INNUMERABLE FORMS – Philosophical Collapse (2022)REVIEW

Res extensa animata. — The chaos of the unexamined self when extracted from the normative realm of purely imagined experience is destined to crash into destitution, a state of mourning for a progressivist embodiment that is fictively achieved among modern man. The unlived surrealistic delusion of sensation which under no certain terms portends practical action must start back at square one upon reaching the realization that reactivity within a communal nexus of shared meaning becomes non-essential dressing upon the deep structure of one’s all-knowing, apodictic sentience, necessitating a reality apart from others yet… nearby, side-eyed and well-defended. The elaborate imposition of distance as a replacement of entwinement is no rebirth of a better, more respectfully neutral mankind but a liminal, blindered dead space allowing for unchecked dual-brutalization on part of the individual (unto itself) deluded into the fantasy of self-control and en masse (unto others) deluded into the fantasy of utopia. The tyrannical age of disinformation, distanced delusion and decommission of community in practicum leaves skulls plummeting into hands as this second full-length from Boston, Massachusetts-area death metal quintet Innumerable Forms shakes off the tracers in eye, the deoxygenated listlessness of wit’s end, now resolving to grapple bookish prose in the left hand and ball-peen hammer in the right. ‘Philosophical Collapse‘ naturally infers scathing introspection by sight and fills every room-sized cavern of ear it touches with the miserably wracked aura of divining thought turning to depressive anger without salve. The resulting experience indicts the listener with a patient and personal portrayal of confrontational self-revision mused, meditated and extracted unto mortally wounded, doomed and dead-serious death metal.

Innumerable Forms began as a solo side-project from Boston-area musician Justin DeTore circa 2007 or nearby the peak of his work with the yet underrated Mind Eraser, having reached the point where he could handle all of the writing and performances. The eventual result was a well-regarded debut 7″ (‘Dark Worship‘, 2010) wherein the artist’s study of early Finnish death metal was indicated well enough, though the vibe of the band was maybe more in tune with classic doom metal influenced groups like Beyond Belief, Sorrow and Decomposed or, the cadence of Mourning minus the ‘Triumph of Death‘ influenced jogs. The funereal side of death/doom metal adjacent to the early 90’s pre-gothic era of British groups of note would eventually factor into the project’s sound, beginning to manifest on a compilation tape containing new songs, which ended up on a split with Blessed Offal in 2013, alongside the debut EP. Folks liked ’em, a touring line-up gigged up and release/label offers followed.

At that point we find a more fleshed and reverbed sound but not the near-final draft ’til some pre-production songs landed on a promo in 2016 wherein DeTore was joined by Jensen Ward (Iron Lung). This’d be the mostly complete skeleton of the style that Innumerable Forms quickly became known for on their debut LP (‘Punishment in Flesh‘, 2018) a record which makes a fine argument for artists needing time, experience to test their original idea ’til it becomes a complete and utter vibe, style that necessitates iteration from a band ready to serve a proper full-length. Their brand of death/doom metal, now pulling in what seemed to be nods to ‘Lost Paradise‘ with harmonized leads and a unique blend of distorted tones leading their riffcraft, needed little spin to prop up its well-built and considered skeleton. The recording was cold, dreadfully stark yet heavily influenced by traditional doom metal, and bolstered by a real serious crew of folks who’ve featured on well-appreciated records from Genocide Pact, Mammoth Grinder, and The Rival Mob. The organism had been fleshed out, its sputum pure gold at that point, and… I’d definitely been late to the party on ’em.

In taking stock of Innumerable Forms‘ discography both prior to and inclusive of ‘Philosophical Collapse‘ and without any years-old fealty for previous releases on my part, it’d be fair to say that there’d been no intense pressure set upon the idea, the evolution of the entity, until it become a crewed construct beyond a personal point of growth and exploration. That is to say that the formative years of the project-turned-band weren’t forced into place, that the muscled gloom of it all arrived as the mood called for it, and as such the vision for the path forward is chiseled out in marbled landscape rather than hastily chainsawed planks. They’ve some strong sense of ‘self’ on this organically achieved, moderately chasmic second full-length which arrives with easily noted style points nodded-at within the periphery yet the main feature to behold is its own statuesque spire of suffering thought, a construct of a slowly skinned-away illusory paradigm and the maddening torpor of accepting a new locus of meaning. In slightly more direct terms, they’ve continued on with the heaviness of the original thread while embellishing their directive with the complete extraction of the ‘self’. Eh, in plainest terms, it is an unholy ‘old school’ death/doom metal record with a bit more feeling lent to its miserable contortions this time around.

