Ectoplasma — Inferna Kabbalah Review

Reader, we have before us a scabby and indelicate piece of business. It’s been a busy few shifts at the filth factory for Ectoplasma; Inferna Kabbalah marks the fourth time in recent years that they’ve dropped a compost heap filled with dung and rotting offal on our doorsteps. And a ghastly pile it is! It’s almost as if these fellows, lately reduced to a twosome, intend to direct our gaze away from the sublime and toward the baser aspects of human nature. Imagine, making music designed to nauseate rather than to elevate–the rakes and popinjays are sure to set the society pages alight with scandal! Still, let’s resolve to keep our monocles firmly in place as we kneel to poke at these leavings.

Inferna Kabbalah finds these Greek shitmongers peddling a familiar varietal of old-school death metal, but a commitment to improving in the margins distinguishes this fragrant heap from previous excretions. Kronos took the Rod of Judgment to 2018’s Cavern of Foul Unbeings, issuing that record forty strokes for failing to distinguish itself from its peers. Ectoplasma hasn’t changed their basic approach since then, but they have done some effective tinkering. This is still a dose of early Autopsy and Asphyx worship, complete with the obligatory samples of horror-movie dialogue—but the riffs are sharper, the compositions tighter, and the production marginally less smeared in mystery goop. Recently added guitarist and drummer Dimitris Sakkas seems responsible for much of that uptick. He gives a relentless performance throughout, spewing forth a geyser of crusty riffs that carry the proceedings even while a general lack of variety threatens to flush the whole thing out of sight.

Sakkas proves himself a versatile and punishing riffmeister. He can carry songs with energetic, punky central hooks (“God is Dead, Satan Lives” and “Gruesome Sacred Orgasms”), but he also paints in the margins on “My Medieval Urges Materialized.” On that number and on “Filth-Ridden Flesh,” Sakkas cedes the spotlight to the rhythm section before taking over with menacing riffs that carry the tunes over the top. He even demonstrates a knack for melody on “Infestation of Atrocious Hunger.” It’s a command performance with the good sense to take a bow before things get tedious. Infernal Kabbalah clocks in at just over thirty-five minutes, a welcome change from the bloat that dragged down Cavern of Foul Unbeings. Combine these improvements with a better-than-it-needs-to-be production job—the album clocks in with a decidedly new-school dynamic range of 9—and it’s clear that this particular pile of poop stands taller than its predecessors.

For all the enhancements on display, Infernal Kabbalah has equally obvious limitations. Even if you can get on board with Ectoplasma’s narrow ambitions, there’s still the matter of founding member Giannis Grim’s vocals. One of the principal attractions of the reformed Autopsy is Chris Reifert’s unhinged master class in what it means to be a voKILList. From Macabre Eternal onward, Reifert slavers, gibbers, growls, and moans with just a little more pop and dynamism than he displayed on the band’s early masterpieces. Giannis Grim adapts a lesser variation of Reifert’s initial style, and the result is a wall of indistinguishable rasps that quickly grow familiar and dull. By the time penultimate number “Filth-Ridden Flesh” rolls around the listener’s attention has begun to wander. The songwriting hasn’t lagged; in a vacuum, each of the eight tunes on offer can stand alongside its peers with excrement-smeared head held high. It’s just that, after a certain point, you’ve grown accustomed to the rhythms of this BM and you’re ready to get on with your day.

As long as Ectoplasma are content to be one of hundreds of bands celebrating the work of a couple dozen genre pioneers, there’s going to be a ceiling to what they can accomplish. Still, they’ve improved their craft on this streamlined offering—if you’re looking for a serving of meat, potatoes, and night soil, you could do a lot worse than Inferna Kabbalah. The band may not have distinguished themselves enough to rate a full-throated endorsement, but they’ve still come a come a good ways.

Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 9 | Format Reviewed: 320 kb/s mp3
Label: Memento Mori
Releases Worldwide: January 24, 2022

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