Inexorum have quickly climbed up the ranks of bands I need to keep my eyes on, but it was not always so. You know how this story goes: someone (usually Vince or Angela) mentions an album they are thrilled about, in this case it was 2020’s Moonlit Navigation, I swear on God I’m going to listen to it, and then I don’t. It took me far too long to get around to Moonlit Navigation, but when I did it was like a cartoon mallet came down on my head: I couldn’t avoid it if I wanted anymore. So, I told myself I would make the same mistake twice when the next release came around. Enter: Equinox Vigil.
Equinox Vigil is Inexorum’s third album since forming in only 2017. While this isn’t the longest tenure for a band on the scene, this is neither Carl Skildum or his collaborator Matt Kirkwold’s first trip to the rodeo. Both have played together in Antiverse and make up Obsequiae’s live lineup. Inexorum initially started as a solo project of Skildum, but before the first album was released it had already expanded into the duo it is now. And so it is that Inexorum find themselves poised at the forefront of modern black metal, carefully crafting melodic anthems that truly do not sound like anything else out there. Lyrically, Equinox Vigil follows the band’s themes of the human experience, religious hypocrisy, self-healing and the natural environment of Minnesota, from where the two hail. The hallmark of Inexorum’s musical style has always been the blending of black and death metal with uproariously good melodies, NWOBHM theatrics and arena rock hooks, and on Equinox Vigil these elements are taken to the absolute top. If Moonlit Navigation put the duo on the map, then Equinox Vigil secures them their own personal zip code.
The band states that their “vignettes of memorable riffs and heart-pounding percussion” delve into new territory, and while they don’t tread much musical ground that is strikingly different from Moonlit Navigation, what’s plainly visible is their absolute precision when it comes to songwriting. There is no chaff anywhere, no fat to be cut. Every single song is a banger. The riffs are fast and furious but always memorable and grounded in melody. Aggression is dealt out in measures, and there’s a lot of ripping drums and buzzsaw guitars, but things never go off the rails, and that’s because Skildum and Kirkwold know how to properly ground these songs. There is always some pull to center, back to a hook or anthemic chorus, soaring lead, that keeps things focused. The guitar work of Skildum in particular deserves all the praise in the world. There isn’t a ton of lead work on Equinox Vigil (save for a guest solo on “Secret Language” from dear friend Tanner Anderson, of the aforementioned Obsequiae), but the melodies crafted are both gorgeous and fist-pumping, guaranteed to stick around in your head for weeks. Every song feels like it is so lovingly crafted around these hooks and harmonized melodic lines, and there’s so many memorable moments here that it’s hard to single out just a couple. More importantly than any of that, though, is the fact that Equinox Vigil is fun to listen to. It is a fist pumping, anthemic, mosh pit dancing good time, and I find myself grinning from ear to ear every time I put it on for another spin.
I slept on Moonlit Navigation. I told myself I wouldn’t make the same mistake again, and I’m very happy that I didn’t. Equinox Vigil not only doesn’t disappoint, it is a high water mark in a trajectory that only seems to be going up. This is such a fresh, unique take on black metal that I feel compelled to shout about it as much as I can, especially to make up for lost time. Look for Equinox Vigil to pop back up at the end of the year for me.