Inquisition 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.
Now, 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.
It’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.