Inanimate Existence - A Never-Ending Cycle of Atonement - (7.5/10)
Published on June 26, 2014
Santa Cruz quintet Inanimate Existence recorded a demo and sent it over to leading tech-death purveyors Unique Leader Records back in 2012. They were quickly signed and then soon released their full-length debut in Liberation through Hearing, a colossal premiere record and one of the most off-kilter and daring tech-death records of that year, an album that, unfortunately, was noticed by far too few. The band have returned in 2014 with a new album, a new bassist, a new vocalist, one less guitarist, and, despite cutting the number of tracks in half from the debut, a whole lot more ambition.
Before hearing a single down-tuned note, the record’s title, A Never-Ending Cycle of Atonement, and cover art, a mountainous landscape of welcoming rising-sun hues, just scream for your attention. Additionally, and similar to Ethereal Riffian’s novella for their brilliant full-length debut Aeonian, guitarist/vocalist Cameron Porras has penned a storyline to the album. Coinciding with the track titles, the chapters of this very short, often very gory tale revolve around a man named Tenzin, and then with themes like guilt, reality, and mysticism.
Thankfully the music supports these grandiose aspirations with a half-and-half casting of the bestial and the beautiful, divvying up acoustic and orchestrated vignettes with spells of hyper-technical death metal. It’s a recipe that worked so well on Liberation through Hearing, and one that continues to thrive here as Inanimate Existence, more often than not, go for broke in just about everything they do.
A Never-Ending Cycle of Atonement is saturated with sound. Layers of it, with the lion’s share dressed in quite the jazzy, over-produced garb. Similar to bands like Gorod, Archspire, or Necrophagist, the guitar playing is incredibly lithe, bending and twisting, effortlessly weaving tempos; such showmanship is not without its occasional showboating, intentional or otherwise, but the band manage it, for the most part, with the usage of melody as a mediator. However, even the most technical tracks like, say, “The Catacomb of Mirrors,” have a way of ditching the listener with its barrage of notes and transitions, sounding amazing but alternately also very confusing and, well, on the precipice of some serious ADHD.
This, of course, isn’t to cast doubt upon the musicians. Doing his best to fill in for Mitch Yoesle (a standout performer on the debut), bassist Scott Bradley supports the more intricate moments nimbly while following the impressive, fingertip-rendering riffs conceived by proud parents Porras and Joel Guernsey. Ron Casey’s decisions on the skins, especially during the jazzier breaks, are also well-thought-out and apropos for such pyrotechnics.
Tech-heads should, rightfully so, devour A Never-Ending Cycle of Atonement; it’s everyone else that might need a bit more convincing, which, in hindsight, is an odd declaration considering how ambitious Inanimate Existence’s second release undoubtedly is. Your death metal parlor tricks include woodwind instruments like the flute and clarinet (Steve Marshall), bongos, acoustic ditties, haunting female vocals (Kaitlyn Kehl), and a decidedly unique atmosphere that immediately earns this record extra brownie points. While this reviewer still finds the debut a more impacting affair, it remains impossible to dismiss Inanimate Existence’s second release in A Never-Ending Cycle of Atonement, with its all-around effort, creativity, and faultless instrumentation.
Like a good story, this one demands more than a few visits.