Retro Review: Inanna – Converging Ages

332
0
Share:

The Chileans out of Space

The year is 2008 and the death metal counter-attack of atmospheric old-school evilness has just begun. The decadent masses of brutal technicality, Gothenburg melodicism, and clickety-clackety blast worship are caught off guard, years of increasingly narrow worship of illusory extremity rendering them vulnerable against the return of rotting sepulchral filth, doom-dirge pessimism, and analog-evocative evocations of early ’90s ugliness. This counter-attack spearheaded by bands like Dead Congregation, Funebrarum, Mitochondrion, Altars, War Master, Abyssal, Ignivomous, Charon, Ulcerate, Lantern, and countless others continued well on into the 2010’s. While it did not solely include “Old School Death Metal” bands, also including quite a few dissodeath participants, the former is treated as the face of this movement and some would say is death metal’s dominant form. So dominant that it now finds itself in the same position as what it once replaced. The same could be said for the dissodeath bands that functionally pushed for shifting the paradigm the same way, only for its once horizon-opening extremity to become a series of tributes to its now well-worn and tediously familiar patterns. Yet there were always bands that may have been a part of this grand metamorphosis that didn’t comfortably fall into either category of ultra-modern nor atmospheric old school death metal.

Chile’s Inanna is part of a movement I would classify as “Death In Opposition”. If you’re familiar with the “Rock In Opposition” movement of avant-progressive rock bands (Univers Zero, Henry Cow, Art Zoyd, Stormy Six, etc.), I would put these in a similar category as being both a synthesis and antithesis of the previously mentioned genre forms, in this case of death metal. Along with bands like Nex Carnis, Epitaphe, VoidCeremony, Undersave, Aenigmatum, and Pavor it could be said to be a continuation of the original early ’90s wave of experimentation and progressive songwriting in death metal. Not bound to the increasingly self-contended participation trophy practices of OSDM, the stylistically atrophied narrowing of the blasting brutal/technical modernization, nor the now ironically mundane “experimentation” of dissodeath, it could be seen as a way forward and beyond these faltering clans. The “astrodeath” movement of bands like Morbus Chron, Obliteration, Execration, sophomore-era Necrovation, Temisto, Afterbirth, Blood Incantation, and the coiners of the term Cryptic Shift are a sort of sister movement to it. Yet while the astral crowd’s roots tend to be more openly in the trippier end of the early ’90s, the DIO movement tends to sound far more contemporary. Dating back to 2000, Inanna formed just when the last of classic ’90s death metal was absorbing into or replaced by the shockwaves sent by Vital Remains, Cryptopsy, Necrophagist, and Hate Eternal. This makes them one of the older members of the movement (Pavor currently being the oldest forming in the late ’80s) and yet listening to them reveals a sound that bears few of the hallmarks of its time.

The easiest way I can describe Inanna is “progressive melodic death metal with a cosmic atmosphere.” Inanna’s sound roughly calls back to of the thrashier roots of death metal though with a technical touch putting them closer to Coroner, Atheist, and Death than Slayer, Kreator, and Sepultura. A healthy dose of melody runs through the album, often as an extension of those thrash roots for punchier, catchier riffing but also draws parallels to groups like Dissection, Amorbital, Mi’Gauss, and North From Here-era Sentenced, essentially the non-Gothenburg, lives-up-to-the-namesake approach to melodic death/black metal. Some sludge is included, a good deal of black metal, as well as progressive rock like Rush, Marillion, Genesis, and King Crimson, contributing to the use of spacious chord work and tonalities that seem to stretch all across this starfaring sonic horizon. Mainline US death metal such as Cannibal Corpse, Suffocation, Morbid Angel, Immolation and Deicide also play a part in grounding this with disciplined tenacity and maze-like structural layout. The Chasm is an easy point of comparison (even if they never influenced Inanna) though Inanna’s songs have a more Mekong Delta-esque usage of tonality and leads. Their sense of scope and atmosphere is Lovecraftian and grandiose as opposed to The Chasm’s mythological voyages intertwining with the deeply personal. Regardless if you enjoy one, the other likely will reward your ears for many of the same reasons.

Where they come the closest to The Chasm, however, is their expertise in making songs that are less ripping whirlwinds of bloodthirst and violence (not that either band is incapable of such) but supernatural journeys beyond. The tracklisting reveals a runtime where 5 out of 7 (metal) songs go over the 6-minute length, culminating in the 17-minute “Sea of the Dead”. Without a great deal of repetition or a prominent emphasis on hookiness, Inanna is free to explore structures best described as ever unfolding, narrative even. A large part of it relies on contrasts within the guitar work, supported by tasteful drumming and faithfully plunking bass along with the hollow, rough grunts. Their wide array of techniques centres itself within structures establishing themes with variation in phrasing and technique, taking familiar ideas and diverting towards developing additions and then back into the familiar. The juxtaposition of spacious technique and more expressive rhythm section work with streamlining, thrashy intensity creates a push-pull dynamic benefiting from this idea of orbiting ideas around one another then slingshotting into newer ones.

Of note is how they utilize the second half of a song to branch out considerably, bringing considerable shifts in tempo and dynamics to create a powerful resolution to the individual thematic threads preceding these colossal moments of power and majesty. While it is very rooted in death metal in spite of its astral aspirations, it does not use its individual riffing as structural building blocks and imparts an ’80s-esque sense of memorability and occasionally select catchiness. This gives these complex songs a kind of forlorn romanticism to them and makes them easier to follow without compromising it through forced commercial accessibility. It is “epic” music but its sense of adventure is filtered through years of songwriting and technical innovations in death metal and elsewhere. In essence, they bridged the divide between the heavy/thrash styles death metal broke away from so smoothly it almost makes it seem as if it never even happened.

Making all of this better is the punchy, powerful remastering job courtesy of Desert Wastelands Productions. While the original was solid for a debut album released on the Corvus Discos label, practically unknown outside of Chile, it was a bit dry and somewhat sapped the instruments of their might. Desert Wastelands thankfully ensured that it sounds as if it was recorded anytime since 2015. At most maybe the snare drum is a little too hefty in the mix and the bass, while still thick and meaty, would have benefited from a bit of extra separation. These are minor issues overall and their ideas are delivered with impressive clarity and skill for their first opening. Going back to the first paragraph, Converging Ages even with its initially flawed production was just as much of a titan of the grand atmospheric-oldschool counterattack as Archaeaeon, Graves of the Archangels, Breed Deadness Blood, Nekropsalms, Catacombs of the Grotesque, Ancestral War Hymns, To Those Who Stand Against Us, and Everything Is Fire. While many of their compatriots had gone all in on exhuming the dead or mangling familiar consonance into malformed dissonance, Inanna sidestepped this entirely. In the process, they avoided the dead ends that characterize these once revolutionary movements. Bending style and aesthetic to their own needs rather than letting it be the guiding voice, Inanna created an excellent vision of what death metal is still capable of that has been remastered for a new audience a large part unaware of the genre’s complex history and chaotic relationships with its past, present, and its still emergent future. A monumental work and one of my personal current top 15 of death metal as a whole.

5/5 Converging Toilets ov Hell


Both the original and 2020 remastered versions of Converging Ages can be listened to and digitally purchased on Inanna’s official bandcamp. Desert Wastelands currently is out of stock for the remaster.

Did you dig this? Take a second to support Toilet ov Hell on Patreon!