There are no limits, you are only limited by however far you want to be limited.
Only death is real.
–Thomas Gabriel Fischer
Mortality casts its shadow over everything we do and experience. It may not always be at the forefront, but submerged somewhere within the cavernous lake of the subconscious the knowledge of our own eventual demise lurks. It bides its time like the monstrous kraken–we are all aware of its presence, even if it only breaks free of its bonds and ravishes the conscious thought every so often. Yet as this beast lies in wait, its ripples spread across the surface, eventually touching every shore of our existence. It cannot be escaped through any deliberate means; quite the contrary thanks to the paradox of ironic process theory. No matter how much we try to distract ourselves from this ominous creature, it broods patiently. It’s a monster that cannot be defeated until it is fully accepted, only then can it be truly transcended.
Follow the trajectory of Death. Sure, you could rightly argue that there were a few “death metal” bands before, but much as we as humans at an early age fail to have a complete understanding of our own mortality, the full comprehension was, well, lacking. Scream Bloody Gore was the moment it really became a fully recognized idea. A triarchy of revelations: “Oh, this is death!” or “Oh, this is death!” or “Oh, this is Death!” Almost as soon as the beast was realized, Chuck was trying to escape it, to transcend its grasp while still being burdened with the knowledge of its existence and the power it held over his music. While in part due to his status of as a trailblazer of the death metal style (and thus shaping how the genre was to be perceived), everything he touched still felt tied, both thematically and stylistically, to death. As much as he tried to separate himself from death metal in the latter years, its presence is still felt in the music like an acknowledgment of the inevitable. He stared his own creation in the face, and by incorporating its undeniable presence, transcended it.
Santiago, Chile’s Inanna appear to come from a similar school of thought. The brainchild of Diego Ilabaca, Inanna (first formed in 2000) was initially a youthful idea meant to merge his favorites of Morbid Angel’s Altars Of Madness and Sepultura’s Morbid Visions with the progressive ideas of his 1970s favorites. Over the course of twenty-two years and now three full-length albums, Inanna have been experimenting and tweaking their sound, carving their own path towards transcendence of death, taking their time to acquire the proper talent to bring Ilabaca’s twisted dream to life.
Built around a tech-thrash backbone, their 2008 debut, Converging Ages was an impressive display of wizardry, both in the songwriting and technicality departments. 2012’s Transfigured In A Thousand Delusions veered even further into progressive territories, with Atheist-styled punishing technicality coupled with ethereal, mind-warping melodic passages more in the vein of Cynic. Their latest work, Void Of Unending Depths, feels like the heaviest, yet most balanced of the three, diving deeper into cavernous lake of death while simultaneously reaching out to see what lies beyond.
The two opening excursions feel like a prelude to the album as a whole, especially as the concluding lines, “Innumerable aeons I can see now, foul visions which no cult has attained!” echo out past the ending of the instrumentation. It’s the call of revelation, and the power within stews as “Far Away In Other Spheres” begins its its doomed introduction. The guitar darts noisily about like unfettered, inhuman energy. Even when the blasts come in, the song feels weighted with burdens of dark, esoteric knowledge. The simmer becomes a boil–then releases its heavy restraints as the bass breaks free of the waters that would drown it. A moment of peace and reprieve before the most sinister part of the song counteracts it, reshackling the melody and plunging it back into the torrid waters. The brilliance comes in the final moments of the song, when the melodies are revisited within the guitar solo–that key moment between the perceptions of death.
“Underdimensional” calms things down a bit at its introduction, letting the bass and drums explore the terrain with a jazzy drift through the aqueous, reverberated soundscapes of the guitar. Comparisons could be made to Blood Incantation (there’s something to the weightless aspect here), especially when the full crunch of distortion breaks through in an abrupt change into an ominous, distorted second intro. The song structure is intuitively logical, even when it takes sharp curves on a dime. There’s a subtle through line that carries the material from one idea to the next, regardless of the attack. Inanna have this unholy sense of balance, giving them the ability to strike from all sorts of directions–from deconstructed, atonal breaks to melodic, ripping thrash passages. The tortured vocals vary just enough between those lower, damp growls and a bit of the higher, drier shrieks, adding to the discomforting feel of horrific death. That aqueous theme is never too far out of reach, getting a highlight on the softer–yet still discomforting–bridge of the song that calls back to the first introduction. That lurking beast edges closer as the music crescendos. A driving beat brings in more of the riffwork that nods to The Chasm before the beat doubles down and the solo is unleashed. Frantic, yet melodic, it tears through with some serious shredding before the meat of the song is again tossed into the grinder. It’s a ten-minute epic that plays out to an appropriately dramatic conclusion–Wow, just…wow.
