Review: Inanna – Void of Unending Depths
A Hard Turn Into Wormhole Country
When we last left off with Inanna, it was 2012 when the spearhead for un-modern atmospheric death metal was fresh and dripping with the blood of the brutal-technical-hyper-contemporary crowd. The band had taken 4 years to craft an excellent follow up to the mighty Converging Ages in Transfigured In A Thousand Delusions. Shifting from an epic melodic death metal sound to a dissonant thrash-tinged one, the underlying foundation of progressive songwriting and eclectic technique remained streamlined as they were into a starkly different form. This marked the beginning of a more experimental Inanna, echoing experiments first heard on Perpetuum’s only album, Gradual Decay of Conscience, back in 2009. While the album differed from Inanna in many ways, with 3/5ths of the current lineup it is a preview of what they would become. Warp forward after a very long wait and the new Inanna is by far the most unusual configuration of their iconic ideas since. The sophomore might have been the transition but this is essentially the deep dive into the same eldritch mystery present on the cover art.
On their long-awaited third album, Inanna undergo another fundamental change. The debut focused on cosmic melodies wrapped in a somber atmosphere, in terms of moving parts their most complex album yet. The sophomore trimmed much of this down and invested in a more visceral, relentless attack bending tonality to wrap atmosphere. Void of Unending Depths continues the exploration of alien tonalities coupled with a greater sense of spaciousness and astral depth. I’m tempted to say that it might be going into some sort of post/sludge metal territory here though I’m no expert on either genre. While far from devoid of deathly tenacity, a greater portion of technique relies on spacey chords and textured ambience in a fashion distantly evocative of black metal. Ulcerate and recent Haunter of all things also came to mind especially with the melancholy dissonant tinge underlying much of this. It is primarily their last album though that is a very general approximation, one that feels stronger with the lessening of the thrash and melodic death elements that carried them onwards from 2008 to 2012.
It is a murkier sound, not one that relies on reverb-drenched repetition, opting for ambiguities of consonance and dissonance. When more conventional riffing does emerge, it tends to feel altered and angular, offering at best a temporary respite from this. Classic American style death metal riffs are used to contrast their atypical elements or are tonally warped by them along similar lines, as if they’re being played from the same alien dimension but trying to bridge into our own. The emphasis on harmony during these experimental portions, wherein both guitars start diverging add to this Lovecraftian sci-fi atmosphere, creating some of these ghostly networks of interlinked intricacy. This is their most inaccessible work, avoiding any obvious hooks or catchiness. In spite of this it continues the streamlining of its predecessor, delivering all of this in straightforward structures, rushing forth in a dreamlike haze. It’s as if you are experiencing all of this sliding through some space-time wormhole-tunnel, leaving little time for pure indulgences. That is where the influence of the sophomore still shines; the rushing energy that still drives the music.
I suspect a large part of what was described previously is due to new guitarist Cristóbal González from Perpetuum, definitely making Inanna sound at their most modern even if only vaguely due to their otherwise immense idiosyncrasies. Another thing to note is that founding guitarist and songwriter Carlos Alberto Romero has moved to the drums, replacing longtime member Felipe Zará (also in Totten Korps and Trimegisto). Previously I had heard Carlos’ drumming in Coffin Curse, coincidentally featuring Inanna bassist and vocalist Max Neira, and some of it does translate over. While the music is very floaty and hazy for Inanna, the drumming is even more aggressive than previously. Carlos’ rolls have an abrupt kind of Chris Reifert vibe to them, often capping off lengthy blasts or skank beat sections and done in a flash, emphasizing compact power. Max’s bass is solid and supports the rhythm section well, audibly plunking about in the background, twitching and pulsing beneath the guitar. His vocals have pseudo-Craig Pillardesque subterranean power to them, rising to a decrepit black metal snarl on occasion, emphasizing a cold and almost disconnected impression in the former and a wild, hateful one in the latter.
