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Review: Inquisition - Bloodshed Across the Empyrean Altar Beyond the Celestial Zenith
Bloodshed Across the Empyrean Altar Beyond the Celestial Zenith

Label: Season of Mist
Year released: 2016
Duration: 56:32
Tracks: 13
Genre: Black Metal


Review online: May 21, 2017
Reviewed by: Omni
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Rated 4.5/5 (90%) (34 Votes)

Inquisition should require no introduction at this point, having released many albums of powerful, ritualistic black metal since 1998's Into the Infernal Regions of the Ancient Cult. The band was formed as Guillotina in 1988 in Cali, Colombia and originally played extreme thrash metal before relocating to the United States and becoming the band that they are today. Founded by guitarist and vocalist Dagon, the band has been comprised of him and drummer Incubus for nearly two decades. Like many black metal bands, Inquisition plays music with Satanic themes, but their lyrics have gradually progressed into a more esoteric interpretation of Satanism over the course of seven full-length albums.

Inquisition is especially heavy for a black metal duo, and they play classic 1990s black metal with a triumphant sound. Dagon seems to have a nearly endless bag of tricks, showing off a variety of different techniques throughout the album and displaying a formidable level of songwriting even this late into his career. The drumming of Incubus is a highlight throughout the dynamic tracks, with the slower moments allowing him to really showcase his ability to enhance the mood of the music in a way that goes beyond providing a rhythmic backbone for the guitar. As is usual for Dagon's vocals, they are low and croaky, although he has opted for a noticeably more aggressive performance this time around. The band is joined again by Arthur Rizk, who also produced Obscure Verses for the Multiverse, and his production style helps enhance the songs and provides them with a suitably big sound for intergalactic Satanic hymns.

Even on the seventh album of their career, Inquisition manage to do new things. While the band has evolved and incorporated new influences and things such as dissonance and clean guitar melodies into their music, they've managed to avoid the trap of sounding too modern or becoming distant from their core sound. The title track is an adventurous instrumental effort, despite lyrics being provided to accompany the journey. "Power from the Center of the Cosmic Black Spiral" is perhaps the most unique track on the album, with an unorthodox multi-part composition and bizarre pacing. It's wonderful to see that these veterans are still trying new things and finding remarkable success while still being easily identifiable as the same band. The tremendous amount of variety on the album works to its benefit, as it simultaneously contains some of the bands most crushing and most contemplative compositions. Dagon's lyrical approach has evolved as well, with this album continuing to explore the themes of Satan's role as a cosmic force in the universe that first became apparent on Ominous Doctrines of the Perpetual Mystical Macrocosm.

While many other black metal acts from the 1990s have faltered in recent years or forsaken that style of music entirely, Inquisition remains a powerful force. This album is one of their best efforts to date and a powerful reminder that black metal can adapt and change with the times without abandoning its core or incorporating disparate influences from other genres of music. Younger bands could learn a lesson or two from this album. This is a vital experience for anyone interested in black metal or any music with good songwriting and tasteful, mature experimentation that is anything but frivolous. The deluxe edition of the album also contains a cover of the Colombian black metal band Typhon's "Once Upon a Time" as a bonus track, which is a suiting tribute to Inquisition's origins in that country.

More about Inquisition...
Review: Black Mass for a Mass Grave (reviewed by Sargon the Terrible)
Review: Bloodshed Across the Empyrean Altar Beyond the Celestial Zenith (reviewed by Sargon the Terrible)
Review: Into the Infernal Regions of the Ancient Cult (reviewed by Sargon the Terrible)
Review: Ominous Doctrines of the Perpetual Mystical Macrocosm (reviewed by Sargon the Terrible)
Review: Veneration of Medieval Mysticism and Cosmological Violence (reviewed by Sargon the Terrible)
Interview with vocalist and guitarist Dagon on December 10, 2016 (Interviewed by Luxi Lahtinen)
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