There are very few unique bands in black metal these days. Bands that manage to stand out above the rest of the pack and announce themselves through the quality of their work and not their labels marketing budget. INQUISITION are one such band. Having slogged it out in the underground for almost two decades they finally got their break and signed with Season of Mist with their previous record. Bloodshed Across the Empyrean Altar Beyond the Celestial Zenith is INQUISITION’s chance to truly cement themselves as one of the best modern black metal bands.
The albums begins with an introduction titled The Voice Before Darkness which gives off a feeling of something building before truly kicking off in style with From Chaos They Came. An aggressive track with a rapid drumbeat over riffs any INQUISITION fan would recognise anywhere, it serves as a good opener to the album. This tendency towards faster tracks continues with Wings Of Anu which features a strangely catchy chorus, despite Dagon’s traditionally croaked vocals becoming slightly more legible here.
Vortex From the Celestial Flying Throne of Storms takes it slightly slower than the previous two tracks and focuses instead on delivering it’s riffs and showing the quality that INQUISITION have come to be known for. This tendency continues onto A Black Aeon Shall Cleanse which features some contenders for the best riffs the band has ever written and which manage to be melodic and still remain the feeling of crushing heaviness exuded from the whole album. The Flames of Infinite Blackness Before Creation takes this a step further and slows right down to a crawl, over which almost hypnotic riffs are laid as the basis for the croaking vocals. A slow track and all the better for it.
In contrast to these tracks is Mystical Blood which ultimately ends up being one of the more forgettable tracks on the album. The shortest of the proper tracks, it lacks the character of the others and while not necessarily bad, fails to justify its inclusion on a long album. Through the Divine Spirit of Satan a Glorious Universe is Known is not only the best title for a song ever, but also manages to be one of the more impressive songs on the album, with pure INQUISITION riffs and the croaking vocals laid over an aggressively fast drumbeat before fading out to a melodic close. Bloodshed Across the Empyrean Altar Beyond the Celestial Zenith challenges the earlier tracks with the sheer quality of the riffs on it as well as its slightly slower pace and a handful of distorted spoken vocals on the otherwise instrumental track.
Power From the Center of the Cosmic Black Spiral is another faster track that blasts through its five minute length likes its half of that, pausing only to throw in some melodic passages along the way to great effect. The final proper track A Magnificent Crypt of Stars is another mid-paced tracks with all of the INQUISITION trademarks involved in it, with the pounding drums serving as a solid backing to excellent riffs. The album finishes with an outro in the form of The Invocation Of The Absolute, The All, The Satan, which is an odd mix of noises while Coda: Hymn to the Cosmic Zenith is an entirely ambient track that seems almost redundant. Are two closing outros really needed?
INQUISITION have gained a reputation in the modern black metal scene as being a band that constantly delivers. Bloodshed Across the Empyrean Altar Beyond the Celestial Zenith is no exception to this rule, providing another hour of what will be some of the best black metal to come out this year. INQUISITION manage to blend the pure aggression and melodic elements of the genre seamlessly and their unique vocals and riffing style only serve to add to the quality of the final product. This is a band that continue to be simply better than everyone else and better their past releases, fans of the genre need to get this album.
Bloodshed Across the Empyrean Altar Beyond the Celestial Zenith is set for release on August 26th via Season of Mist.
For more information on INQUISITION head over to the official Season of Mist website.