Inferno’s transformation from an orthodox black metal band into one that went for a more experimental and hypnotic approach has been an exciting one, and I found 2017’s Gnosis Kardias (Of Transcension and Involution) to be one of the best albums the genre had to offer in the last decade. The Czech group has not stood idle since, releasing a split with Devathorn in 2018 and continuing to tease a follow-up that seemed poised to explore even more nightmarish and borderline psychedelic black metal. That effort has arrived in the form of Paradeigma (Phosphenes of Aphotic Eternity), a more compact and concentrated flurry of ominous melodies and methodical rhythms. It’s a denser and less approachable listen than its already formidable predecessor, but it’s a genuinely exciting and sometimes spine-chilling album that sounds different from anything else out there.
Despite the shorter thirty-five-minute length, there’s so much density and complexity to each of the six songs that it’s likely to take a few times through to tear through the layers of this surreal and slightly terrifying landscape. When the initial promo material mentioned post-punk seeping in this suggested that the album might be less violent and chaotic than its predecessor, but this certainly isn’t the case. What Inferno has done here is move towards even more fluid songwriting, letting the guitar and bass twist and turn over top of the rhythmic base. The drums drive the narrative even more than before, utilizing repeated passages that have an industrial and Krautrock sheen to them as well as dense blasting that comes through like a wall of volcanic ash enveloping the listener. Black metal is still at the foundation of the album, but the way the guitar leads bend and distort brings in more post punk and psychedelic tinges to it, only run through the sounds of your worst nightmares. What’s fascinating about Paradeigma is that it’s simultaneously technical and free flowing at the same time, providing an almost improvised feel without losing precision. It’s a wild ride, and while admittedly there aren’t particular songs that stand out in the same way Gnosis Kardias had specific moments that have stayed with me over the years, I keep finding myself drawn back again and again for another rollercoaster ride into madness. Also worth noting is Stephen Lockheart’s approach to mixing and mastering this album, which gives a murkier tone that seems to envelop each of the instruments.
One complaint I had about Gnosis Kardias was that the vocals were a bit too buried, and while that’s still the case here given the overall flow of the music that doesn’t end up being as significant of an issue this time. Adramelech still has a distorted scream that booms outward in an inhuman fashion, but here it feels more like an extension of the whole soundscape rather than working as an element separate from the instrumentation. There’s often just enough space for them to break through, and the way that the vocals seem to just break the surface of the thick smoke clouds proves to be enticing. Inferno brought in Hekte Zaren from Adaestuo to contribute some guest vocals, and she once again offers up some ritualistic sounding pitches that are spine chilling at times.
Despite building on many of the concepts of Gnosis Kardias, Inferno’s latest full-length hits in a very different way and delivers an alien and psychedelic landscape. It’s like modern black metal run through a healthy dose of Tangerine Dream and Brainticket, urging you to dive deep into the madness and discover every detail it has to offer. While it’s not likely to be for everyone, those that enjoy the more experimental and hypnotic sides of black metal will eat this one up. I’m not sure just yet whether it will topple its predecessor, but this will certainly be an album I’ll be returning to regularly. Paradeigma (Phosphenes of Aphotic Eternity) is available from Debemur Morti Productions.
-Review by Chris Dahlberg
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