Asa takes a deep dive into the reissue of classic DM from Denmark..
Iniquity are, or I guess WERE, a Technical Death Metal band from Copenhagen, Denmark that formed in 1989 and then split up and got back together more times than that annoying Facebook couple that are always arguing but apparently love each other more than anything (we all seem to have one our social media timelines). They’re also, apparently, the biggest selling Death Metal act to come from Denmark and in 1999, released a genre-defining album called ‘Five Across the Eyes’. I must admit, I hadn’t heard of the band until this review landed in my mailbox but all the information coloured me intrigued. I love Death Metal, especially of the more technical variety, and it’s always exciting discovering forgotten classics. So here we are, 22 years after initial release, ready to dive into a newly re-issued version of this Denmark classic. Strap in folks, things are about to get heavy!
‘Inhale The Ghost’ comes out the gate swinging for the jugular. Punishing blast beats, ferocious riff work and vicious roars all collide, creating frenzied insanity. The track tastefully weaves between fast, technical mayhem and slower, dissonant, progressive lunacy. These slower sections are great at creating atmosphere and tension that contrasts excellently with the barrage of fire that the faster moments offer up. There’s also some great grooves thrown in too, that don’t sound too dissimilar to what would eventually make Decapitated so popular a couple of years later. Overall, it’s a brilliant, no-holds-barred way to start the album and gives the listener everything they need for them to know whether or not this is for them. Track 2, ‘Surgical orb’, counts us in before blistering speed and technical prowess rip off your face. It continues from where the opener left off, taking no prisoners and switching between riffs in rapid succession. There’s a slow, doom-laden riff towards the end that really stands out as the highlight. It maintains enough of the insanity from everything else but creates some nice atmosphere that clenches your arsecheeks. ‘Sidereal Seas’ starts off slower, with the first guitar solo of the album and some excellent groove. The solo work is well done, mixing enough of the technical shred and slower, melodic layers to please any guitar nerd. Obviously, this can’t last forever though and soon enough, you’re back in the trenches being battered by the unrelenting artillery of savage riffs, manic drums and guttural barks. Another slow riff midway through, but of the more sludgy variety that wouldn’t feel out of place on a Crowbar record. There’s even a dark, acoustic outro, which is also a first for this record.
Don’t worry though in case you thought they were going soft, ‘Random Bludgeon Battery’ is here to do just that. The intensity is non-stop, bludgeoning you until there’s nothing left. Even when it slows down, it still feels like someone is trying to cave your face in with a hammer. The halfway mark on the album is met with ‘From Tarnished Soil’ and it’s pretty much what you’re expecting by this point. Catchy grooves, pulverizing riffs with plenty of technical flair to boot and drums that apparently just wish to turn all your bones to dust. You get the slower, doomy sections that help to break things up and the vocal performance sounds as vitriolic as ever. Track 6 is entitled ‘Reminiscence’ and is a minute long instrumental. It’s got some pianos, choirs, organs and drums and calms things down for a moment. It sounds like something you’d get from an 80’s Italian Horror flick, which is a bonus. After that, are you expecting more melodicism and slow, pretty songs? Because you’re going to be disappointed if you do. ‘Pyres Of Atonement’ aims for the gut and doesn’t look back. It’s an endless onslaught of brutality that twists and turns between moods and tempos faster than Usain Bolt can run.
‘The Rigormortified Grip’ explodes onto the scene before throwing in some maddening riffage that could awaken a million cosmic deities. The whole experience is one long descent into madness, and that extends across the entirety of the album. I’m not even sure if I’m sane writing this. We’ve now reached the penultimate track of the album (and the song that originally ended the album on previous versions), ‘Forensic Alliance’ and, as you can probably guess by now, it’s to the point, in your face and doesn’t wish to pull any punches. The riffs come at you at mind-bending speeds, switching on a dime between tempos and making you question your sanity in the process. I can see why this was the song they decided to end the album on previously because it leaves you feeling devastated after and is one hell of a statement to end things on. However, we have on more track on this re-issue to go through so hold on tight ladies, we’re not quite done yet. ‘Cocooned’ lunges at your neck and holds tightly, suffocating you with its deathlike grip. The riff work is as impressive as ever, with moments of pure what-the-fuck-is-going-on-here absurdity. The slower sections hit just as hard as ever, as if the band are trying their hardest to ensure you don’t leave this experience in one piece. And I can confirm that you don’t. By the time it abruptly ends, you’re left dazed, confused, shocked but also in awe of what you’ve just witnessed.
