Heck Death Thursday: Unflesh – Inhumation
The apotheosis of blackened tech death.
It seems there’s been a trend in recent years of established tech death acts leaning into black metal territory. Disparate as the genres may be, it does kind of make sense; a lot of the more melodically-inclined bands in either genre owe a lot to Dissection, and one could look at the turn to a genre more known for its rawness and emotion as a counter statement to the idea that tech death lacks soul. As you might expect, results have been mixed: Alterbeast was good for a spin or two before the novelty wore off (and the guitarist turned out to be a gargantuan douche anyway), whereas Vale of Pnath put a completely new spin on their sound that was both dark and dazzling.
These are but two examples among myriad bands that have taken similar steps, and few of them- even the better ones- meld the genres together as proficiently as Unflesh has with Inhumation. Following on the heels of the display of raw instrumental mastery that was 2018’s Savior, their newest record focuses on the death of self. Covering such frightening and deeply personal subject matter in a meaningful way requires a more delicate touch than the typical tech death fare, and as such, the flash and flair of the previous record has been dialed back in favor of more deliberate and emotionally centered songwriting. The result is an experience that is much more powerful and resonating than the band has created before.
Now don’t get me wrong here; this album still goes hard as fuck. “Vast Forest of Impaled Cadavers” is a showcase of blistering fretwork from end to end, and “Holocaust of Stars” opens with some truly insane riffing. The difference here is that the pure tech death parts of this album are more elegantly woven into a larger framework on both an album level and within each song. The pacing here is great, each solo and burst of tech bliss saved for maximum impact as the band pivots between each side of their sound. These parts wouldn’t work nearly as well without a rock-solid emotional core, and this is where the record truly shines; the music is shockingly somber and introspective for this genre, note-for-note matching the album’s lyrical themes. “Amongst Horrors Must I Dwell” (which I had the pleasure of premiering back in February) is a shining example of this, its lilting yet dark feel setting a perfect backdrop for the anguished vocal delivery. It also gives the rhythm section a chance to shine in their subtlety, with an active bassist and drummer who can show off their prowess with interesting grooves and melodies without going overboard or becoming too busy.
On that note, this might become the album against which I measure all tech death guitar solos from now on. While this is a genre loaded with talented guitarists, those who are able to go all-out shredding while retaining their own unique voice are incredibly rare. At no point does it sound like the guitarist is simply running through scales or arpeggio exercises; each one feels perfectly curated for the moment it happens, acting as an extension of the song’s themes rather than a simple instrumental break. Each one is a highlight, and as a sucker for a good guitar solo, this album might be the new gold standard. Time and more listens will tell, of course, but I remain consistently impressed by them even after multiple runs through it.
Inhumation is one of those rare tech death albums that can really make you feel something besides a pure adrenaline rush. It’s a powerful listen, and one that I’ve come back to for the lyrics as much as the music; not something I can say about a whole lot of metal in general. I’m mighty impressed with the direction Unflesh is taking here, and I would recommend this to basically anyone into melodic death metal. You can snag yourself a copy of it on Bandcamp when it releases on April 2nd, and you can follow Unflesh over at Facebook. That’s all for now, so until next time,