretty stinking good, and 2) I was very confused with your ‘mechanized toad” reference… and then I listened to it and, frankly, I think that might be the most accurate portrayal of what the vox sound like. Super weird. Really good though…

  • Anthocerotopsida

    Obnoxious biologist comment: You called him a frog and then you called him a reptile. But frogs aren’t reptiles, they’re amphibians :(

  • Kelly

    Hahaha… a DALEK! Yeeesss! Very insightful :)

  • ASG

    i love this cd, but not sure i’d call it black metal…for some reason, the chaotic brassiness of dagon’s riffs reminds me of “violence & force”-era exciter.

  • Rui Calatré

    Reviews like this just contribute to the growth of the Black
    Metal type of audience that just recognizes Black Metal if it’s
    fitting a pre-existent style of an already well-known long-run
    band, like Immortal or Gorgoroth. Wishing for a larger square-
    minded audience is not a great wish: it just helps destroying
    possibilities for the few black metal bands with identity, just
    in sake of a standardized sound. If i liked “standard music” i’d
    put in any weak pop-rock group, not Inquisition.

    The “mechanized toad with throat cancer” or old-man-in-the-end-
    of-the-tunnel voice, as I like to call it, was part of
    Inquisition’s trademark sound, a good contribution to an already
    unique sound. And they let it go switching that type of voice for
    vocals in the style of Immortal.

    I’m obviously an Immortal fan but Inquisition knew how to do
    things their own way, and they are letting it go just to reach
    bigger audience: it started 2011, in “Ominous Doctrines Of The
    Perpetual Mystical Macrocosm”, when they started to sound a lot
    like Immortal. And it continues here, where Inquisition’s
    trademark guitar sound is still present, but not so inspired as
    in previous albums. If you think this is what “very good
    Inquisition” sounds like go listen to albums from 2002 or 2004:
    true hymns to Satan to be found there!

    This album? Still good, but not as inspired as the first-half of
    Inquisition’s career. Inquisition is still unique but is losing
    inspiration and identity since 2011.

    More about the review: Labeling pre-2007 Inquisition works as
    “acquired taste” is a forced statement. Not just that: a reviewer
    in an “angrymetalguy” website is _angry_ about old Inquisition
    unique vocals and is _happy_ when a band loses identity just to
    look like some other more well-known band? talk about bad-
    directed angriness -_- …

    And yes, Inquisition was always about craving “a spiritual or
    emotional experience”… you just get less of that on this album.

    Signed: some random “black metal weirdo”.