INEXORUM – Moonlit Navigation (2020)REVIEW

At all waking hours Oizys presents herself in each and every doorway, a forlorn nigh menacing daimonian blockade for those stricken by grief. Depression and mourning’s longing, hazy fits resultant allow all paths beyond, except avoidance — There can be no procrastination for one’s confrontation with Death’s harvest; No escapism will last and all manner of denial will melt no matter how focused the individual. Cathartic art, creation and/or consumption, is perhaps the most obvious solution for the well indoctrinated music fanatic, the persistent artist, and ideally anyone who’d live any sort of long life full of mounting tragedy and dissolution. So, what good is the kismet of suffering if things appear too far gone? Having likely fallen deep into irrational, sickened paralysis themselves the modern heavy metal artist (ideally) realizes exploitation versus shared strife and counter-balances their craft with both symptomatic identification and curative suggestion. If death’s cruelty finds you alone in the pit of the dark, acknowledge the obsidian flow of the sky, see in the stars your oneness with the universe, and allow those who’ve pulled through to guide the way. Minneapolis-based melodic black/death metal duo Inexorum aren’t the full solution, but a suggestion for the hope-stricken gloom and wail of their second full-length, ‘Moonlit Navigation’ may be one of many bricks to solidify the path of self-restoration.

…And if not, their highly specific core set of influences will find the right mark as early-to-mid 90’s Swedish melodic black/death metal is a finite resource and a challenging spark of genius to recreate in the present, as evidenced by a few decades of the greater global black metal sphere’s fumbling modernization of it since the early 2000’s. Inexorum was originally guitarist Carl Skildum‘s solo project back in 2017, aiming to contribute to a form of music that’d resonated with him on a deeper emotional level and normally folks don’t get there so easily but his first full-length (‘Lore of the Lakes‘, 2018) was an entirely valid, structurally sound, repeatable and moving melodic black metal record. Hell, in some ways it is still even a bit more memorable and engaging than the atmospheric, reaching strokes of ‘Moonlit Navigation’ which reaches towards the Insomnium-esque realm of ‘epic’ and less tightly repeated lead-driven melodicism. What sort of fellow can manage this type of thing as if it were innate? Well, Skildum‘s career stretches all the way back to the early 90’s in Threadbare, a ‘modern’ hardcore band for its era but I’d venture his time spent in Antiverse and as live rhythm guitarist for Obsequiae has far more to do with taking the leap into Inexorum. The effort surely achieved considerable polish thanks to consolidation with producer and co-Antiverse / Obsequiae cohort Matthew Kirkwold.

Citing Sacramentum, Dawn, Unanimated, and Mörk Gryning directly as the suggested greater realm of influence for style, Inexorum sets expectations that line up with groups who’d specifically either started as death metal acts or who’d eventually lean at least halfway or fully into melodic death metal territory. For the melodic black metal fan this should neither point towards the hollow clangor of A Canorous Quintet nor the virulent blackened aggression of The Moaning, as might be the case with similarly influenced bands (The Spirit, for example) who’d intend to preserve the fatal attack of Dissection. Skildum‘s melodic dissertation comes with a love for dual leads, harmonized and loosely woven guitar work that reaches a progressive level of air motif more along the lines of Mistur, Be’lakor (see: ‘Stone’s Reach’), (later) Eucharist (‘Mirrorworlds’) and surely contains a few nods to (later) Dawn as well as subtle hints of Rotting Christ‘s ‘Triarchy of the Lost Lovers’ (“Chains of Loss”). It isn’t such an ‘old school’ record as much as it simply pulls the ethos while applying ‘modern’ modus enough to please the average Uada or Winterfylleth fan. Of course if you’ve followed this site since 2017 or so you’ll recall I am a complete fanatic for all of the music I’ve just mentioned, having scoured and scraped the world dry of its melodic black metal for years. It is music of deep and very real emotion from my point of view and as such, I approached ‘Moonlit Navigation’ with wide open arms.

So, what is holding me back from loving what I’m holding so tightly in my arms? I’ve yet to have a full-bodied teary, chair-collapsing fool’s emotional reaction to Inexorum‘s album and the hypothesis thus far is surely desensitization in isolation, a confounding factor unrelated to ‘Moonlit Navigation’. Beyond my own dead internal spiritus being without fume, the earlier mention of atmospheric black metal and progressive-tinged modern melodic death metal was a bit of foreshadowing for the suggestion that this record is bright, shimmering and oh so glossy. Performances are perfection, all is balanced and bright, guitars soar like so many birds, and yet the melodies insist upon uplifting me beyond the expectation of devastation. “Ouroboric Forms”, with its Cynic-isms is perhaps the one song that stands out as particularly spiritual in intent. This will hardly be a problem for those seeking an ‘epic’ blackened sojourn or, an early Dark Tranquillity-esque uplift, yet I found myself the masochist needing an anti-cosmic beating through darker shades of black metal riffing. “In Desperate Times” comes close, a fine song that burns through a riff that fluctuates through its central melody (~43 seconds in) before expanding into the body of the piece. These moments were resigned to the background due to a focus on leads and craft of up-swinging, uplifting rhythms.

Though the heart of the experience takes some considerable yanking from the chest, ‘Moonlit Navigation’ is ultimately an impressive, expressive and gloriously repeatable melodic black/death metal experience with broad appeal. Beyond its keen sense of melodic majesty and ornate rhythmic rushes the package itself is something beyond extraordinary thanks to artwork by Brooks Wilson of Crypt Sermon and no doubt its appeal will intensify whenever times are dark enough. As such I felt a moderately high recommendation of Inexorum‘s second album is warranted, I’ve gotten psychic inclination that it’ll appreciate over time but for now I can’t ignore the lack of physical/emotional reaction to the experience beyond awe.

Moderately high recommendation.

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.
TITLE:Moonlit Navigation
LABEL(S):Gilead Media
RELEASE DATE:June 26th, 2020
BUY/LISTEN/STREAM:Bandcamp [All Formats]
GENRES:Melodic Black/Death Metal

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