As vast and widespread as the album reaches, it never stretches too far apart from the sinking darkness that gives it its character. The shadow of deathly terror ties the melodic overtones and intuitive songwriting together make Inanna quite the chaperones for journeying across the tumultuous waters of the proverbial Styx. Their work is challenging, but accessible, and the second single from the album, “The Key To Alpha Centauri,” illustrates this perfectly. The balance between technical prowess and emotive playing walks a tightrope over increasingly tumultuous waters. The riffs tell a story, albeit one burdened with violent tragedy and consuming darkness. The way the band have a knack for making each wave peak a little higher as the song progresses is on full display, yet even the slower, labored, doom passages are littered with their own violent, cresting breaks in the growing tsunami. In contrast to the aggressive precision playing of the band, the simple, reverberated leads at the song’s conclusion mark a chilling humanity to the piece.
The journey through the Void continues with “Mind Surgery,” a whippy little number that kicks off with angular rhythmic structures. Even these discordant tech-death bits fit into Inanna’s smooth delivery. As proven by bands such as Morbid Angel or even Chile’s own Atomic Aggressor, even a jigsaw puzzle cut by an intoxicated madman can be reconstructed as long as all the pieces are there, and Inana continuously finds fresh ways of putting them together. It’s all glued by the ironclad drumming of Carlos Fuentes, who served as the band’s second guitarist until 2017. Perhaps it’s his multi-faceted perspective on the band’s writing style, but regardless he finds a way to hit every rhythm, fill, crash, chime, and roll exactly as the music demands.
If left off here, Void Of Unending Depths would be a more-than-formidable forty-four minute progressive death album. It could have been written to fit neatly on a single 12″ LP–but limitations are not something Inanna are considering. “Cabo de Hornos,” the album’s near fourteen-minute long opus of a closer is absolutely necessary. That beast that Inanna have tackled with throughout the course of the album, that ever-looming knowledge of demise is shed for a for a higher understanding. Too much should not be revealed but allowed to be experienced on its own terms. Needless to say, the song’s name, which derives from Cabo de Hornos (an area just south of the Tierra del Fuego /Land of Fire in the southernmost region of Chile) yields clues about the song’s subject of a journey to the literal end of the world. The music yields justice in its subject matter, as it’s a force of nature that finds solstice in the dichotomy of violence and beauty. It’s dark, it’s brutal, it’s heavy, but the truly breathtaking bit comes from when Inanna achieve higher understanding, carving beauty in the brutality. The spacey, 70s prog influence strikes like a charge through the heart of death; the guitars are illuminated with a certain radiate light that reaches past the darkness. The revelation becomes clear in the final lines of the song, painted against the backdrop of the beautiful and deadly terrain of Inanna’s homeland:
Rejuvenated, my soul doused in infinite wisdom
A new sense of foresight guides me now
The sky has turned green, beyond the nearby islands
Our Captain’s new form shines behind the Teeth of Navarino
An epic conclusion to a truly epic work.
While all three of Inanna’s full-length albums are class epochs in their own right, something about Void Of Unending Depths feels closer to the fever dream one would imagine a young Diego Ilabaca had so many years ago. If Converging Ages is a proof of concept, Transfiguration In A Thousand Delusions is a proof of ability, then Void Of Unending Depths stands triumphantly as a vision manifested into reality. It’s a journey worth taking time and again to appreciate both its magnitude and its nuance. It crafts an otherworldly, cosmic mood without relying on studio wizardry and without touching a single synthesizer across its transcendental 58 minutes. The only boundaries are the ones the band lays intentionally; Please, somebody give these guys Blood Incantation’s production budget! And for fuck’s sake issue this (as well as their back catalogue) on vinyl already!*
What makes any style of metal “true” is the discovery of power in the darkness, the ability to walk through the flames and emerge not only unscathed by them but strengthened by their heat. After all, steel reaches its greatest resilience when hardened by the dichotomy of fire and ice. Even death itself can be viewed through a dense lens of violent terror or a kaleidoscopic refraction of beauty: It all comes down the the perspectives through which it is experienced. Inanna embody the progressive in the truest, most extreme sense; they seek to transcend death, to take hold of the power they wield over it, and to guide their listeners through the flames to a greater understanding. True mastery of death can only be realized when death itself becomes but another tool in the toolbox, and but a seed to be nurtured into a higher purpose.
Death, as they say, is only the beginning.
*Inanna’s debut, Converging Ages, is also set to be reissued on CD in the coming months via Desert Wastelands Productions. Stay vigilant: Hail Inanna, hail true metal of death!