Bitterness spikes your palate as the entheogenic poisoning of the self begins to open the first doorway towards mind erasure and the generation of vitally fractalized perspective. With a foully-brewed shamanic piss of plant and fetid water dripping hot from green-stained lips the guise of spirit medicine rescinds as quickly as the retching begins. Sorcerers of guidance surround and induce vomiting to cleanse the vessel of pent emotion priming the souls energy for theft, or transcendence. As the alchemical admixture coalesces in the blood stream so bonds the forced actualization of the ‘self’ towards permanent ego death. Mirrored is sight set upon you by others and only then are you too sickened to maintain the veil of delusion. The sour buzz of the yagé and the purported enlightenment is a shoddy, aged mask that’d hardly compare to the power of modern chemistry devoid of rituals of starvation, exhaustion, and dehydration yet dangerous rites persist for the sake of brutal-yet-effective tradition. What use are the enlightened if sent to the underworld out of youthful curiosity? No greater demon scorned could exist than the young man dragged to hell after being poisoned by the promise of the clairvoyance of (a false) God, only to realize the ‘self’ is the most dangerous delusion to sever from. Yet, it seems the brewed ‘vine of the dead’ passed around in Fusa, Norway gave sight beyond death to a handful of heavy metal addicted teenagers roughly a decade ago and birthed inspiration for nigh unending search for meaning that’d manifest as Reptilian, Tortorum, Sepulcher, and Inculter all roughly within the same timeline.
Inculter cultivate their own take on long-standing brutal thrash traditions with their second full-length ‘Fatal Visions’ in the sense that their rhythms, and smartly self-curated sound design, speak to the old ways of classic and extreme thrash metal traditions. Now a quartet with Daniel Tveit (Sepulcher, Reptilian) replacing Even Bakke on drums and adding second guitarist Lasse Udjus (Shakma), these young guns achieve an extra layer of depth with ‘Fatal Visions’ that builds upon their already ‘mature for their years’ approach to blackened 80’s death/thrash riff-mania. Much has changed since Inculter released their black/thrash debut EP, ‘Stygian Deluge’, back in 2013 and though they’ve retained some of that old spirit this new presence is one step beyond the leap in quality that was their first full-length ‘Persisting Devolution’ (2015). I’d like to think that some of the magic of Sepulcher‘s ‘Panoptic Horror’, which was one of the very best releases of 2018, might’ve worn off onto their approach on ‘Fatal Visions’ but I think all of the folks involved are simply inspired by the fantastic thrashing music they’re creating together.
If your taste in classic thrash is anything like mine the drum sound on ‘Fatal Visions’ should have you wetting your pants just a couple of minutes into the album. They’ve taken some of the tom hits that made albums like Kreator‘s ‘Pleasure to Kill’ and Sepultura‘s ‘Schizophrenia’ so distinct and warmed them up to a slightly more present roll that feels like a pure and exciting ‘old school’ reference that could only work on a thrash record as raw as its forbears. In terms of riffcraft the triumph of ‘Fatal Visions’ is guitarist Remi Nygård‘s ability to absorb the attack of obscure dark thrashers like ‘Immortal Force’ and ‘Not Dead Yet’ but inject that power into varied songwriting, which often incorporates mid-paced sections a la Poison‘s ‘Into the Abyss…’ and a slightly less-blackened rip than you’d expect from a band considered contemporaries of Shakma, Invocation Spells, and Deathhammer. That study of dynamic among ancient and obscure greats makes for a more authentic sort of thrash album, something focused and not cynically imitative.
All of these great references to satisfying darkness and riffs aplenty don’t necessarily do justice to the holistic reality of ‘Fatal Visions’, though, because it is hard to convey the thrilling guitar driven tunnel-vision Inculter have hit upon in terms of sharp and stylistic guitar work that verges on the energetic, timely importance of records like ‘Terrible Certainty’ and ‘Beneath the Remains’. No, they’re not quite that ‘catchy’ yet but there is a sweet spot achieved that takes one step beyond the already musty blackened rip of ‘Persisting Devolution’ towards classic death/thrash without losing Inculter‘s core identity. If anything this is more pure and ‘filler free’ than expected as I think the choice to self-produce allowed for greater freedom to needle over and distill ‘Fatal Visions’ into an ‘all killer’ set of songs that is succinct but incredibly potent in delivery. In handing over the final mastering to ex-Enslaved keyboardist/vocalist and producer Herbrand Larsen (whose resume includes Helheim, Taake, Demonaz, and Sulphur among others) it is clear he understood the sort of late 80’s extreme thrash feeling Inculter were aiming for and the record sounds incredible when cranked on studio monitors, a busted stereo, or earbuds.
‘Fatal Visions’ usurps its predecessor by virtue of avoiding the self-conscious tension that most bands face when crafting a follow up and it’d seem that Inculter confidently went with their ‘gut’ in making an album they wanted to hear that meets their standards. The high taste level is apparent and ultimately makes this record something worthy of excitement; To be self-guided and doubly effective at the same time is a sure sign of true talent and passion. ‘Fatal Visions’ should immediately appeal to both classic late 80’s thrash fans and old school death metal heads but still sound ‘current’ (read: nuanced, dynamic) enough to inspire Aura Noir obsessed black/thrash kids and Obliteration fans to jump on something a shred more ‘classic thrash’ in spirit without losing that freakishly dark Norwegian energy. Because this is exactly the kind of record I personally grab and hold onto, I have to give ‘Fatal Visions’ my highest recommendation. Your mileage should vary depending on your interest in the niche that mid-to-late 80’s death/thrash upsurge-meets-blackened thrash mania provides but I was damn sold from the first spin. For preview I can only recommend a few of my favorite tracks starting with the duo of void-escaping “Shepherd of Evil” with the creeping death of “Endtime Winds”, the real clincher for my tastes was the final track “Through Relic Gates”, which (appropriately) feels like the moment the album had been building toward.
Daunting clairvoyance. 5.0/5.0
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