Successful classicist death/doom metal by any reasonable definition doesn’t necessarily mean “slow” death metal but a combination of traditional doom metal riff influences and more importantly a certain level of self-abrasion, gutting out the wriggling humours of existential dread for the sake of a certain well-established emotional pool. With this in mind the proposed combination of early Finnish death metal’s weirdly rocking, crypt-bound dread and the romanticist trepidation of British death metal’s late 80’s/early 90’s juncture with its extreme doom metal obsession around that same period serve as little more than kinesiological description of organic machinery rather than practical, readable influence upon Innumerable Forms‘ style at this point. ‘Philosophical Collapse‘ has a bit of the sleeker, punchier rhythms folks would rightfully associate with obscure relics like ‘Symphonaire Infernus et Spera Empyrium‘ but the tempered ‘beauty versus the chugging beast’ of early 90’s death/doom isn’t the crown usurped by these folks so much as the steadier infusion of staggered traditional doom metal rhythmic voicing, dual guitar leads, and generally more sophisticated pieces that’ve resulted from iteration.

More hands collaborating in the songwriting this time around means more riffs and all of ’em directed by a certain signature cadence which carries through most of the album but they’ve smartly kept Innumerable Forms‘ deal tightened up to four or five minute songs, making a point and maybe cutting a hook or a big moment before kicking on to the next. You’ll know what I mean if you’d checked out the pre-production demo tape (‘Despotic Rule‘, 2020) and geared up on album opener “Philosophical Collapse”, a sub ~three minute ripper that stabs right into it with a handful of pure death metal riffs that drop into doom within a minute. A simple yet brutal conveyance of their dynamic up front and admittedly a song that is over before you know it, but I’d so appreciated that they cut right to the goddamned vortex rather than dick around with a weak intro.

The first single from the album, “Built on Wrought“, arrives as a second bigger wave beyond the album opener, making a more elaborate statement in similar arrange and creating the first major showcase of the dual guitar leads which spark up at least doubly so compared to ‘Punishment in Flesh‘. Though it’d be normal to start pointing to death/doom by association the actual doom metal riffs here have more in common with the most pained of early Trouble as well as the more distraught side of records like ‘The Strength to Dream‘ and this’ll make more sense when landing upon “Lifeless Harvest”, a song which’d end up among a handful of favorites here for its nigh perfect death metal treatment of traditional doom metal inspired phrasing. We’re not exactly getting “death metal Candlemass” from ’em just yet, but it’d be fair to say that the broad spectrum of interests unique to this band allows them to speak the language of doom and death metal without having to make any too-drastic tax withheld between either sphere.

Side A goes off with a hitch for the most part, the structure of reveal within each song doesn’t find its inverse order until “Bleeding Time” but immersion will likely hit with most death metal fans well before this becomes an issue. Stark and cold, murderous as their debut was there is an air of contemplation and depressive frustration wracked throughout ‘Philosophical Collapse’ which is bolstered by the layered, chest-shoving vocals from DeTore who appears to pull just a bit of the bluster from his atmospheric death/doom metal project Dream Unending into some of these songs, weighing them with a more sinister tone. The early sections of “Deified Tyrants” pick up a bit of this but the album’s second single, “Thrall“, picks up on this most heavily alongside the most palpable, satisfying nod to early Anathema and My Dying Bride as the leads pull in a reaching ’til crestfallen lead and dissolute doom metal march beyond. It is an obvious standout moment and one that’d been absolutely necessary to escape the dragging-on of the full listen looming at that point. The sort of discordant, shattered feeling of the main riffs as they’re struck out shapes the second half of the album in a profound way while still feeding hard as nails rhythm guitar interest throughout, the turn taken around ~3:44 minutes in consistently galaxy braining me on each successive listen. “Despotic Rule” continues this thread, another deeply atmospheric performance that gives the full listen a certain lingering fire as successive songs come in waves that belay frustration and begin to resign. The truly impactful existential dread arrives within the last three songs on the album, at least in my experience, and the weigh of the record reaches its biggest and most transfixing moments at the apex of “Sleeping In Light”.

Well, hey, the thing to note in this case is that I’ve just about mentioned every single song here and that’d be because they’re all worthy pieces. I don’t feel there are any glaring moments of filler and on that same tip there aren’t any huge bouts of experimentation or exaggeration that feel out of place. The album might’ve read cold and disaffected to start, and rightfully so, but by the third or fourth listen the threads of traditional doom metal and the tonal progression of the album, both in terms of guitar arrangements and vocals, eventually sank in as a greater arc to observe. I don’t think it is the sort of record to be intellectualized so much as it is felt, emotion guides it and the medium inspires it, so while it is certainly a record precisely intended to elaborate and update the best traits of early 90’s death/doom metal it never feels too deeply referential or conversely anywhere near as plodding and destructive as Innumerable Forms‘ previous record. “Feeling man’s death/doom”? Well, they’ve still got riffs and the ‘old school’ tag hasn’t been side-stepped for populist nonsense by any means. When considering the lasting value of the experience ‘Philosophical Collapse‘ serves, I’d say there are more intricacies to absorb overall, the tempo map generally gets an upgrade by proxy, and the art direction helps achieve the right feeling overall. It is an inspiring work well set within the bounds of the best death/doom metal records of the year and one easily recommended to folks who appreciate both ancient and ‘new old school’ traditions of extreme doom metal. A very high recommendation.

Very high recommendation. (93/100)

Rating: 9 out of 10.
TITLE:Philosophical Collapse
LABEL(S):Profound Lore Records
RELEASE DATE:September 16th, 2022

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