Inanimate Existence – The Masquerade
The Artisan Era strikes again with Inanimate Existence’s sixth full-length record, “The Masquerade”. Given the time and amount of releases these guys have behind them, they are undoubtedly an incredibly experienced band in the extreme metal field, and thus, I won’t take it easy on them. However, I can say I’m very pleased with their latest outing, although it has its shortcomings. Let’s dive in.
What usually gets me about a new Artisan Era release is the fact that I’m simply not ready for what’s about to hit me. The bands on this label have some of the most diverse and innovative approaches to extreme, progressive and technical music, constantly keeping it interesting and having some ace in their sleeve that you’re not expecting. And Inanimate Existence was no different for me when I listened to their previous album “Clockwork”. And that gets me to my main complaint about “The Masquerade”, which is that not much has changed in their style and approach. Admittedly their sound is quite unique and took years to develop, but I’m afraid this release sees them stagnating a bit. The songwriting style and overall sound isn’t much different from what I already knew. However, that doesn’t mean it’s not good.
Inanimate Existence – Return to the Dream
I think this band finds a way to make their music so mathematically precise and clinical that it starts losing credibility as being played by humans. And I’m not necessarily saying that in a bad way, because the mood they seem to create is very hi-fi sci-fi hi-tech alienish. And in that way, it doesn’t get boring or inexpressive. But they don’t really express human emotion, rather making you feel like you’re witnessing some unknown cosmic phenomenon from a parallel universe. They mainly achieve this through the blend of their atmospheric tendencies. This includes beautiful lead guitar themes, keeping a constant tone throughout most of the release, consistent use of clean guitars, also coming with a supernatural delay and reverb that makes you feel like you’re wandering vast empty corridors of an abandoned spaceship. And there’s really clever use of samples giving a strange and slightly sinister robotic effect.
I think you catch my drift when it comes to the atmosphere. And that is what I think sets the unique tone separating this band from other death metal artists. But they are still a progressive tech-death group so let’s not dwell too much solely on the atmospherics. As previously stated, the playing style is incredibly precise and clinical. Especially on the drums, I find drummer Ron Casey to be resembling an A.I. using a machine gun. The double kick drilling and blast beats are so flat and mechanical that it’s ridiculous. I love the changes in pace that often happen on the kicks, spotlighting the precision even more. And that is actually the backbone of the music. But there are also groovy parts where the grinding spaces out and leaves some room for the other instruments to breathe.
Inanimate Existence – Into the Underworld
The guitar riffs, although very heavy and quite brutal in sound, once again have a very controlled and calculated sound, like they’re streams of electricity running through a supercomputer. There’s plenty of chugging, galloping and tremolo picking that fills up the sound, giving a full resonant feel to the entire soundscape. And then we get to the solos. Lead melodies are a core component of the sound on this record. They are there almost all the time, providing epic themes and a supernatural personality to the music, but it makes it such that when an actual solo starts, it’s a bit hard to tell the difference. In fact, I wouldn’t dare say for sure that they deliberately made space for solos. It rather sounds like they naturally grow out of the music when it feels natural and run their course quite seamlessly. The borders are kinda blurred. There was also a bass solo I really loved on ‘Buried Beneath Scars’. And the bass in general gets a lot of attention, as is often the case with tech-death, differentiating itself from the riffs by going in different directions and bringing a very different fluid texture.
Vocally, I can’t say I’m very impressed. It’s all just low growls, and while that is good and a definite fit for the band’s sound, it is extremely one-sided and can get monotonous to hear for 40 minutes straight. But it’s not that much of a downer. Overall, the band is extremely talented and has put forward a strong album showing extreme technicality and a fluid, cohesive writing style that makes death metal sound quite elegant. I just would have wished for a bit more spark and diversity from them, but this is still an album I would recommend to my fellow tech-death enthusiasts.
- Endless Waves
- Buried Beneath Scars
- The Masquerade
- Into the Underworld
- Wandering White Halls
- Return to the Dream
- Heart of the Inferno
- Ending the Ritual