ECTOPLASMA – Inferna Kabbalah (2022)REVIEW

As of 2021 Nikaia, Greece-based death metal band Ectoplasma have downsized to a duo still lead by vocalist/bassist John Grim (Vultur, Spawn of Flesh Records) but now featuring the highly capable Dimitris Sakkas (Slough of Despair) acting as guitarist/drummer on this fourth full-length recording. Of course this has some notable effect upon the rhythmic character of their still nostalgic take on ‘old school’ death metal style but, the change isn’t so drastically outside the box that established fandom won’t recognize the band. ‘Inferna Kabbalah‘ is less a step into new identity than it is a less focused reach for a widened array of groove-stricken death music inspiration, managing a brutally entrenched form that is arguably less exacting in terms of precision and fidelity per their intended modus. Though they find themselves tasked with reclimbing the second half of the proverbial mountain this ‘keep it simple, stupid‘ death metal record hands us a filthier, off-center Ectoplasma with a somewhat different aura. Folks attuned to nowadays death metal riffcraft choices should appreciate the raw-dogged and ambitious handicraft found herein but only when seeking value beyond the usual early 90’s death metal tropes.

With some direct focus upon the raw (but not rawest) brutal underground death metal of a certain era Ectoplasma wheel between two generative ideals on ‘Inferna Kabbalah‘ the first being a sort of hardcore/groove metal verging spectrum of deliberate-paced crews like Morta Skuld and Grave as they’d moved away from their ‘scenes’ and various death n’ roll driven attempts at more direct commercial success; We hear this with some moderate clarity on tracks like “Infestation of Atrocious Hunger” and “Filth Ridden Flesh”. This shouldn’t suggest we’re getting a 90’s groove/death metal record here, but some traditionalists might raise an eyebrow at certain syncopated rhythms and simpler chug riffing, of which fuels an entirely different sort of nostalgia. On the other hand this groovin’ movement just as very mildly translates toward the realm of groups like Gutted and Banished wherein some of that Texas/New York brutality of the mid-to-late 90’s hammers itself out without breaching any particularly brutal/tech-death highs. Album closer “Desecration of the Christian Existence” provides a fine example of this balance between skill, simplicity, pure death metal antics and groove metallic attack. This should indicate the general fluxion of ‘White-Eyed Trance‘ (2019), which I’d liked a lot when I’d reviewed it, is largely extinct here though ‘Inferna Kabbalah‘ still maintains the major character of Ectoplasma in spirit, though they’ve not directly iterated upon that work in any sense.

So, here is the catch… This is probably a more apt study of what most would consider second tier ’93-’98 death metal than a lot of revisionist and nostalgic craft released today. The relationship between the rhythm guitars and drum mapping should appear unusually tight by today’s standards and this makes for a lot of moshable pits to sink into rather than the usual OSDM’s buried nuance. This is noticeable just a few minutes into the record, starting around ~2:42 minutes into opener “God is Dead, Satan Lives (Rosemary’s Baby)” wherein we leave the late 80’s and early 90’s behind in favor of the era where albums like ‘Destroy Erase Improve’ and ‘Soul of a New Machine’ translated the performative aspects of Pantera and Godflesh and would notably influence the tonal choices of popular death metal of the era. This is an partial exaggeration in observation of these smaller tinges of extinct songcraft available on ‘Inferna Kabbalah‘ but only presented for the sake of communicating why this record feels ‘old school’ per a different perspective. Based on the album’s messaging it wasn’t necessarily the intended result.

As a carefree and filth-spraying ~35 minute death metal record with strong modulation of pace and style there is some strong value deployed throughout ‘Inferna Kabbalah‘ as it spins but the flooding of ideas found on the full listen will surely benefit from the iteration Ectoplasma had achieved between their first and third albums. In most ways this feels like a slight slap upon the ‘reset’ button and less a towering statement built upon the bone-splintering crush of ‘White-Eyed Trance‘ and this’ll likely be a strong deciding factor depending how pronounced these fundamental changes strike the average listener. Thought it didn’t manage to shatter my mind it still busts out an above average classicist death metal experience. A moderate recommendation.

Moderate recommendation. (70/100)

Rating: 7 out of 10.
TITLE:Inferna Kabbalah
LABEL(S):Memento Mori,
Rotted Life Records
RELEASE DATE:January 24th, 2022

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