So get this: I mostly took last year off from my metal scribbling duties (burnout can be a motherfucker), and one of my favorite tech-death bands drops an entire album right under my ever-running nose. Inanimate Existence, the party behind 2014’s excellent A Never-Ending Cycle of Atonement, super-secretly released Calling From a Dream… or did they? It’s like the old saying: if a promo drops in the email and no critic downloaded it, did a tree also fall in the woods where a bear happens to be shitting?
No. As far as I’m concerned that album doesn’t exist except in tech-death folklore. And besides, 2017 has brought us a standout effort in Underneath a Melting Sky. Inanimate Existence heads in a less technical direction, opting to let their progressive side shine, and it’s an insanely cohesive album as a result. In fact, the entirety of the playlist functions as one fluid piece. Transitions between tracks are so well-planned that one would be hard-pressed to notice it’s a new song. Normally that can be insulting, but here you have eight compositions that also work as a single thirty-six minute piece, and on top of that it seems intentional. It’s impressive, and the performances given speak to that level of dedication.
Speaking of, Underneath a Melting Sky is one of the most elegant death metal albums in recent memory. It’s like IE’s answer to Emperor’s Prometheus. The way the rhythm guitar flitters around the leads without aping them at any point makes essentially every note played feel purposeful, like they’re all part of a greater good. Solos are certainly present, and they’re virtuous without wading into fret-wank territory. There is also some supremely restrictive percussion at play here — not once do the drums become a distraction with speed or technicality. Both exist, mind you, but it’s not “play as fast as you can because there is still shock value in that”-style kit-work. Blasts are sprinkled in as necessary to push riffs where they need to go, and simple timekeeping is applied during cleaner and more somber moments.
Restraint and seeing a bigger picture have served this three-piece very well in this effort, and it’s one of the more superb death metal albums of the year as a result. It’s subdued without being boring, and it’s aggressive without being ugly. There are zero missed opportunities, and nothing goes on so long that it gets to be a chore to listen. Outside of this year’s phenomenal Ingurgitating Oblivion album, you’d have a tough time out-classing this one. Highly Recommended.