Despite the inescapable philosophical intent and beauteous imagery of Alighieri‘s Comedìa reaching its resonant artistic apices in its second and third books, Inferno continues to be its lasting cultural force thanks to warmly relatable and communal descriptions of the depths of Hell. Beyond the thematic rationality that comes with packing all of the fiery intrigue of eternal damnation into the first third of a great work, where most would naturally drop off out of exhaustion, it was a choice made against the grain of elitist Latin-speaking literati; Writ in the expressive Tuscan tongue and meant to be accessible for the masses with disdain for those who’d limit education for the common man, entire cultural movements would form beyond Dante‘s unfathomably deep strike to the malignant exclusivity of ‘higher’ art. My own death metal education would likewise stir awake from a seeming eternity in the chambers of Dis, encased in its walls of molten, brick-slamming intricacies and seemingly limitless punishments for the amoral capacities of men… I’d admittedly barely seen beyond its volcanic first chapter for decades. An album like ‘Infernal Comedy’, the debut full-length from freshly-stricken French death metal forge Ad Vitam Infernal, is a bristling reminder of that earliest canon and subsequent generations of torment in Hell, applying moderate pressure upon those suffering the boundaries of orthodoxy. An outlier yet cosmically bound to characteristic uproarious classicism, ‘Infernal Comedy’ offers both sanctity of forms and limitless heretical defiance for the true death metal fan.
All roads lead to death metal’s point of origin in Florida for known progenitor of this style of death metal, hyper-sped and several generations beyond ‘Legion’ and ‘Blessed are the Sick’ but never as fully blasted as peak Diabolic. Instead look to the successors (Centurian, Angelcorpse, Vader) and the deeper threads beyond (Spearhead, Perdition Temple, Deiquisitor) for the general sense of brutality forged with ridiculous levels of precision… at least for such traditional patternation as Ad Vitam Infernal. I’d be selling ‘Infernal Comedy’ short suggesting it is just thrashed out Centurian-esque ripping death but it’ll fit pretty well as a general statement thanks to a somewhat compressed 2000’s sound and insistent pacing. The drummer’s inventive patterns are particularly impressive and they’d have to carry some great love for late 80’s thrash and classic death metal to cram so much density within these compositions and still keep things swinging; This goes a long way towards tuning the full listen towards ‘brutally thoughtful’ rather than recklessly average.
Where Ad Vitam Infernal first begin to craft divergence comes with the vocal performances often breaking into spoken tirades, reciting lines from Inferno as far as I can tell. These spirals of desperation flow seamlessly within his deeper growling presence, often accentuated by turn-on-a-dime changes from the rest of the band. These sharp turns feel indebted to the progressive tendencies of mid-90’s brutal death metal but are also quickly balanced by somewhat traditional battery. The most clear example of this comes as the second half of “Abject” transitions into “Hell Hunger”. Inventive as this moment is, it will undoubtedly sound amateurish to the tired traditionalist and won’t go far enough for the prog-death aficionado. I like that middle ground, though, and the vocal tirades give a lot of refreshingly passionate character to an album that’d have been pretty standard riff n’ blast death metal otherwise. To be clear, most of the album doesn’t stray too far from rapid fire riff-ripping death metal that fans of Nox and Spearhead will likely gel with quickly.
The appeal of the sheer motion created by this album is blatantly obvious within its first ten seconds but the lasting appeal won’t fully hit you until you’ve stuck with the listen all the way through “Insane Prayer.” ‘Infernal Comedy’ merely blurs the edges of known forms and for my own tastes that is enough to have had a great time with Ad Vitam Infernal‘s debut. They’re already expressing as a well-oiled death metal machine with a knack for intense rapid-fire riffs and gloriously suffocating blasphemies, a rare feat for a first blast. The right crowd for this stuff already hit the buy button at the mention of Centurian and Angelcorpse so, for the yet unconvinced I’d highly recommend giving this one a chance to express its own personality through a few preliminary spins.
High recommendation. 4.0/5.0
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