Infernaeon – A Symphony Of Suffering

I heard Infernaeon’s original demo about a year and a half before this LP came out, and I was blown away by it. It’s one of those things that is able to twist the formula just enough to support extremely strong songwriting and kick every ass in the world in its way. It’s had an incredibly fiery, demonic feel to it; very reminiscent of good old Nocturnus, and not just in the usage of keyboards. Anyway, it was a badass demo and I want to hear it again after acquiring ‘A Symphony Of Suffering’.

This is because something was CLEARLY lost in translation in those three years between demo and album. The stunning clarity and darkness of vision that Infernaeon demonstrated back in ’04 has withered to a mere shell of its former grandeur, leaving us with an album that, while not quite BAD, does dwell in the realm of mediocrity occupied by so many others. This album lacks the core of the occult atmosphere that flooded the demo, the intense oldschool production, th furious instrumentation, everything that made it so great. This is a muzzled, sedated version of what Infernaeon once was, and damn if it’s not disappointing to see a band fall so far so fast.

So if you don’t know Infernaeon’s gimmick, they’re a ‘symphonic’ death metal band. By symphonic we mean that they use a synthesizer that sometimes sounds like a violin. Apart from this extra layer, Infernaeon is a pretty typical modern death metal, albeit with a pinch more romanticism, lyrical eloquence, and musical grandiosity than most. All the instruments are handled capably and the music has at least a modicum of technicality present throughout. The drumming is probably the most simplistic part of this: it’s composed of your fairly standard rock beats, blasting, double bass, and the occasional technical fill, but it gets the job done (apart from having a really weird, dry snare sound that seems oddly cheap for the otherwise crystal-clear production). The keys aren’t quite omnipresent, but they do come in pretty frequently, generally in the slower, more ‘atmospheric’ parts, and allow the band to play on without synthestra accompaniment during the faster sections. Guitars are moderately technical: expect lots of tremolo riffs, the occasional chunky little DM thing and lots of really overblown cock-rock soloing. Notice that I’m not commenting on anything that these instruments are actually playing: just the tools that they use to get there, wherever ‘there’ is supposed to be.

This is because ‘A Symphony Of Suffering’ is really just a bunch of ingredients. The riffs kind of work, but they still feel like they’re just sitting there, not really propelling the music anywhere in particular. Even the dramatic, multifaceted vocal performance of Brian Werner can’t hide the fact that Infernaeon is, a lot of the time, just treading water and going nowhere in particular. There’s ‘atmospheric’ parts, but I couldn’t tell you what the atmosphere was, there’s a hundred memorable riffs that I can’t remember, and a dozen symphonic accompaniments that don’t do anything but to add another fairly meaningless layer to the whole equation. Back in the demo days, Infernaeon’s music was a completely singular entity, with every instrument working in perfect tandem to drive home the point of the songs. Now they’re just a collection of different pieces which vaguely harmonize but never achieve anything with their noise.

The music is passable, yeah, but it’s also pretty silly. A lot of the riffs (which often sound like they were created to accent the keyboards, not the other way around) sound like carnival music to me more than death metal, and a lot of the music is so intensely focused on being dramatic, epic, and demonic that it completely overshoots the goal and just lands in the area of self-parody. Additionally, for a full-length album, this is pretty fucking thin on ideas at times. There’s a lot of instrumental sections here composed of filler riffs and rock beats which were clearly just designed to inflate the running time (which even then just barely gets past the half hour mark). The silliness even extends to the lyrics: yeah, they’re well written insofar as having some clever turns of phrase and descriptions, but there’s just as many awkwardly strict rhyme schemes and slavish devotion to subject matter. Besides, death metal has never BEEN a lyrical genre, anyway, so why does it feel like so much time was spent on them at the cost of the rest of the music?

The fact is that despite the enjoyable moments on this disc, it’s a tremendous letdown from Infernaeon’s previous work. The music’s not particularly heavy, brutal, or dark sounding, instead being more infatuated with carefully constructed layers of guitar riffs and keyboard lines. A fairly popular internet metal critic once called Deathspell Omega an aesthetic and nothing more; I’d say that this is a pretty handy description of ‘A Symphony Of Suffering’. The music here is all appearance, showmanship, demonstrative songwriting that merely gives the appearance of progress and darkness. If aesthetics made the world go ’round, ‘A Symphony Of Suffering’ would be brilliant; as it stands, the flaw in both those previous statements is, quite simply, that they do not and are not, respectively.


~ by noktorn on August 6, 2007.

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