As you can probably guess, this record is not for the faint of heart. Despite never hearing of this album before, I can understand why this can be considered a cult classic of the scene and is definitely an overlooked gem. Each song is stacked with riffs upon riffs and, despite the intensity of the record, it doesn’t ever really feel boring. There’s always something to grab your attention. There are plenty of moments where I was just like, “what the actual fuck?!”, but in the best possible way. There’s plenty of rhythmic variety in each track, always twisting and contorting until the eventual hysteria consumes you. Even when the songs slow down, there’s an air of madness to the doom and gloom. The album feels like a Lovecraftian nightmare come to life and it’s impressive how much talent there is. Sure, the songs all feel a little repetitive at times but it’s not enough to drag you out of the overall experience. And that is the key word here: This IS an experience. The first listen is the most shocking but after that, repeated listens really help you pick apart the riffs and it makes for a more invested listen that bares some fruitful rewards for your time.
The performances here are all spot on. Jesper is machine on the drums, able to switch between an outright pummeling with a barrage of blast beats, double bass kicks and scat beats, to dialing things back when he needs to, allowing the songs a little room to breathe. Brian and Mads are incredibly talented guitar players and work well as a tight unit, providing razor sharp precision executing music as technically proficient and blistering fast as this can be difficult but they make it seem like it was done with ease. Mads vocals are also executed well, though they’re pretty much one monotonous roar. A little more variety is always welcome in my eyes but it’s Death Metal, so this is kind of what I expect. Still, they’re excellent and you can really feel the anger and hate behind them. Thomas has some impressive Bass chops and provides some much-needed heft to the riffs but also plays a great role in offering up dynamics, utilizing the instrument in ways that can make certain riffs pop differently. You could be forgiven for expecting the production to be sloppy, however that is not the case. Everything is clear to the ear and works in perfect harmony. You don’t have to sit there and try and pick out what is going on because it’s all very easy to hear. The guitar tones are sharp, the drums sound monstrous and the bass is plenty of shine to it. There’s still an organic feel to the proceedings but the crisp production works to benefit the album.Overall, this is an incredible album for fans of Technical and Progressive Death Metal. There’s a lot to dig into that you could spend weeks, even months, dissecting it all. When it’s fast and technical, it’s like a maelstrom of violence, dragging you deeper into its blood-soaked depths. When it slows down, there’s a layer of unease, uncertainty… Something feels slightly off with its doomy atmospherics that contrasts well with the harshness of the violent eruptions that make up the backbone of the album. There’s some mind-bending dissonant riff work littered throughout the proceedings that will leave you in a state of amazement, but also as if you’re on the verge of losing your mind. Plus you have plenty of neck-wrecking grooves that I’m sure will conjure up more than a few windmilling headbangers to lose their collective shit. Everything is so fluid that the abrupt tempo shifts feel natural, a testament to the incredible musicianship on display. Sure, 45 minutes of almost non-stop chaos sounds a bit much, and for some it may be, but if you’re a fan of the genre then this is a treat that you’ll want to savor every last minute of. Repeated listens are warranted, and you grow to appreciate the album further upon doing so.
This is another forgotten classic that deserves a place on the shelves of every self-respecting Death Metal fan. It’s complex, in your face and often unforgiving in its relentless attempt to smother the listener, but it’s what makes the album feel as special as it does. Even in modern Death Metal, you just don’t get something quite like this anymore. Also, if you’re a fan of this album and want to explore a couple of other forgotten gems, I highly recommend Creepmime’s 1995 Prog-Death masterpiece ‘Chiaroscuro’ and Disincarnate’s 1993 Technical Death Metal extravaganza ‘Dreams Of The Carrion Kin