Album Review: INVERLOCH Distance | Collapsed
For my money, diSEMBOWELMENT's 1993 album Transcendence into the Peripheral, along with Demilich's Nespithe, is right up in that rarefied class of endlessly hyped "obscure gems" that are actually worth your time. If you have even the slightest interest in doom or death metal, its combination of eerie atonal crush, stuttering blasts, and hallucinogenic melodies remains a unique accomplishment in the field. diSEMBOWELMENT (yes, I insist on writing their name this way) split up after their only album, leaving about as sparkling a legacy you could ask for, so when the rhythm section of Matthew Skarajew (bass) and Paul Mazziotta (drums) returned in the form of Inverloch, doom fans got tingly in a hurry.
Comparisons between the two projects extend well beyond the personnel. Inverloch actually began as a diSEMBOWELMENT cover band called d.USK before changing names and dropping the three-song EP, Dusk | Subside in 2012. That release, while predictably retaining many elements of its members' former outfit, introduced a new level of aggression in the form some more traditional, almost brutal death metal elements, such as on "Shadows of the Flame," that gave Transcendence's formula a new, meaner edge. Not that diSEMBOWELMENT didn't blast with the best of them (skip your next skin peel in favor of "Excoriate" if you want), but it was always cut with a ghostly edge, as though the violence was happening just out of reach in another reality. Inverloch took a more direct approach
That evolution seems to continue on their debut full-length, Distance | Collapsed, which opens with a funereal procession of riffs that could comfortably exist within the repertoire of any Incantation or Death clone, chugging and blasting out of the gate before spitting out a deft solo undercut by an almost catchy rhythm.
"Distance Collapsed (In Rubble)" is a very strong opening salvo, but it had me a little worried that the more distinctive elements that I—and let's be honest, probably most fans—were craving had been exorcised in favor of forging a new identity. As much as I could understand Inverloch's desire to push their sound into new territories, my ears were nonetheless overjoyed at the opening strains of "From the Eventide Pool," with it's gentle melody recalling the otherworldly atmosphere of one of Transcendence's highlight tracks, "Your Prophetic Throne of Ivory."
"Lucid Delerium" brings back even more pleasant memories with a masterful midsection that sees tremolo-picked riffs dance over glacial drums to hypnotic effect. But the highlight for me is "The Empyrean Torment," which marches with a terrifying step, steadily increasing the pressure around your torso like a giant obsidian hand until you feel like you can't breathe. Then, just as a gentle melody begins to hint at some kind of relief, it hammers your bones into dust with a classic diSEMBOWELMENT blast. It's everything a doom death fan could want from a reunion, which kind of leaves us in an odd position.
This is a good album. A really good one, actually. And yet there's a certain familiarity that keeps it from cutting as deep as it could. As forward-thinking as Skarajew and Mazziotta's early work remains, modern doom and death metal has gained back a lot of ground since then. While the grimmer, more aggressive death metal elements that Inverloch have added to this nearly 20-plus-year-old (!) template are both laudable and organic in feel, they don't really do much to add to an already massive and formidable foundation. The cleaner production, while crushingly clear, loses some of the cavernous mystique that gives this kind of sound that extra atmospheric edge.
Inverloch is a relatively young project with plenty of room to move outside the shadow of its legacy. I'm just not sure which direction it should take, or whether it might just be better off admitting what it is: diSEMBOWELMENT 2.0. I sure as hell wouldn't complain.