When you see the phrase “melodic black metal” you’re probably instantly reminded of something – it may not be actual music from a band but an impression, a sense of presence conjured up in some Jungian archetype to give meaning to the words. For me the phrase elicits icy, bright melodies that fly against stinging blast beats, lines harmonizing and coming apart in frenzied bursts of power. In other words, I pretty much hear what Inexorum beautifully executes on debut album Lore of the Lakes.
Conceived as the solo project of Carl Skildum (Antiverse, Threadbare) the music of Inexorum lives and breathes the icy cadence of 90s black metal, albeit with a pristine production and heavy homage to 80s thrash and speed metal, pick slides and chugging riffs giving brief respite from the blistering pace of the majority of Lore of the Lakes. The sound and similarities are perhaps not so surprising, considering Skildum is based in Minnesota, itself a tapestry of cold forests and lakes, crystal clear skies reflecting the solitude and introspection that came with the 2nd wave out of Norway. But there’s a precise beauty in how focused and single-minded the music of Lore of the Lakes is, a credit to how much Skildum and collaborator Matt Kirkwood zero in on the essence of the music: namely how the guitars weave in and out of melodic lines and give a vibrant pulse to the music.
Eschewing the by now trite themes that permeated everything Inexorum was influenced by, Lore of the Lakes instead focuses on humanity’s ability to persevere in the face of loss. I typically loathe to quote promo materials, but this piece from Skildum really hit home as I listened to the record: “Our time is finite, but each of us has the power to reshape the world in small but meaningful ways.” Even if the lyrics elude you, the music conveys this same sense of majesty and grace. Opener “Raging Hearts” sets the tempo that will carry through the majority of the album’s half hour running time: frantic and urgent. Rather than focus on individual components and passages the song flows in broad strokes, whether it’s the flurry of tremolo picked chords before the drums kick in or the rushing fury of the verses. Skildum’s screams lay buried in that perfect in-between where it melds with the guitars, becoming an instrument in its own right.
This attack continues in “Let Pain Be Your Guide” but a close listen reveals unguarded moments, such as the shift at about 40 seconds when the harmonized leads blaze out in the cold sun. It does so again as an extended solo in front of ripping chords and screams that recall power metal in their chest beating, heart rending sincerity. Both “Years in Exile” and “To Omega” tread similar ground, the drumming (I’m guessing programmed but regardless they sound great in this context) a steady onslaught to anchor the way Skildum builds layers of guitars one atop the other to create a fabric of sound that never fails to invoke both the cold landscapes of Minnesota as well as the push and pull of Skildum’s internal struggles. The music’s capacity to involve you and carry you through these moments of struggle and despair and ultimately find a small light on the other side is incredible when you pause to consider the normal path this genre tends to take. By the time the closing title track comes on you think you’ve got Inexorum nailed down, only to be completely blown off course by the way the track goes full bore majestic and stately. As a song “Lore of the Lakes” not only feels like a summation, but a call to a future where Inexorum can build and stretch into new avenues. From the march of the beginning to the fury of the middle section to the lush acoustics that occupy the final moments it’s a true call to the end of one journey and the start of another.
When the oppressive summer heat gets this unbearable, it’s fitting that the only thing to help cool things off is some frosty, frantic black metal. In a year where the genre feels like it’s picking up speed and life and lying fallow for a while, Inexorum and Lore of the Lakes is a great reminder of how we can take and twist from our forefathers new and exciting blends of metal.