Most likely you’ve heard of INFERNUM and most likely any preconceived notions would be tied to what is being labeled the “true” INFERNUM; which this is not. This is the Polish band of the same name, featuring Anextiomarus, who appears in both projects, but is not tied down by the Darken/Capricornus lineup. Rather, this is currently a four man group dedicated to continuing Anextiomarus’ legacy and “The Curse” is an album which was recorded prior to his 2004 suicide. While the drama and social circles clinging to both bands is somewhat thick and easily dismissed, the power of this 2006 debut is not.
The sound found within may similarly be vaguely likened to an early GRAVELAND outing in feel and atmosphere. “The Curse” is raw yet beautifully melodic in the harshest of senses while featuring a subtle diversity which belies the sometimes hypnotic and repetitive compositions. The ominous intro itself lays the foundation as a bloated work of echoing voices and spoken word melded seamlessly with vibrant yet low-key synth. It’s overtly malicious due to the harsh vocal respite and has the hair on the back of your neck erect, yet at the same time it stagnates long before it even comes close to finishing. This is the entirety of “The Curse” as the compositions will often lay themselves out deliberately, throw in a somewhat esoteric middle-section or bridge and then return to form with the repetitive riffs and rhythm skipping hand in hand.
The abraded medieval feel sustained by faint distorted riffing is a major element to this project’s sound and acts as a focal point for identity. The deliberate bass-drum driven rhythmic pulse seen in the excellent title track is simplistic yet inventive and helps round out the texture with successful dynamics. The melodies are always distant like a melee occurring just over the hillside which you feverishly attempt to meet yet can never close the distance. This surprisingly works in a positive manner, particularly when in combination with the other elements.
Despite the harsh mood, INFERNUM is in no way afraid of utilizing a clean female voice in sparse instances. They are always well placed and work to further that slightly archaic and prim-evil essence. The contrast between the beautiful yet morose is indicative of the band’s emotional onslaught as a whole. Due to the fact that the album remains consistently in the realm of mid-paced and rhythm driven, you settle into this comfortable feel where you become quite familiar with the sound until this evocative and foreign element enters the mix, stunning you at first but ultimately becoming just as comfortable as the sustained riffing and keyboards.
Variation and interest is maintained, primarily, through excellent drum-work which utilizes a host of focused technique often lost in this genre. The blast-beats (check “Storm Rider”) are used as effectively as ever in conservative amounts and the bass drum is perfectly manipulated in all accounts. The keys also seem to continually pique interest as they are given a rather forward role in driving the music, despite the fact that they are kept somewhat in the background of the mix. The guitar, unfortunately, is buried a bit lower and aids to this cause, but the outcome is surprisingly effective and accomplishes its task.
INFERNUM’s distinction as quality and an amalgam of traditional and the unexpected proves for quite a journey. Check out that middle section of “Storm Rider” with the Viking Metal vocal approach and complete escalation of atmosphere, or that Thrashy riff near the end of “Epitaph”; both moments are a complete mental clusterfuck. I could certainly do without the bloated intro and pointless outro, but I certainly would not wish to do without hearing “The Curse”. Excellent minimalist musicianship paired with atypical songwriting and effective mood; certainly a surprise in the current period and a welcome one at that. (Online June 24, 2006)