2020 is a year that, as we know, is chock full of surprises, and it seems that the overwhelming majority of them are of the unpleasant variety. It seems that all we can do to keep sanity and optimism hanging around is to do for each other and look out for the ones who are in it the deepest, not the least of which are the artists and musicians among us. While not a complete surprise, tech-death darlings Inferi have decided to give back and spread some good vibrations with the release of their impromptu EP Of Sunless Realms.
Inferi have made a name for themselves by writing wickedly smart tech death in bite-sized, digestible chunks that draw from a wide variety of sources, including the nerdy and the nerdy-adjacent (the band is named after the reanimated corpses controlled by dark magic from the Harry Potter universe, and lead singer Stevie Boiser also fronts the Fullmetal Alchemist themed tech death outfit Equipoise). It’s been a bit since the band put out new material, not since 2018’s Revenant, although 2019’s reimagining of their sophomore release The End of an Era certainly did enough to satisfy and then some. Still, the band is deeply beloved by many across the globe for their fast and furious songwriting and their massive technical chops, so there will always be clamor for a new release from them, even as soon as the most recent one is hot off the presses.
It’s a wonder any of them even have time enough to put out what they do, what with participating in a dizzying number of side projects and with guitarist Malcolm Pugh running The Artisan Era, but if anything can throw a wrench into all the moving parts and force some unexpected free time it’s a global pandemic. With no tours in sight, the band decided to hunker down and work on their next full-length release. However, the band decided that it wasn’t enough to just work on a full-length: their aim was to do something unexpected and surprise everyone. “We have been hinting at a new full length for a while now. However, since 2020 has had its fair share of surprises already, we thought we would do something unexpected and make something happen during this global downtime….We still have a full-length album in the works and will continue to put all efforts into making it the best release we can.” Good to know that this is a bonus release and not an “instead-of” release.
Of Sunless Realms doesn’t do anything particularly unexpected in the music department, but it does continue the trend of bombastic, high-octane tech death that shows no mercy from start to finish. The one thing I am immediately missing is a little bit of subtlety or variety, but on the other hand, that’s not really what Inferi are known for. What they’re known for is their insane musical ability, and that shines here in spades. “The Abhorrent Art” opens the EP with huge riffs and wild abandon. The furious blasting never quite seems to stop until the end of the song, and the wild guitars focus more on the foundation here than elsewhere. “Eldritch Evolution” features more of the outside-the-box sound the band has been cultivating by utilizing harpsichord for a sense of strangeness that is hard to put a finger on at first. That could be because the subtlety gets a little lost in all the chaos, but it does add a level of depth that the songs needs. Ditto for the choirs synths on “Spellbound Unearthed Terror,” which features some of the finest guitar playing on all the tracks. The solos at the end are a great balance of melodic sensibility and technical wizardry, and it’s a standout cut here for sure. “Aeons Torn” closes with probably the heaviest sections here. Boiser’s vocals run the gamut from throat-searing shriek to guttural growls and back in record time, and it is definitely his track to shine on.
Overall, Of Sunless Realms is a decent length and heft for an EP, and it definitely shines a bright light on what is to come from the Nashville outfit. Times are weird and getting weirder, and in a year when the unexpected seems to happen at least twice a day, at least this is a pleasant surprise. How many people who sat down and told themselves they would use all this extra time to be productive can actually say they did? Inferi can, and it looks like there isn’t anything that is going to stop them from keeping on keeping on.