ACT OF IMPALEMENT – Infernal Ordinance (2023)REVIEW

For the sole purpose of passage… an uncanny rift cast in juncture of realms is quickly spawned and dissolved as the occasionally blackened, crusted death/sludge metal of Nashville, Tennessee-based trio Act of Impalement ceases to parse a barrage of stylistic indicators as the major substance addressed within their take on groove-obsessed death metal music. Serving as a second major attempt to convey many interests to a generally conservative audience ‘Infernal Ordinance‘ relies on simple and bludgeoning rhythms to smooth the previously irregular edges of their vision, making for a somewhat normative nowadays ‘new old school’ death metal experience at face value and a pool of curious, illusory depth when scoured of its finer details. While the experience remains consistently focused on less subtle textural rushes and the odd meandering groove no doubt these folks have hit upon a bit of something for everyone rather than a thing which isn’t exactly for anyone this time around.

Formed in 2012 and consistently at work on their craft through 2018 or so, Act of Impalement are the sort of band where we’d seen all of their development from a “You sure you want to post that on the internet already, bro?” level of formative demo recordings through the couple of well produced full-lengths we’ve got to parse through today. I’ll do the average listener a favor here and cheese it past their strugglin’ first few demos and start with the crust punk tinged death/doom of ‘Hyperborean Altar‘ (2013) mLP and the even more doom riffed-at slugs of the ‘Echoes of Wrath‘ (2014) EP where they’d figured out a midway point between death/doom metal a la Cianide, droning sludge, and blackened crust. The idea probably reads a lot cooler on the page than it actually was but this was vital enough as roughly half of the foundation of where the trio would go with their debut full-length (‘Perdition Cult‘, 2018) which’d been bit of a mutant record between its nondescript album art, indeterminate death/sludge style and relatively tuneless sequence. My short review of that debut at the time reflected this confusion and left me somewhat weary of what ‘Infernal Ordinance‘ would be nearly five years later.

Pivot toward your strengths and mind the audience, eh. — How to solve the problem of trying to be too many (good) things at once? Well, just be normal bro, eh? Though I am kind of kidding it does seem like Act of Impalement went into this second record pulling back on the equitant voices shared between their many interests and cut most of ’em off before dialing in their taste in modern death metal. By “modern” I mean the hardcorish, groove focused mid-paced stuff which acts as the glue for their continued interest in deathcrust and death/doom metal. They’re admittedly not about to win me over full-stop with five minute chug n’ roll jogs like opener “Summoning the Final Conflagration” but when these guys hit shorter, crustier bruisers like “Bogbody” and the doomed-core breakdown that is “Blasphemous Rebirth” sooner after the greater ride of the full listen begins to steadily reveal in its unusually creeped yet brutally straight forward mannerisms.

Where ‘Infernal Ordinance‘ gets it entirely right and begins to make the argument that Act of Impalement have found a better-representative direction going forward comes with the heinously condensed efficacy of “In Wolflight” as it pairs with the dunder-chugging and just barely blackened brute that is “Specters of Unlight”. Here we’ve got something which is rhythmically easy to read, over the top enough to catch the ear but also pit-ready in its bulbous grooves. It manages to be entirely different than most of what is out there while also kinda playing to the crowd; For a half hour record the whole thing bleeds together into one stomp and pushed-at haul to start but things start to gel with the jogging, guttural lunges of “Atomic Hecatomb“. At the very least this’d been the point where it’d clicked in mind that Act of Impalement managed to learn from their debut LP and pivoted toward changes that’d hit faster and easier. Still, it takes a while before the death/doom side of things busts out in full between “Death Hex” and the brilliant closer “Erased” and the full listen comes together as a potently succinct representation of these folks’ many interests syncing in a slick way.

Deceptively straightforward yet rippling with some enthusiasm for all manner of extreme punk and metal interests it turns out ‘Infernal Ordinance‘ doesn’t reign it in so much as Act of Impalement employs a more economical representation of those interests with death metal as the more clear primary driver of motion, the medium with which each limb must fuse. The effect is still just as satisfying between knuckle-dragged chugs, deathcrust whipping, and doomed dramatism but these all serve as points of prime interest within a more cohesive death metal shell. If nothing else a bit more personality reeks off this record and it makes the listening experience all the more engaging. A moderately high recommendation.

Help Support Grizzly Butts’ goals with a donation:

Please consider donating directly to site costs and project funding using PayPal.