*This is part of our State Of The Art series, showcasing bands every Monday from the featured State*
This month’s State is Tennessee!
Week number two for our State of the Art: Tennessee brings something much more harsh than I usually choose. While still melodic, this band definitely falls on the more extreme end of Technical Death Metal in sound, theme and in attitude. Named appropriately after the collective gods of the underworld among ancient Romans, check out Inferi!
Inferi was formed in 2006 by lead guitarist and vocalist Malcolm Pugh (also of A Loathing Requiem, Diskreet, ex-Enfold Darkness, ex-Entheos) in Nashville, Tennessee. With roots firmly grounded in traditional Melodic Death Metal, members wanted to push their collective playing and songwriting talents to the absolute technical limits and separate themselves from other contemporary Melodic Metal bands of the day. By 2007, Inferi releases Divinity in War with the track list of: “Divinity in War”, “Conjure of Sacrifice”, “Midnight Massacre”, “Bathe in Flames”, “Cabal of Thieves”, “Fiendish Awakening I”, “Fiendish Awakening II”, “In Armor” and “The Bringers of Ascending Fire”. With somewhat of a cult following by then, The End of an Era was released in 2009 which contained: “The Ruin of Mankind”, “Gathering in the Chambers of Madness”, “The Endless Siege”, “A New Breed of Savior”, “Sentenced to Eternal Life”, “The War Machine Embodiment”, “The Warrior’s Infinite Opus”, “Quest for the Trinity”, “Forged in the Phlegethon” and “Cursed Unholy”. Inferi was picked up by a growing label before things really soured and went South for the band. After being signed, they were told to change their name and image to appease the record label’s marketing direction. Inferi was dropped shortly thereafter after not meeting the label’s needs. At this point, the tension and interests in other projects put Inferi into hibernation for a few years. Pugh had joined Diskreet and moved to Topeka, KS and the rest of the band was usurped by other bands and various musical projects; splintering the band. Upon his return home to Tennessee in 2011 to join Enfold Darkness, Malcolm decided to reboot the Inferi name and goal with a fresh line up. Guitarist Mike Low (also of Oubliette and ex-Enfold Darkness) and drummer Jack Blackburn (ex-Enfold Darkness and ex-Vital Remain) were the first members taken on board in 2012. Since playing with Enfold Darkness, all three had developed good friendships and worked well together. Nevin O’Hearn on bass and Josh Harrell on vocals rounded out Inferi, v2.0. In 2011, they released demos of “The Promethean Kings” and “Wrath of the Fallen Ones” that gave fans a taste of what was to come. In 2014, Inferi launched their epic concept album entitled The Path of Apotheosis (the highest level of development) that tells the sordid tale of the human race and its creators, from a mythical perspective; telling the full story through tracks: “Those Who from the Heavens Came”, “The Promethean Kings”, “A Betrayal Unforetold”, “Wraith of the Fallen One”, “The Ophidian Form”, “Prelude to a Perilous Fate”, “Destroyer”, “Onslaught of the Covenant”, “Marching Through the Flames of Tyranny”, “The Ancients of Shattered Thrones” and “The Path of Apotheosis”. Very well received by fan and critic alike, The Path of Apotheosis has been held as a standard-bearer for Tech Death for a couple of years now, even landing number seven on Metal Wani’s Top 10 Technical Death Metal Albums of the 21st Century, stating “From the moment the first note hits, and all the way through stellar tracks like ‘Destroyer’ and ‘The Ancients of Shattered Thrones’, Inferi does not relent. A heavy dose of sharp, double-time technical death metal, with immaculate production, puts Inferi on 7th place on the list. Catchy riffs, layered vocals, and lightspeed drumming –all the standard tropes of tech death are present but each element seems to come out splendidly in the mix…”.
Uh, yeah… While being on the list speaks volumes for what Inferi has accomplished, a single statement does not even come close to giving this album and this band justice. Let’s expand this a bit. First off, the songwriting is beyond complex and mature musically and lyrically. Not many bands would have the chops or the blatant creativity to pull this thing off. Guitar work is not just fast and absolutely brutal, but is also driven to be highly musical. As Pugh told Dead Rhetoric in an interview: “Melody is essential. Without melody, most people will just hear fast brutal metal. So, I try to base my riffs around a melodic feel and sometimes the complexity just pours itself in with it, because each and every note in our songs are just as important to me as each and every lyric, drum beat, etc. When Mike and I are going through riffs and song ideas and one of them doesn’t get stuck in our head or give us goose bumps, then we know it’s time to scrap it or set it aside until it fulfills that need.” A sixty five minute, skull crushing shred fest! To that end, the bass follows the ultra fast drums when appropriate and the guitars at other times, depending on the musical movement. The newest album also takes a number of Classical/Symphonic (often just below the surface) turns that were not apparent in their first two releases; even going as far as to include some clean singing and guitar playing. Not enough to take over, mind you, but enough to allow the songs to build in a completely different direction and give us a damned breath every now and again. Death Metal growls are the norm here, but the brilliant lyrics are generally understandable. It is so obvious that Inferi have left nothing to chance and zilch on the table with The Path of Apotheosis. A real wonder of technical playing and songwriting expertise. Recently announcing the addition of Joel Schwallier of Dawn of Dementia on bass, the guys in Inferi are currently writing new material to follow up The Path of Apotheosis with an indeterminate, at this time, release. Can’t wait for new stuff? Hit their merch site below and buy one of their limited edition hoodies used in an effort to fund the new album! In the mean time, check them out below…
Divinity in War (2007)
The End of An Era (2009)
The Path of Apotheosis (2014)
Produced, Engineered and Mixed by Mike Low & Malcolm Pugh
Guitars Recorded by Mike Low & Malcolm Pugh
Drums Recorded by Logan Bennett
Orchestral Concepts Composed by Mike Low, Malcolm Pugh & Matthew Earl Orchestral Arrangements by Matthew Earl
Mastered by Dave Otero at Flatline Audio
Illustration by Robert Gonzalez
Layout by Alex Hoffman
All Songs Written and Performed by Inferi
Eric W. Brown – Additional Vocals in “A Betrayal Unforetold”
Emily Low & Matthew Earl – Clean Vocals in “Destroyer”
Mark Hawkins – Guest Solo in “Marching Through The Flames of Tyranny”
Ralph Santolla – Guest Solo in “A Betrayal Unforetold”
Stevie Boiser – Additional Vocals in “Wrath of The Fallen One”
Emily Low, Chad Layne & Joseph Lampley – Group Vocals in “The Path of Apotheosis“
Released on The Artisan Era Records