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How to follow up what was possibly the best New England black metal demo/album I've heard since some point in the 90s? Carry on, and that is precisely what Boston's Infera Bruo have accomplished upon Desolate Unknown. A proficient paean to both the Norse and Swedish roots of its genre, which compares favorably to the more modern works of its enduring progenitors. Not quite so progressive in nature as what Enslaved, Ihsahn or Arcturus have written in recent years, but more of a balance of the style's primal precision and intensity as translated from late 90s Immortal or Emperor, and then further enriched by the inclusion of cleaner, mid ranged vocals which provide several of the record's catchier phrases. Beyond that, their writing style is such that you never exactly know what's around each corner on the record...will they drop off the blasting to focus on something more scarce and atmospheric? Will they soften the blows where appropriate?
Yes to all of that. Swelling dark ambient/ritualistic 'Segues' are placed at strategic points on the album to break up the duration of its lengthier tracks (9-13 minutes). Not merely noise, they also involve elements like eerie vocal looping or distorted voice samples. Acoustic guitars are brought out briefly, and the band will often just cede the structure and riffing to pure feedback which also ironically helps to smooth out those mammoth songs. But more vital here is the instrumentation. The bass lines often have a rough, distorted thrust to them which generates an excellent balance to the more pinpoint and polished tone of the guitars. Chord progressions, if not unanimously catchy, manage between just the right levels of dissonance and glory, and while they often occupy the same general terrain, few of them sound exactly alike, nor do they ever wear out their welcome through exhausting repetition which could turn a tune like "Ritual Within" or "Invoking Collapse" into a monotonous nightmare if mismanaged. The beats wander everywhere from the rock grooves necessary to fuel the mid paced Bathory rhythms, to the seamless blasts and double bass sequences; always pretty pronounced so that you can make out all the individual toms, snares and crashes, yet not overly loud.
Most of the vocals are dual black rasps which create a pretty effective gravitas against the energy of the drums and guitars, with loads of little flaws and deviations to keep the ears glued, and the cleans which are understated but excellent. If one were to strip out and analyze specific elements, I'm sure they wouldn't find Infera Bruo's material to be the most distinct or unique in the field, but they operate as a 'package deal', where every component of their creative process is well executed. Had Desolate Unknown been released by some second or third tier Norwegian band, they'd probably find themselves on a label like Candlelight or Indie Recordings in no time flat, that is the level of polish here. Along with Spaniards Foscor, these gentlemen seem like natural successors to the early 21st century evolutions of their Scandinavian forebears, a pretty big sandbox to play around in, and one that I am eager to see shaped further.
'My Journey to the Stars', 'To Walk the Infernal Fields', 'In the Cold Winds of Nowhere'; all classic black metal tunes each depicting one of the many emotions found within the broad range of music that is black metal. Not necessarily found in those specific songs, but they serve their purpose as examples nonetheless. Should one name a track symbolizing the emotions found on Infera Bruo's sophomore album 'Desolate Unknown' it would be the fourth track 'Ritual Within'. During 49 minutes 'Desolate Unknown' embarks it's listener on an emotional ride with build-up of aggression, release, return to control and rejuvenation.
The embodiment of said emotions is manifested through a solid foundation of Enslaved/Naglfar-styled black metal with a set of underlying influences. The melodic black metal riffage is simple yet effective utilizing small variations of the fundamental riffs with great result. These lines would have made fairly well on their own, but the band top up their music with some solid space rock-influences, atonal Deathspell Omega-riffing, technical death and heavy metal, expanding it another dimension without ever losing the base of their sound. These wide influences become a natural elongation of the bands melodic black metal instead of colliding with it. The space rock-influences are particularly abundant but achieves more than anything the feeling of a journey to the deep within rather than outer space. Manifested mainly on keyboards it is still stripped and ill-boding rather than symphonic and bombastic.
Apart from the two Teitanblood/Necros Christos-on-acid interludes, 'Segue I' and 'Segue II', all tracks follow a similar pattern with an up-tempo bulk, a mid-song drop in tempo and build-up towards the finish. In the middle sections the space rock often takes the upper hand, sometimes accompanied by acoustic guitars or dissonant atonal lines and even a spoken sample on 'Ritual Within'. The neat interweave of this diverse musical spectra comes no less due to the clear sounding production. Only the vocals have found its place a bit too far down in the mix. Typical black metal vocals are varied with clean singing, resembling those of Anaal Nathrakh, mostly through the choruses. The latter seem to have been given a more prominent place in the mix than their more traditional black metal counterpart, but it is difficult to tell whether this was a deliberate choice or rather an effect of the choruses generally being more straightforward compared to the rest of the music.
Firmly sticking to the underground 'Desolate Unknown' is at this time only available at gigs or directly through the band. Hopefully this will not shy people since Infera Bruo deserves all the support. Apart from a somewhat "unfinished" opening track, 'Desolate Unknown' makes for a really pleasant listen presenting a rather unique brand of progressive black metal. The band is yet to reach the top layer of the genre but this album clearly displays a band on the route to even greater deeds.
Originally written for www.metalcovenant.com
This band from Boston is back with their second album after their very well received debut released in 2011 and they don't disappoint. A shame that the band is still unsigned as they're truly excellent, I hope this album will give them the exposure they need and deserve.
Once again showing that the USBM (United States Black Metal) scene is only geographically adequate, Infera Bruo (Esperanto for hellish noise) doesn't sound American at all. Indeed, they're basically a Yankee answer to the progressive black metal sound of mid era Enslaved. Similar to the sound investigated by the Norwegians on an album like “Monumension” or even “Isa” and “Ruun”, The band develops a very enjoyable sound and compared to modern Enslaved, it's still undeniably black metal. Melodic, heavy and dissonant, the music doesn't break boundaries but their songwriting is more than excellent.
An apostle of both Enslaved and Opeth (two of my favorite bands), Infera Bruo is obviously very pleasing to my ears. “Oblivion” reminds me of the seminal” My Arms, Your Hearse” with its dark melodic black metal approach. There's long tracks (2 over 10 minutes) but the band is nowhere near slow, it's aggressive and doesn't let go of your balls (or your throat, choose whatever you're more comfortable with). Some parts are more subdued like the ending of “Ritual Within”, a very emotional epic 13 minutes song similar to the prog sound of “Axioma Ethica Odini” with its lush and subtle approach. The guitars are not quite technical, there's some leads here and there but hardly common. Even in the longer songs, it stays interesting and that's a feat not a lot of bands can achieve.
The guitars are dissonant, recalling the unorthodox scene. The presence of two short interludes can also remind the listener of the occult influence of a band like Deathspell Omega but contrary to the French horde, it's only a small side of the band. It would had been cool to expand on this but it's always a risky endeavor. You can either end up with 15 minutes of clutter or having a marvelous atmospheric ambient album à la Darkspace. I'm relatively happy the band chose to release a 50 minutes album with no fillers, maybe they'll experiment a bit more later? Their sound is far from incomplete though and it has a wide range of musicality and emotions. The drums can be very thunderous and fast, sometimes there's even blastbeats such as in the excellent “Dust of Stars” and the vocals are mostly quite competent harsh screams mixed with some cleans similar to, yeah no surprise here, Enslaved.
The production is superb, nothing is overshadowing anything except perhaps the vocals, they're a bit buried but it fits the occult atmosphere, it's self produced by the band proving they're in full control of their sound. While the album is very good, there's a big flaw I need to mention. The identity of the band is way too similar to Enslaved, I think they need to find a sound of their own to create their mark. For now, it remains an excellent worship of a great band, let the awesome artwork fool you and check them out.
Metantoine's Magickal Realm