Classic bastards before they’d even known what they were doing, blackened death/thrashing Gothenburg, Sweden borne band Gravehammer were a hoarking plow of violent riff and spindly squealing lead guitars from the moment their first demo (‘Morbid Obscurity‘, 2007) sent the greater Göteborg underground into seizures. Representing the unholy initiation of pure death metal by way of cranked and glazed-eyed murderous thrashers in the mid-80’s that spirited switchblade of Ensnared‘s attack would gestate for almost five years before their true mastery would reveal and rename in 2010. As a trio they’d had it all figured out prior to 2011 but the first demo under this new name (‘Ensnared‘, 2011) had figured out an mature death metal voice, heavy and structured enough to remember and incant. Give me a thousand bands that sound like that (early Florida death metal influenced early 90’s Euro-death metal) and I’ll die happy enough but, Ensnared evolved a step beyond that spark of inspiration with each increasingly conceptual and atmospherically inclined release since. Spasms and ranting trails of ancient cosmic death metal achieved on the ‘Ravenous Damnation’s Dawn‘ (2013) EP still ally with Ensnared‘s visions of violence today but the slow-built, ornate nature of their breakthrough now shifts towards nihilistic, nigh jazzy anti-cosmic ruination; ‘Inimicus Generis Humani’ positions the band as a voice of terror from the twisted dark, a malevolent being ancient yet adapted to haunt and hunt the psyche of the ‘modern’ human animal as enemy of the human race. A spectacular curse to warp the mind and angle the unwilling ‘soul’ down toward extinction.
‘Dysangelium‘ was nothing short of a work of art in 2017 as a debut full-length running so hard with the style introduced on ‘Ravenous Damnation’s Dawn’. A seamless and adventurous thread ran through the full listen providing exciting death/thrash motion with a complexity too rich to fully grasp with any immediacy. That debut would land Ensnared at number 20 on my ‘Best of 2017’ list and a name permanently on my radar from that point. The bigger picture in terms of style that persists through Ensnared‘s work is kin to the cosmos of Degial, Necrovation, or Obscure Burial, a rip of ‘old school’ Swedish death/thrash metal a la Merciless with heavy North American death metal influences (i.e. ‘Altars of Madness’ exponentially distilled), but the secret weapon was also the elephant in the room for many irked listeners: The eye of the storm. The five interludes of that first album would prove bothersome for a vocal minority but as a death metal fan who’d never forget buying ‘Embalmed Existence’ and dying of laughter at those interludes, it could certainly be worse (see: ‘Testimony of the Ancients’). In fact those interludes bridged ‘Dysangelium’ from track to track, easing the transition between the songs while gaining an uncanny sense of immersion. There are only three interludes on ‘Inimicus Generis Humani’ and this time around they represent tonal shifts and/or mad experiments rather than the connective tissue interludes had provided on Ensnared‘s debut.
Though the ancient ruthless angularities of classic blackened death metal inform the spirit of this Swedish band they are undoubtedly not a throwback or retro event. A primitive sense of wonder hangs in the air as “Interlude I” spits its grey fog, thick and tunefully shaping impending doom by way of illustrative progressive rock rhythms; There is the suggestion of a dream-like death epic in mind before the hammer of “Spiritual Necrosis” shakes the eye out of focus. The heart of Ensnared‘s appeal and the genius of guitarist H.K.‘s vision come with a balance of violent ‘old school’ wreckage a la Verminous, the poisonous blackened sting of Venenum, and the daring atmospheric miasma of Reveal. If you’re not up to date with modern permutations of ancient death metal the average ‘old school’ death metal fan will yet find the structures and semblance of old showcased throughout ‘Inimicus Generis Humani’, from the morbid angularity of “The Throne of Transformation” to the climax of horror felt within “Katharsis Through Terror”. The purpose of this perhaps an artistic compulsion, to treat their own ears to the sounds that inspire them and sate personal classic sensibilities with a timeless, ancient rendering — To bear the mark of the beast but not to live in servitude to it and the ‘old ways’ entirely. In this sense the ethos of 80’s death metal is reflected within ‘Inimicus Generis Humani’ but the modus is Ensnared‘s own.
Excitedly diving in without a refresher course of the band’s full discography, my initial notes for this second album suggested it was more raw, less melodic, and infinitely more aggressive with its light blackened touches. These are appealing thoughts but almost entirely wrong in hindsight. Ensnared have always carried a late 80’s death/thrash rawness in hand even within their most beauteous peaking moments, this album is more warmly analog in terms of guitar tone and dynamic capture. It feels somewhat ‘live’ in presence and alive in ear, a raw and screaming wound but not uncharacteristically so. If anything ‘Inimicus Generis Humani’ is more melodic in that each of its songs develops a thematic voice, an arc, or a repeated device beyond the stream of consciousness felt throughout ‘Dysangelium’, this makes for heightened dramatic impact and the sense that Ensnared are refining, maturing, growing slowly more insane as the acidic effect of time incessantly chips away at patience and nuance.
‘Inimicus Generis Humani’ will undoubtedly please fandom old and new for its occult depths-charged ‘Divus de Mortuus’-esque vision and uniquely applied fourth generation removed voice. The grit of their honestly rendered still-dark and experimental death metal sound is appreciable and sustained at a high standard whilst the compositional dynamic of this second record explodes within the mind as it sinks from the cerebellum towards the frontal lobe. An arcane evolution rendered into elite swarm, a crushingly intense nihilistic battery of crawling psychic dread, and an army of slaughterous death riffs sets ‘Inimicus Generis Humani’ as one of my highest recommendations for February and the year in general.
Very high recommendation. 4.75/5.0
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