At just a little under an hour long, Void of Unending Depths features not only two tracks over 10 minutes but is the first album of theirs with no “short” songs under 6. It never feels particularly more long-winded than its predecessors, a large part due to how focused the compositions are even if the actual playing that comprises it is a lot less “grounded” than on preceding albums. The 7 tracks focus on a core theme that begins each song, wrapping itself up in layers of evolving technique and variation. Repetition familiarizes ideas enough through differing phrasings and riffing styles, fleshing out its expressed atmosphere in the process, deviating at a few key junctures. Inanna have a lot of ideas in each track but they make sure you become well aware of the scope of what you’re dealing with before they plunge you into those depths.
As these ghostly, otherworldly tonalities coalesce and amorphously swirl, breaks in the harmonic density are introduced. These include clean guitar portions, switching to more condensed riffing styles, or altering intensity to further explore various moods. While these changes in direction are not as pronounced or as explosive as they were previously (owing a large part to the shift in technical focus), this is not quite to its detriment with how it contributes to their strongest sense of atmosphere yet. The pacing contributes heavily to this, as the ambiguous, stretched out guitar lends to a black metal-like sense of warping song structure when warped through the frequently blast-beat heavy drumming. This results in songs that do feel and are genuine fairly long (even if not immensely moreso than preceding albums) but song evolution does not feel as jarring or sharp as previously.
In that sense, you can make the case that atmosphere plays a larger part in the way all the individual pieces relate, wrapping much of them up in a continuous sense of the previously described foggy murk. Sometimes the gaseous mist fades and recedes and other times it becomes miasma thick, but it is a consistently haunting presence. Strangely enough, it is the guitar soloing that serves as a vital part of both structure and atmosphere even if this is stylistically the furthest from the ’80s infused elements they have ever been. Matching the conflicted relationship between consonance and dissonance, they prove to be effective ways of capitalizing on the anxiety-inducing tension these songs evoke. This is without necessarily even being stereotypically pleasant and ear-wormy; much of them have this distantly jazzy, King Crimson-esque vibe like a ’70s version of Immolation’s Rob Vigna with an expressionist approach focusing moreso on straining simple but evocative melodies. Functionally they serve as demarcation points that help summarize the underlying melodic (or not-so-melodic) ideas of individual parts of a song, sometimes building up thematic tension in a first half or beautifully dissolving and resolving it in a second. They’re only absent on a single track, “The Key to Alpha Centauri” but it demonstrates they do not require such things to still make immensely compelling metal.
While I cannot say I am a veteran Inanna fan (maybe a decade ago I was almost a detractor), I can say that that they do know how to justify a lengthy wait time. Whether or not a band can handle a sharp change in style often feels like a coin toss and if you follow Sturgeon’s Rule, most of the time it doesn’t turn out well (if the band was even listenable in the first place). Having now three distinct sounds across 2008, 2012, and 2022, it seems Inanna understand the nature of change in a way few others do. Underlying fundamentals have remained with the band even as far back as 2005—the astral scope of their atmosphere, the delicate balance of contrasting tonalities, the exchange in theme and firepower between many varieties of riffing, all kinds of elements that comprise their distinct sound.
Void of Unending Depths is by far the sharpest change they’ve undergone but it allows us to see a lot of these ideas in a different lens. Its spacious sound and the evoking of an atmosphere of eldritch endlessness were predicted many years ago. After such a wait we finally get to see that explored in full, evoking a new domain of infinite morbid grandeur that plays into their sensibilities mythic and horrific. It’s also by far the most difficult to fully wrap your head around as it delves into ambiguities that once lurked in the background, now risen to the surface. Still unconcerned with following any major trends in death metal and elsewhere, Inanna’s hyper-specific style has only grown more mystifying with both a shift in the lineup and the decade it took for this album to finally arrive. Thankfully, the death metal fanbase is becoming increasingly open towards progressive, experimental ideas of a more arcane and unusual nature such as Blood Incantation and Gorguts distantly comparable to those of classic death metal. With the success of 2020’s remaster of Converging Ages by Desert Wastelands Productions, a record deal with the well-established Memento Mori, and their most out-there work yet, Inanna are poised to become visionaries in a growing field of the genre’s outsiders and oddballs.
Four out of Five Black Holes
Void of Unending Depths is out now and can be ordered through the Desert Wastelands Productions and Memento Mori websites.