Bloodshed Across the Empyrean Altar Beyond the Celestial Zenith – Inquisition

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Music these days can seem to lose its fun as the bands search for more and more exotic and extreme ways to make their music stand out. So many bands out there seem more intent to make an image for themselves rather than create quality music. It’s a real shame. It’s depressing really when you get clogged with so much of the same thing over and over again. Where is the originality? Where is the quality music? Where is the passion for the art of music? Where is the spirit of black metal? Good solid black metal is hard to find; it’s like trying to find a very specific crocodile in a swamp full of them. Inquisition, though, don’t simply wait around to be found. No, this band throws itself and its music in your face and forces you to listen, metaphorically at least. When you despair of finding good quality black metal, one should look no further this year than “Bloodshed Across the Empyrean Altar Beyond the Celestial Zenith.” Other than being a brobdingnagian Nile-esque title, this album illustrates that there is still good black metal out there, good black metal, nasty black metal.

“Bloodshed…” and Inquisition overall, exemplifies a growing trend in black metal to go back to the roots, philosophically. “Bloodshed…” is a prime example of esoteric black metal that refuses to be otherwise categorized. The esoteric and cryptic nature of the music and the lyrics demands so much attention from the listener that it’s nearly impossible, unless you’re like me and you’re actually analyzing the music, to see anything else. What is esoteric black metal? Well it’s not really a subgenre, it’s something I made up to explain the sort of sound, mannerisms, and imagery of bands like Inquisition, Deathspell Omega, and Mephorash. It’s a not quite palpable difference, sort of like the fear frequency, you can’t really hear it but you know something is there. Inquisition’s lyrics are, obviously, a focal point of the “esoteric-ness” of the band, with lyrics like “Elements of earth, fire and wind/ raise from the ashes of the dying son/ rivers of blood flowing from the skies/ cult of the stars where the third shines” you cannot deny the otherworldly aspects and mysterious of Inquisition. The lyrics are poetic but there is more to them than just poetry. There’s a power to them, to Inquisition (the band that wrote them) and to those that understand what they could potentially mean, at least. While I don’t pretend to be an expert on esoteric thought, theistic satanism, or luciferianism, not in the slightest, I do understand the power of language how that power is concentrated in words and arrangements like that which is found in Inquisition and other esoteric black metal bands.

As I said before, I probably overanalyze most music, it’s something I was cursed with when my eyes were opened to literary analysis (to be fair I was warned that that was going to happen). However, I love analyzing so I’m not about to give up and just try to listen. To me it’s like only eating bare bones, bland meals. I want the flavor, the spice, everything! When I listened to “Bloodshed…” to analyze it I heard a lot of different melodies, melodies that take Inquisition away from the raw side of black metal and steer it toward the blackened death and melodic black metal side. If I were forced to choose I would probably say I liked the latter more. Inquisition plays the music they play very well. It’s complex and harsh, delivering constant razorblades with their shrieking guitars and equally razor sharp vocals. It was like Abbath stepped out of Blizzard Beasts and threw in some guitars from Watain and Goatwhore. Every second was filled with an intensity that did not rely solely on the volume. Even in the quieter, more serene moments the air is thick with fervor and intensity. The entire album radiates with power. It comes not from each individual instruments but the sound as a whole. The whole is much greater than the sum of the parts.

The album is laid out like some sort of arcane, forbidden text. Each title is a chapter that take the listener deeper and deeper into something the might be aware of. Each level unleashes new powers, new riffs, and new melodies. Each chapter is stronger and more stringent than the last. Then the listener finally reaches the coda and the entire world is changed and warped. If they understood the message then they can see things deeper, the mysteries of the world and the elements can open up to them. There are hundreds of layers of stories in the album, each tied to a distinct sound and note that follows through the album. There are too many to account for here in this review but if you look and listen you can find them. There’s a different story in here for every listener if they want it, they can be merely observers or they can really listen and get into the story themselves, they can decide where it goes. Each story is personal too, it’s intimate yet intense, much like a performance from Mads Mikkelsen. Pay attention and you will find a beautiful and twistedly dark work of art; even if you don’t pay close attention you will still hear one of the best albums this year so either way you win. Check it out!

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