I have not seen the sun for ten days except through a haze of ash. A fire the size of Chicago has been burning for as long upwind of me. Every day I am breathing as dust the lives it destroyed. The fire will not reach me, but it will not stop burning soon. There has never been a fire like this one before. I can do nothing about it even though I fueled a tiny part of it every day of my life. I cannot stop the next fire. I cannot know when or where the next horrible thing will happen. But this has happened, this will happen, and this will get worse.
Amid my guilt and powerlessness, I seek art that reflects life. Nothing could better match the ash entering my lungs than Infernal Coil‘s Within a World Forgotten. Like Our Place of Worship Is Silence, Infernal Coil ignite their cavernous death metal with a torrential drum performance worthy of the most furious grindcore. Within a World Forgotten takes that even further, letting the drumming lead the music entirely, guiding the guitars through their torturous, creaking roar. Parallels to Cascadian and atmospheric black metal abound; ambiance and noise thicken the mixture, and the album flaunts a grave preoccupation with environmental destruction and human death.
If you haven’t heard the rest of Within a World Forgotten, “Crusher of the Seed” may be the most powerful and unrelenting piece of music you have ever experienced. Within a World Forgotten seems to have infinite volume, to come from every point surrounding you at the same time. Every impact of the drums shakes a piece from your body. There is the overwhelming sense that you are in danger and will die—indeed you must die. Will it be agony? We can’t know—that’s why we fear death. That fear of the unknown is what makes music like this work. You simply cannot parse everything Infernal Coil are doing at once. You cannot predict what will happen next, whether that be a shift in the drums or the sudden snap that sends “49 Suns” into eerie calm. It seems impossible for you to understand. That’s why it’s frightening.
That’s why it’s addicting. That’s why I have come back to this album again and again. It speaks to a fascination with and fear of the certainties of the future. The acknowledgement of absolute mortality without any idea what mortality really is. The knowledge that things will get worse, but how bad? When the narration in “In Silent Vengeance” concludes that, after the human race descends into bloodshed, “The last man… commits suicide.” It’s imbued with a sense of resigned justice. Within a World Forgotten, ultimately, is a work of art about guilt, and about morality. It lays blame on every one of us. It sets the price of human greed as human suffering.
When I step outside, I smell that we are paying up.
Tracks to Check Out: “Wounds Never Close,” “49 Suns,” “In Silent Vengeance,” “Crusher of the Seed”