INEXORUM – Equinox Vigil (2022)REVIEW

In observance of the passage of time and the slow-spiraling desynchronization of the seasons we witness the increasingly expedient downward turn, the digression of human sentience in the face of declining habitat, nutrition and enrichment by fault of the species’ limited cognition itself. Any amount of meditation upon the subject should, ideally, warrant self-damning result but also some potential resolve in the form of awe and appreciation for what remains of the still resilient natural world and what’ll likely remain salvageable and wild as societal constructs collapse entirely. The betterment of the self through high-sentient witness is the ammunition Minneapolis, Minnesota-borne melodic black/death metal duo Inexorum horde within the inspired mental oasis of their third full-length album. Though it comes several decades late and removed from any sort of freshly seminal tic to contribute to the artform, there is a distinctly North American vision beyond European melodic black/death metal advent to behold within ‘Equinox Vigil‘, an album which reads as a decidedly modern yet classics cognizant singularity in the melodic metal headspace. Due to fact that we will inevitably get lost in the weeds of stylistic ponderance and the varietal tailoring of minutiae herein it’ll be important to note up front that the already substantive musical core of the duo’s craft now stabs even more at its emotional centre and unto oft-stunning results — the ‘feeling’ of this album will be the argument to pick it up.

Inexorum officially formed in 2018 as a solo act from guitarist/vocalist Carl Skildum but soon became a duo when he’d been joined by Antiverse bandmate, bassist and producer Matthew Kirkwold. You’ll recognize both musicians if you’d caught Obsequiae live circa 2019 or so, also. They’d wasted no time in preparing their debut album ‘Lore of the Lakes‘ (2018), a hypnotic tension-buildering experience with a sort of ‘heads down, guitars out’ feeling that was high on progression-boasting resonance. It’d been the sort of record that appeared to be just another whack at melodic black but managed some considerable depth and development, not at all a stylistic whim. Accusations of passion and conviction in their work didn’t necessarily flow ’til their follow up (‘Moonlight Navigation‘, 2020) released thanks to a paradigm shift in voicing, a tune in a different key more-or-less. That more accessible “arms open” feat still came with shades of popular 90’s European extreme metal but now sprang eagerly forth. It’d been a significant enough leap and one that’d found me referencing everything from ‘Triarchy of the Lost Lovers‘-era Rotting Christ and post-Windir Sognametal groups to Insomnium and Be’lakor in capturing its fluid yet reflective ebullience when I’d reviewed it. Among the more memorable melodic black/death metal records of the year, I’d eventually placed that second album at #100 in my Top 100 Albums of the Year. Anyhow, it is safe to say I am a fan even if I’d felt Inexorum were lacking the sort of darker, morbid conviction expected in consideration of their suggested influences.

A bit bigger, a bit better, a bit bittersweet. — Though we are not directly staring down a sluice of iteration in view of ‘Equinox Vigil‘ we are graced by another uplifting, fairly tender catharsis from what most would consider modern melodic death metal with an astute shirking of various traditional bounds. The spirit of black metal isn’t necessarily felt here, in fact most all of Inexorum‘s music is inherently joyful rock music finding its progressive coronation moment here specifically on the loft n’ lux title track (“Equinox Vigil“) to start. When reduced to elemental movements we find these songs are built from both heavy and extreme metal modus, be it classic British heavy metal, 90’s power metal, or Scandinavian melodic metal at the turn of the millennium yet the result inevitably bears a lawful good alignment rather than melodic black/death metal’s typical chaotic evil.

