AV Club ran a recent piece on the best ever back-to-back-to-back run on an album. That site may not be brutal enough for you malcontents, but you know who is?
Me. Inferi. 2014’s The Path of Apotheosis stands on its own merits, but the 6-7-8 of “Destroyer,” “Onslaught of the Covenant,” and “Marching Through the Flames of Tyranny”1 made that record. Alone, each could have been a song of the year contender; together, they drove me to get “Inferi” tattooed directly on my heart. Needless to say, the Nashville quintet set the bar for follow-up Revenant at an unrealistic level. That didn’t stop Inferi from flipping double birds at underachievement as they continue their parabolic ascent into the stars.
Inferi quickly rose through the melodic tech death ranks with their infinity waterfall of bonkers technicality, jaw-dropping riffs, and clever blend of brutality and melody. Revenant is the apex of that ascent. That might not sound dissimilar from genre peers like Obscura or Beyond Creation, but to lump Inferi into that category misses both the core of their identity and what makes them so damn good. Rather than rearranging riffs ripped from the tech death playbook and saying “Mommy, wow! We’re a big band now,” Inferi turned to a totally different genre for inspiration. Guitarists Malcolm Pugh (A Loathing Requiem, ex-Enfold Darkness) and Mike Low (ex-Enfold Darkness) put big boy tech death pants on their mix of Arsis riffery and The Black Dahlia Murder‘s churning rhythms and gripping hooks. Inferi‘s rare gift for proper symphonic texturing furthers this treat’s atmosphere as neither a crutch nor an afterthought. Together, every song feels like an enthralling expedition into the unknown. Whether it pries your eyes out with the James Malone (Arsis)-led “Through the Depths,” catches you off guard with the subtle Obscuraisms of “Malevolent Sanction,” or sweeps you away in the Fleshgod Apocalypse build of “A Beckoning Thrall,” Revenant forever finds new ways to captivate.
Permeability typically bars me from diving into the genre headfirst, and Revenant‘s scope is more all-encompassing than its predecessors. There is no TPoA peak to latch on to; Revenant is the peak. Its twisting trail is marked by “Condemned Assailant,” “Thy Menacing Gaze,” and “Smolder in the Ash,” space jams each and every one, each grabbing at you in different ways. A landscape of breathtaking heights and trundling valleys smooth the record into something more digestible, but Revenant lacks natural entrances and exits. With nearly every fade-outro leading into another gripping build, it can be impossible to put this record down. The uninitiated may find this difficult to parse. The weak may find this exhausting.2 But Revenant grows with time just as much as it shows initially. Inferi have so much going on at all times, from Pugh’s orchestral compositions to new man Joel Schwallier’s deliciously audible bass action to Jack Blackburn’s (ex-Vital Remains, ex-Enfold Darkness) nimble drums that it’s possible that the brain requires several spins simply to wrap itself around all of Revenant‘s moving parts. Elements of this could have been pared down for a tighter spin, but once acclimated to the environment, it’s hard to notice.
Sam Schneider (Abyss Walker) assumed the mic mantle from Pugh, and wouldn’t you know it, that dual vox shoe fits perfectly. Schneider does have more Dani Filth and David DiSanto in his highs than muse Trevor Strnad does (which helps tell them apart during Strnad’s guest spot3), his lows are spot-on. He’s aided by the masterful production work of Low and Zak Denham (Anagnorisis) in putting the cherry on top of a record that would be a complete fucking disaster if you couldn’t follow the individual parts.
The decree from the top is that we’re all overrating bastards. For my part, I resolved to emulate Dr. Anal Nips‘ fear of his 4 key to prevent a lack of time and space from launching my yearly average into the clouds. But not here. Revenant is a sure winner, the magnum opus of an all-genre act cruising into a place on the tech death S-tier. My great worry is not that my opinion of Revenant will degrade over time, as often happens, but propel forward in a way that makes me look like an underrating fool. Inferi may have written my – and your – album of the year. I might just be too dumb to know it yet.