“Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.” – Dante Alighieri, The Divine Comedy
Abandon all hope, ye who listens to this album.
That is, unless you were hoping to embark on an audial voyage that traverses darkness, explores its juxtaposition with lighter overtones of almost mad genius-like genre fusion, delves into philosophy via poetry and showcases some of the best musicianship the avant-garde genre has to offer. If that is what you were hoping for, welcome to the world of INI and their debut album, If Nothing Is.
Born and bred in the dark chasms of the Norwegian black metal and avant-garde metal scenes, INI dishes out a serving of blackened avant-garde metal that is not necessarily totally new, but wholly unique in its approach and execution.
The first 40 odd seconds of the haunting opener “101” greets you like a post-apocalyptic nightmare that has visited you many times before, cascading ever so subtly until it hits you with a renewed sense of claustrophobic terror once Boeddelen’s vocals kick in. Short. Sharp. Shocking. Sublime.
Second up is”‘Sovereign”, which is worthy of an entire review on its own. But I digress… At 8:21, this monumental track has more avant-garde packed into a single song than many more accomplished bands have committed to entire albums in recent memory. A cacophonous orchestration of full-on black metal, progressive interludes, intricate programming, soaring melodies and cleverly used vocals that result in something that shouldn’t work on paper, but sure as hell works on this song.
“Juvenihil” indulges in equal parts prog-rock mastery and infernal blackened metal that is a marriage between heaven and hell, while the carnivalesque momentum of “Anti Horde” is driven by a militant drum performance that propels it ever onward, complemented, of course, by eerie keyboard interludes and a tour de force of vocals that are blacker than your heart.
The dulcet tones on display in the prolonged acoustic intro of “Dominant Outlaw Nation” hearkens back to familiar territory in an undeniably good way – this is a song that resonates as much with the likes of Virus and Ved Buens Ende, as with Ulver and Satyricon’s earlier material. Throw “Postapo Calypto” into that mix and you have a smorgasbord of familiar universes colliding to produce something entirely alien.
Although it might not necessarily be the intention, INI’s If Nothing Is takes on a life of its own, assimilating discordant influences and vastly different genres to produce a seamless and oddly coherent tapestry that guides the listener through a myriad of journeys, while creating a piece of art that stands out musically and spiritually as well.
Back to the tracks, “Darkspace Navigator” is where the planets of INI most obviously align, weaving together everything that we love about the avant-garde metal genre, although the song could have accomplished the same result in half the time. The perfectly timed “Intermezzanine” on the other hand, is desolate at first before evolving into an exhibition of avant-jazz that makes you almost feel at home.
By the time you reach “Apsylum Absolute”, you feel a little overwhelmed and exhausted from this long journey, but don’t despair – the track holds enough twists and turns to stimulate the contents of your cranium for a good while longer. But this one seems to linger a little too long and leaves one wondering what the cataclysmic impact would have been had the tremors not paved the path?
In a clever twist on the norm, the album ends with the title track – replete with rollicking blackened thrash riffs, crazy time signatures on the drums, pristine guitar solos, soaring vocals that sound like Boeddelen is truly suffering for his art. With that, the album is summed up, if not concisely, then emphatically, as a contender for the title of “avant-garde metal album of the year.” I shit you not.
Don’t believe me? Check them out here.
Related interview: http://avantgarde-metal.com/content/stories2.php?id=334
Release: July 2015
Label: Independent Self-release
Avantgenre: True Avant-garde Metal
Official site: http://www.facebook.com/INI101
Review online since: 21.09.2015 / 03:11:14
01 – 101
02 – Sovereign
03 – Juvenihil
04 – Anti Horde
05 – Dominant Outlaw Nation
06 – Postapo Calypso
07 – Darkspace Navigator
08 – Intermezzanine
09 – Apsylum Absolute
10 – If Nothing Is