The (still somewhat arguable) caveat not to be missed is depressive sentimentality and/or non-nihilistic existentialism which is the intangible aether that fuels the project in spiritu. In hindsight the solvent to questions of style and the distinctly North American tradition of Scandinavian metal worship is exactly that unique feeling produced, however impractical it’d be to imagine outside of immersive listening. Inexorum were surely gloaming it up on their first record but between ‘Moonlight Navigation‘ and now ‘Equinox Vigil‘ we can identify their mood and register it somewhere nearby the acceptance stage of grieving and personal spiritual reverence. Eh, revelry even. This third album attempts something a shade more charged, a whip more white-knuckled for the sake of landing potent arraignment of woeful actors in society, encouraging the development of personal resolve in the face of mortality, and general listener-directed sentimentality in awe and appreciation of nature. They’ve touched upon core values in only moderately abstract ways herein and, well, it makes for admirably personalized texturing as ‘Equinox Vigil‘ continues to beckon on inquiry with each successive listen.

The average metal-type enjoyer showed up for the late Fall coloration of the Brooks Wilson painted cover art in combination with the soul-sickening melodic blackened dual guitar technique found on the intense Cor Scorpii-esque second single “Memoriae Sacrum” (see also: “Dark Sky Sanctuary”), quickly getting the sense that Inexorum have not only upheld the standards of the previous album but gone a bit more guitar-forward. This is a correct enough assumption in terms of a certain level of arrangement and technical prowess serving ear-worming, circular guitar hooks directly in ear from the first few notes of ‘Equinox Vigil‘ but I dunno, we miss a bit of the beautiful soul of this record by obsessing over the ridiculously memorable leads that land within most every piece. Opener “Creation Myth” nonetheless makes an undeniably strong case for this group being ‘melodeath for Obsequiae fans‘ as they jog and swagger through a song which I’ve assumed as incensed against hypocritical religiosity. Paired with the title track you’ve hopefully gotten a strong whiff of the late 90’s Rotting Christ meets nowadays melodic death treatment I’d referred to as this is the strength and power of the album up front, eh, sans the breakthrough power metal chorale which, again, deifies the title track in mind to start.

For my own taste the most serious rhythmic nods to the past are the most excitable moments on ‘Equinox Vigil‘ as these tend to be the most sentimentally set and thoughtfully developed on the running order. The progression heavy, glorious endtyme ode “Until There’s Nothing Left” is a vacuum unto the ear-boggling nature of classic melodic black metal stated with a bit of modern melodeath adult-oriented-prog metal voice, which might read a bit heinous but lands entirely sophisticated as a tunnel vision inducing surge to the core of what drives Inexorum‘s rhythms, often a simple intensity which allows the (again) sentimental lead guitar work to direct the uncurl of the piece. If we can jump ahead to closer “Such Impossible Sights” I’ve similar remarks as it bristles with the rhythmic gust of Sacramentum‘s debut to a point of personal joy but they’ve avoided side-stepping their own swinging major key melodeath uplift in fostering this piece, a fitting endpoint that feels away from the assault of their starting point this time around.

We arrive at a similar mind-mound for different reasons within “Secret Language”, a Side B stunner which features an Obsequiae-esque air for good reason as it appears tailored to feature a guitar solo by Tanner Anderson himself, but beyond that the song itself has a lovely sort of rhythmic hypnosis that mimics the motivational core of said band. At this point it is worth noting that instead of looking for intensified darkness on this third release, which we do in fact get a bit of in terms of a faster and more intricate tempo map, I’ve found the value of ‘Equinox Vigil‘ is the amount of meaning they’ve leveraged into each piece where we find a bounty of what should be shlock metal abounding (see: “On the Last Day”) manages to be a directive and inspired flow state for consonant, somewhat inventive melodic metal with an abundance of ideas capably explored. They could certainly figure out a session drummer to add to the experience and this album still gets a bit lost in the woods of their detail-oriented structuring yet these elements still largely add to the character of the experience rather than detract from it. It remains to be seen if Inexorum have released their best album with ‘Equinox Vigil‘ per public opinion but for my taste their positioning beyond ‘Moonlight Navigation‘ is brilliantly set and a substantial step taken in progress of the ideal envisioned. A high recommendation.

High recommendation. (80/100)

Rating: 8 out of 10.
TITLE:Equinox Vigil
LABEL(S):Gilead Media
RELEASE DATE:June 17th, 2022

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