There’s really no need to get into Inquisition‘s background. We aren’t going to deal with their political garbage dump heaped upon them by websites seeking clicks and ad revenue. In fact, they just got back from doing a little black metal outreach tour in Egypt so I think you have to do your own research and just make up your own mind there. What I’m more interested in is their sound and musical history and how that related to their 2016 release Bloodshed Across The Empyrean Altar Beyond The Celestial Zenith.
Let’s briefly make an equation that gives you an idea about the classic Inquisition sound. A sound they (well at least Dagon) have been purveying for more than twenty-five years (twenty with drummer Incubus) at this point in both Colombia and the hometown of Dr. Frasier Crane, Seattle, WA. So here is a scientifically accurate description of their sound:
Reptile + Frog – Snake + Monster Riffs + Magic/Sorcery + Grooves – Tasteful Blasting + Tempo Changes x Beastial Production / Melody = Inquisition
Even if you’re not a mathematical genius akin to Will Hunting you probably have a pretty good idea. The swirling atmosphere of one guitar combined with monster riffing of the other guitar combined with just groovy-as-they-come drums (including those tasteful blasts) along with vocals that are croaked or fried or squawked or throatily wheezed or huskily cawed or even lazily squawked which make for Inquisition’s general backbone.
Enter Bloodshed Across The Empyrean Altar Beyond The Celestial Zenith, which is yet another mouthful of a title from the duo. The album combines aspects of what makes Inquisition’s two most polarizingly different yet drastically successful albums. There is plenty of the mysticism, darkness and rawness of Invoking the Majestic Throne of Satan as well as the riffage, catchiness and near chorus-like repetitions of Obscure Verses for the Multiverse. But Bloodshed Across The Empyrean Altar Beyond The Celestial Zenith takes the concepts to another level.
Shockingly, tracks like “Power From the Center of the Cosmic Black Spiral” include some drone aspects. Other tracks like, “From Chaos They Came” are a full frontal assault, blasting away with gruff, dastardly vocals that very much could have been at home on Obscure Verses for the Multiverse. While Inquisition has never been a million-part-a-song type of band, they’ve never dropped into the haze of THC smoke to quite this level. Yet, at the same time, the vocals have moved a notch higher into the realm of general palatability. If you’ve been trying to get your buddies into Inquisition but felt like there was a dead reptile-like speedbump in the way, now is the time to bring them into the fold of cosmically astrological black metal.
Let’s briefly talk about length. Does size matter? Well, if so, Inquisition is dropping a meaty fifty-seven minutes of black metal on the table and asking you to take it whole. No single track is particularly long. The title track is the only one that exceeds six minutes (and it feels like riding a majestic steed through an undiscovered atmosphere of an unknown planet in a hard to find galaxy). It’s merely thirteen solid tracks, including an intro, outro and coda that comprise this nearly one hour experience.
The title track is a great way to understand the changes that Inquisition has undergone for this album. ”Bloodshed Across The Empyrean Altar Beyond The Celestial Zenith” is paced, almost groovy throughout. The guitars actually power through to present atmospheric lead lines. And even at six-minutes the track features a nearly two minute jammy outro. The main chunk of the track, the body if you will, is groovetastic—more disco than headbang. Vocals don’t enter for nearly two-and-a-half-minutes. And when they do enter they are subdued, beneath the mix, used more for atmosphere than assault. In a way, the track sets up the slower final tracks of the album—like a sign-post that lets you know they are bringing it home.
Inquisition will never be anything but Inquisition. They won’t suddenly sound like another band or drag in metalcore influences. They won’t stumble down the psychedelic paved road of gazecore. Rather, they will stick to their guns: two men making music in the manner that they choose. They will change their guitar sounds little and they will alter their production values only slightly. Yet each album will be a step toward their ultimate triumph. Their albums will continually get better while building upon their rock solid black metal foundation.
While Bloodshed Across The Empyrean Altar Beyond The Celestial Zenith might be a touch long (perhaps better presented as an 8-Track LP and five track EP) it’s certainly a journey and another masterpiece in the already thick catalog of one of black metal’s most interesting acts. Inquisition are breaking into new territory while keeping everything that made them great, and aggressive. Bloodshed Across The Empyrean Altar Beyond The Celestial Zenith is unmistakably Inquisition yet it adds a few more cosmic layers to the geology of their career.