Unflesh – Inhumation Review

Your disciples follow your becloaked figure subserviently to the blood-tinged altar. The book which lays upon the podium at the altar’s apex lies already open. From beneath your inky black robes you retrieve a singular page, one edge tattered. With a whispered incantation you approach the tome, the serrated edge of the page aligned with the inverse edges of a missing page torn from the book aeons ago. Like a desperate wretch thirsting for water, dozens of fibrous threads reach from the page, making contact with the book’s companion edge, and ripping free from your grip with a force belying the tendrils’ fragile appearance. The book now whole once more, you lift it into your palms and turn away from your congregation as an infernal portal dilates out of nowhere just behind you. Into the void you vanish.

I might have just sacrificed an entire paragraph to tell the tale Unflesh‘s sophomore album Inhumation imparts when I gaze upon its monochromatic cover, but know that doing so also illustrates what plays out in my mind’s eye as I listen to the album itself. Unlike the New Hampshire trio’s debut Savior, which ranks among my earliest Bandcamp purchases, Inhumation flows like hot blood through open veins. Where the debut rode through a chaotic blizzard of technicality, Inhumation builds upon an ensemble of tight, catchy riffs, blackened leads and throbbing bass counterpoint. Drama drips from the walls of this cathedral of melodic tech-death. Excess has been excised from the exercise, exhibiting only that which enhances the experience. Some spells are long, and some are short, but all feel directly connected to the last and logically proceed to the next. The end result is a record that compels me to listen from beginning to end as a man possessed by the spirit of the netherworld, and the reward for my deference is the replay button.

If there was ever an album that I could use to demonstrate the difference between potential and polish, it’s Inhumation. Assuming that this claim is true, then the two songs I submit as evidence are the one-two punch of “Inhumation” and “Amongst Horrors Must I Dwell.” The first emerges from the ether with the grace of a black swan, introducing a riff that’s subtle but unforgettable, and implementing transitions between segments that seem nearly too smooth for human ears. An acoustic guitar accompanies the electrics, giving a twinge of flair to the affair which only stimulates my blood vessels further. The latter track follows right behind, matching in sonic tone and mood but boasting a distinct character. “Amongst Horrors I Must Dwell” revels in blackened death fare of the mid-paced variety. Like the best songs of its kind, it features a ton of momentum driven by excellent drumming choices and memorable vocal cadences. Desperation and darkness abounds as the song picks up speed at the midpoint, using a double-bass run and a burly bass guitar line to drive the song through its second phase. “Holocaust of Stars” continues Unflesh‘s streak of excellence in songwriting. Tech-death is rarely as sophisticated as this, using the acoustic guitar to define and navigate boundaries between movements as it ebbs and flows from background to foreground without ever going silent. It’s an incredibly simple songwriting mechanism that too few bands use as a vehicle propelling their material.

While there are no low points present on Inhumation, there remains a mild sense that Unflesh left room for improvement. “The Sepulchral Depths,” “Vast Forest of Impaled Cadavers” and “To Renounce Flesh and Blood” are all strong offerings, but they lack the same distinct identity of the album’s best songs despite having all of the same quality elements in its makeup—strong leads, fantastic bass counterpoint, and butter-smooth percussion. At a tight forty-six minutes, Inhumation boasts an optimal runtime, but its closer “Dehumanized Legion” overstays its welcome, being that it’s nine minutes long but only offers enough ideas for seven. It does little to dissuade my right hand from reaching for that play button a second or third time, but it nevertheless requires a trim. To tack on one additional nitpick, I find the vocals somewhat monotonic on occasion, which contrasts uncomfortably with the dynamism of the other instruments.

Unflesh defy the sophomore slump by offering a record that is smoother, more sophisticated, and more refined than its predecessor. While Savior introduced me to a band with lots of potential, Inhumation shows me a band matured and still hungry. There is little doubt that this record will appeal to fans of melodic and technical death metal, but I believe it’s capable of converting a few new devotees as well. And so, I follow Unflesh into the swirling maw. Feel free to jump in, you know, whenever.

Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 160 kb/s mp3
Label: Self-Released
Websites: facebook.com/Unflesh | unflesh.bandcamp.com
Releases Worldwide: April 2nd, 2021

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